Moving abroad checklist: What to do before you move overseas

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Whether for work or pleasure, organizing a move abroad can be an exciting time. But no matter where you’re headed, there’s sure to be some practicalities to consider along with what to pack.

To help make things easier, we’ve put together a list of important things to think about before your new chapter begins.

Getting there

  • Plan ahead and remember to make sure you and everyone going with you has a valid passport, including children. Passports should be valid for the duration of your visit or longer - bear in mind some countries will only issue visas if a passport is valid for a minimum of one year after the issue date of the visa, so it’s worth double checking.
  • Get in touch with the embassy of your destination country to find out about visa and customs requirements and request visa applications if needed. You’ll need to apply for the ones relevant to you in plenty of time - the process of moving abroad generally takes around three to six months, so keep this in mind while planning.
  • Most government or state department websites offer information on what you’ll need and list requirements by individual country, so make this your first port of call as you start to make arrangements.
  • You’ll also find useful travel advice sections with current information on local laws and customs, as well as safety and emergency updates. Be aware of these in advance and plan around them to prevent any stress when you arrive.

Taking care of yourself

  • Healthcare systems differ vastly over the world, so find out if you’ll need medical insurance and if so, what it covers. It can be daunting enough being in a new place, let alone being unwell while you’re there.
  • You’ll need vaccinations to travel to certain countries. Make an appointment with your doctor to get all recommended inoculations and an International Certificate of Vaccination for your records.
  • If you take any prescription medication, especially those containing narcotics, ask for a letter from your doctor. Drug laws are very severe in many countries - take note of the Latin names of your medications so they can be universally identified, as brand names differ from country to country.
  • If you have any allergies or medical conditