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The 13-Step International Moving Checklist: How to Move Abroad

The 13-Step International Moving Checklist: How to Move Abroad

Thinking about moving abroad and starting a new life overseas? That’s so amazing, but sometimes it can feel a little bit overwhelming. That’s why I’ve created an international moving checklist to keep you on top of everything. 

This is an international moving checklist for anyone thinking about moving abroad and starting their new expat life overseas. Here you will find a concise moving checklist with a short summary along with the most important information on what to pay attention to, how to plan ahead and so much more. 

Moving abroad isn’t naturally intuitive. There’s no training, everyone’s experience is different, and it’s impossible to predict everything.

However, I have pulled together a high-level international moving checklist based on my experience of being abroad for the last 8 years in 4 different countries. Don’t worry, you’re in good hands.

Beyond the International Moving Checklist – Don’t Forget Your WHY

Before we get into the practical tips and the moving checklist, it’s worth briefly going over WHY you want to move abroad.

While the main reasons will be different for everyone, I think we can all agree that moving abroad is worth considering for all the benefits and advantages it carries. Meeting new people, trying new things, learning new languages, and mastering new skills are just a few of my favorite things about living abroad.

Before committing to a specific country, I always have my clients write down their reasons for living abroad and then match them with a country that would be an ideal fit. If you’re motivated by lower taxes and a hotter climate, Norway might not be the right place for you!

Even with a moving checklist, there’s no way you can prepare for everything so don’t become obsessed with finding an exact match; however, it’s always worth evaluating. 

Free Moving Abroad Tools For Expats

Even though it might seem like you have a ton of jobs to do before you move, you’re not alone. I’ve moved overseas a few times now, so I’m pretty much a pro. I’ve been there, done that, so if you’re struggle – I’ve got you!

If you are considering moving abroad, feel free to have a look at some of my resources that will help you prepare for your move (visas, preparation, finding a job abroad): 

I‘ve lived abroad for many years and love helping others find work abroad and figure out their “Move Abroad Plan.” Check out my class below to get you started ASAP!

learn how to find work abroad, process visas, & more!

International Moving Checklist

One question I get asked a lot is how to prepare for living abroad before you make your big move! My main tip is: give yourself enough time to figure out the most important things first (such as a budget, a visa, a job, and accommodation) and everything else will fall into place when you’re there.

With my first move abroad to China, I made so many mistakes. I didn’t know what to expect and how to prepare myself, but thanks to this experience, I can now share my best international moving checklist and help others prepare!

There are so many different things that you’re going to want to think about during your move. As I said, it might seem like a lot, but many things on this checklist overlap and work together.

Also, once you’ve completed many of these tasks, it’s going to make your move so much easier, reduce the stress of moving overseas, and once you’ve moved, you can kick back and relax in your new life abroad!

Okay, so here are the areas that we’re going to go through in our checklist. I’ve split them up into primary and secondary priorities to help you keep on top on what needs to be done and when :

Primary Priorities

  • Establishing A Budget
  • Emergency Funds
  • Applying For The Right Visa
  • Finding A Job Abroad
  • Securing Accommodation

Secondary Priorities

  • Downsizing your stuff
  • Understand your Healthcare options 
  • Insurance options
  • Brace yourself for Culture Shock
  • Understanding local bills
  • Setting up bank accounts
  • Forward all your mail
  • Organize Local Transportation
  • Taxes

Ready to go through and tick off your international moving checklist? Let’s dive in and find out more!

Primary Priorities

So, your primary priorities are all the big ticket issues that you need to figure out before you move abroad. These are thinks like budget, visas, jobs, where you’re going to live – all the major stuff that you need to figure out with plenty of time to spare.

1. Establishing a Budget

Get the International Moving Planner HERE!

Having enough money to move abroad is a must, especially if you are moving to a capital city or a country that has a different or more expensive currency than yours. Doing thorough research is very important as expenses can easily add up and make your life very stressful if you aren’t prepared for them.

Each country has its own cost of living and some are much cheaper than others. For example, Scandinavia is way more expensive to live in than somewhere like Portugal. You’ll need to take this into account and save accordingly. It might also help you narrow down where you can live, which is a huge decision. 

I have created a Move Abroad Planner which is perfect for expats, study abroad students, professionals, international students and anyone else living abroad. This 7-month planner and digital moving checklist are very easy to use and will allow you to track your progress along the way. 

If you are new to budgeting, I highly recommend checking out my FREE resources: ‘Zero Based Budgeting for Beginners’ and ‘What is an Emergency Fund’. 

2. Save Up an Emergency Fund

Okay, let’s talk emergency funds. I go into a lot more details in my ‘What is an Emergency Fund’ article, but here are the headlines that you need to prepare yourself for. 

At its core, an emergency fund is designed to keep you afloat overseas if an unexpected expense crops up. There are a few different examples that might come up, from losing your job to your car breaking down to your rent going up – anything like that.

An emergency fund is going to be your contingency to ensure you can afford all your essential payments like mortgages, food, bills, etc.

You want to have a good amount of buffer, ideally around three-four months’ worth of expenses. This gives you time to find another job, work out how to cut down your expenses, or get accommodation with a better deal.

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Once you’ve worked out your monthly budget for living abroad, make sure you say enough in an emergency fund that ideally is in a different bank account that is for emergencies only. 

3. Apply for the Right Visa

The visa application process can be daunting and sometimes expensive, but if you want to move abroad, it’s a step you can’t skip. If you want to learn the basics of the visa application process, be sure to check my blog article ‘How to Apply for a Visa: Visa Application Overview + Paperwork’.

There are different types of visas available in different countries and you may need to do a proper comparison if you are planning to work abroad. 

Obviously, the lead time and pricing is going to depend on which country you plan on moving to and which visa you’re applying for. Some take extensive amounts of paperwork, interviews, and back and forth, so do your research with plenty of time to spare.

You absolutely do not want to get caught out by not leaving enough time. Busy times of the year include the holidays and the lead up to the academic year when overseas students are applying or renewing their student or graduate visas, so avoid these times if possible.

With my Move Abroad Starter Kit, you will get access to different workshops such as ‘Introduction to Moving Abroad’, where I will teach you everything you should know to secure your visa at the right time. 

If you have an American passport, check out my list of ‘6 Easy Countries to Move to from the United States’. There you will find a lot of useful information which can hopefully help you make the right choice. 

On the whole, most of the content on my site is geared toward US expats, so if you’re looking for specific advice for your country, it’s always worth checking with the foreign office of your chosen country and your native one to see what you’re eligible for and the process that’s going to work for you.

4. Find a Job Abroad

Finding a job abroad is not easy but it’s also not impossible. In the past, I’ve found jobs in China, the United Kingdom, and now Germany in Education, Finance, and Tech.

Of course, everything depends on your chosen career path as some jobs are easier to secure a working visa than others, but there are many ways in which you can begin to work abroad.

If you’re looking to find a job abroad, you’ll want to make your CV look as competitive as possible.

I definitely recommend earning a few certifications on Coursera. My favorite certifications that are guaranteed to make your CV look great to employers are Graphic Design, Software Development, Project Management, and Brand Management.

I used courses and certifications in Software Development to help me land the position I have today!

For those who have just started living abroad, I recommend checking out my ‘How to Travel for Free’ article where I highlight different options on how to work and travel. Even if you don’t have a degree or prior experience, you can still see the world and get a taste of living abroad.

For others, I also recommend my ‘How to Find a Job Abroad’ article where I talk about common concerns with working abroad and how to begin your work abroad job search.  It all depends on your location, qualifications, and experience.

Sometimes, if you work for an international company, you can transfer offices. If you work remotely or for yourself, you can work from anywhere. If you want a part-time, minimum-wage style gig, you might have difficulty unless you are on a student visa or generational visa. 

If you haven’t started working remotely yet, you can start freelancing on sites like Fiverr or Upwork. These are great for writers, editors, photographers, graphic designers, devs, and more.

If you have a marketable skill that people want to pay for, you can make a lot of money remotely.

For those who are already very serious about their move abroad and want to get access to my workshops, be sure to sign up for my Move Abroad Starter Kit!

You will get access to a great workshop ‘How to Find a Job Abroad’ where I answer even more questions about the whole process and I’ve included my 7-month digital moving checklist in the bundle. 

diy your move with tutorials, a digital planner & more

5. Secure Your Accommodation

This is probably the second most important part of my moving checklist (the first is the visa!). House hunting is different in each country and this is something you have to do in two sprints.

Most places will require you to have a working contract in order to secure a rental agreement or some sort of proof of funds that you can afford to pay the rent at least for the first few months.  This is pretty standard, so don’t be surprised in the estate agent asks you about your financials. 

For that reason, I recommend that you first start with a short-term rental (1-2 months) and then give yourself some time to see potential apartments in person before signing a lease. Keep in mind that capital or major cities are much more expensive than smaller towns and it can be much harder to find accommodation there due to popularity.

This is great for a whole host of reasons. You can ask around and walk around, getting a feel for different neighborhoods. You can do all the online research you like, but you want to live in an area where you at least feel comfortable and safe.

In many cases, you also have to be already in the country to arrange the viewings so make sure you secure enough funds to sustain your lifestyle while living abroad. You can narrow down areas before you arrive to make it a bit easier on yourself. 

Try making a list of the things that your new accommodation or neighborhood absolutely has to have and things you’re not bothered about. For instance, you might want a maximum commute of 30 minutes.

You might want to be within walking distance of a pub. You might need an enclosed garden for a furry friend. This is going to help narrow and focus your search a lot more as well. 

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If you’re struggling to find short-term rentals, head to Airbnb or HomeAway. The bonus with these kinds of holiday rentals is that they’re normally in residential areas or blocks, so you can largely live like a local while you’re looking for your more permanent address.

To find the best realtors or sites in your area, you can always contact local expat forums online and get their advice. They’ve been there and done it in the region you’re moving to, so take advantage of their experiences. You might even make some cool contacts and friends to show you around!

If you want to follow your dreams of moving abroad but you don’t know where to start, I very much recommend taking my Move Abroad Master Class course. Together, we’ll plan your end-to-end move abroad in my small-group coaching classes.

Don’t forget to download a power VPN like ExpressVPN so you don’t miss your favorite shows on Netflix that are exclusive to your home country!

Secondary Priorities- Part Two of the Moving Abroad Checklist

As important as budgeting, applying for visas and jobs, and house search is, there are a few other things you should keep in mind when planning your move abroad.

Here is a quick overview of what else you should consider, but they take a lower priority than the prior four tasks.  

7. Downsize Your Stuff

Okay, so even if you’re just driving across the border to Canada or Mexico, you’re going to have to seriously downsize. This goes 10x as much if you’re moving to a different continent or have to fly out to your new home.

There are two ways to move your stuff: either bring it on the flight as hold luggage or have it shipped over in advance. Either way, it takes planning and forethought.

Overall, shipping is more expensive, but it is considered a lot less hassle in the long run. If you have a ton of furniture, you’re not going to be able to bring that on a commercial airline.

So, it’s a good idea before you start shelling out the big bucks for shipping services or extra baggage to Marie Kondo your life.

Does it spark joy? Is it going to be useful in your new life? Can you buy it in your new country for less than the shipping cost? These are all great questions to ask yourself.

Things like kitchenware do not need to go with you unless they hold sentimental value or aren’t available overseas. Europe has kitchen stores. Europe has Amazon. You’re covered.

Same goes for clothing. If you’re moving from California to Norway, you’re probably not going to need as many pairs of shorts as you do back home.

Think about what you need, what you really want to take, and what you can either sell on Depop or eBay for some extra overseas savings or give to Goodwill before you travel.

8. Understand Your Healthcare Options 

Every country is different and healthcare often reflects that. Do you have medical conditions that require you to often go to a doctor? Do you have prescriptions that you need to consider?

Are these covered by insurance? Do you have socialized medicine? Do you need to pay out of pocket?

Then you should probably invest your time and efforts in more developed countries that have advanced medical care. A major reason that a lot of people leave the US for Europe is the socialized healthcare system.

Check out the prices on my private insurance through Insubuy, you’ll probably be shocked at how low it is compared to what you’ve been paying. I highly recommend Insubuy for both travel and private expat health insurance.

It removes a lot of stress over getting ill or having to get treatment, should the worst actually happen. If you have kiddos, or want kids in the near future, you also might want to consider any maternity costs or childcare fees in your new home country.

Moving to places like Peru could be a life-changing experience, but the medical care you will receive there will most likely not be the same as if you lived in London or New York.

As much as moving abroad is a dream, you do also have to be realistic about what you need from your new home and what is actually important to your health and safety, not just right now, but in future years down the line.

Insurance Options

A lot of countries do require that you have health and travel insurance before you enter the country. It’s actually a part of your visa application process. Obviously, there are different levels of health and travel insurance that you can consider.

Your job role might include some kind of cover, they might subsidize a private plan, or you might have to sign up for mandatory state health insurance as a bill or part of your salary. 

It’s going to completely rely on the country, the job role, and your situation. If you’re traveling solo, the insurance options are going to be entirely different if you’re moving abroad with your whole family.

Do your research and see which criteria you need to hit in order to successfully move abroad.

Like I said before, I’ve used Insubuy for years and they pass all the criteria for Schengen visas, so make sure to check them out.

9. Brace Yourself for Culture Shock

Are you a person who easily adapts to new cultures or are you likely to experience a cultural shock when you leave your home country? Moving from the United States to sunny Italy will probably not be a huge issue, but moving to China or Singapore where the culture is so different could be quite a shock.

It’s good to do some research on local customs or traditions, and even travel to that country before deciding on where to move abroad. 

 Also, it’s a good idea to visit on vacation before you move there if it’s possible. This way you can experience the culture firsthand and it might not come as such as culture shock. 

9. Get an Understanding of Local Bills

Okay, who doesn’t love red tape and bills? They’re the bane of pretty much everyone’s existence, but they’re an essential part of being an adult.

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In every country, you’re probably going to have to look at your utilities (water, gas, electricity), plus internet, council tax, phone bills, and any local fees that are specific to your new area.

Each place is going to be different, but you’ll need your address, ID, proof of residency, and a local bank account to set up Direct Debit payments. Sometimes you’ll be able to do this online, sometimes you’ll need to go to a local council building with all your paperwork.

It depends on the country and the area. You can check out the expat forums in your new home to find out how it works in your region.

That’s a lot of things to get in order before you even try and set up your utilities. The first couple of weeks of living in your new country is going to be pretty intense with admin, so be prepared!

Once it’s all set up with regular payments, it largely takes care of itself. 

10. Set Up All Necessary Bank Accounts

One of the biggest pains of setting up your life abroad is setting up a local bank account. As with a lot of overseas bureaucracy, there are often weird hoops that you need to jump through.

For instance, you might need proof of residence to get a bank account, but you might need a local bank account to sign a rental contract. There are always ways around it, but it can be a frustrating headache. 

It’s always a good idea to go into the individual bank branch so that you can speak to a real person, and this is where knowing the language really helps you out.

Honestly, setting up financials can be tricky when you’re speaking your native language so if you’re trying to translate, things can get messy.

Either learn the vocabulary (I recommend italki lessons for this!) you need for setting up a bank account, or bring along a friend, neighbor, or family member that can help you out. It’ll go a lot smoother – trust me!

11. Forward All Your Mail

So, you might think that you’ve thought of every, possible company and person that sends you mail and either canceled subscriptions or changed your details, but I guarantee you’ve forgotten a few. 

It’s easy to do. That’s why, on the whole, it’s better to get your newsletters, catalogues, and bills sent to you via email.

Most businesses do offer paperless statements now to save costs, admin, and the environment.

If you do think you’ve missed some businesses off your list, you can set up a forwarding arrangement with your postal service. This normally costs a fixed rate each month and in return, they’ll automatically forward any of your mail to your new address.

I’d recommend doing this for between three-six months as by then, everyone who is going to send you regular mail will have already done so.

Once you receive a piece of forwarded mail – you’ll be able to tell by the postal stamps – you can go online and alter your contact information.

Over the next couple of months, less and less will be needed to be forwarded to you and you can cancel the standing payment and contract with the postal service.

12. Figure Out Your Transportation

Will you drive or are you moving abroad to a place where public transport is well-organized? You may need to apply for an International Driving Permit if you want to drive a car in a foreign country, and it’s good to do this research before you choose to move abroad.

If you opt for public transport, be sure to double-check how long it might take to get from point A to B when applying for jobs or searching for housing.

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13. Research Taxes

Yes, that’s right. As an American, I know that American expats living outside of the United States are still expected to file their taxes back home.

The IRS does not play around and you absolutely have to make it happen, regardless of who you’re working for and where in the world you happen to be. 

Filing taxes is different from paying them, but it’s not something you want to just leave to the last minute. Wherever you are from and wherever you are going, I always advise double-checking your tax situation.

Expats tend to have a slightly longer deadline to get their tax returns filed each year, but it can be a little more complex than usual and can be tricky for the first couple of years.

I know some people who do it themselves, and I know some people who hire consultants of overseas tax services to do the hard work for them, but it’s all about your situation and what you feel comfortable with.

As long as you keep clear records and give yourself enough time to cover off the tax return and submit it, you should be fine.

I recommend using MyExpatTaxes to make this as stress-free as possible.

For fellow Americans, I strongly encourage you to check my ‘US Expat Tax Deadlines & Common Mistakes’ article. 

There may also be some local taxes that you need to pay in your new home. Council tax can pay for services in your local area, like garbage pickup and snow plows.

This is normally paid as a bill each month but depends on your country. Income tax might pay for more national services like emergency services, subsidized healthcare, and more.

This normally comes out of your paycheck before it hits your account. You might even have to pay local taxes in your area for the upkeep of national parks or monuments. 

I hope you found my international moving checklist helpful! After living abroad in so many different countries, I can tell you that it does get easier.

So don’t panic if things aren’t working out immediately. Plenty of people have made this leap before you, so it absolutely is possible to make it work. 

Some days are good, some days are bad, but with little preparation, you will be able to accomplish great things. Take a deep breath, prepare yourself, make a plan, and it’ll all be worth it in the end!

As long as you follow your dreams and believe in yourself, anything is possible! Take it from me, I’ve done it so many times before, and moving abroad is always an amazing experience!

LeapQuest

Thursday 12th of January 2023

Whether you are going for studies or job, one should take care of everything mentioned in the above article. Preparing yourself for the cultural difference is much needed to avoid the feeling of loneliness

Katumba Umar

Monday 13th of December 2021

I would like to be helped on how to move to USA and get a scholarship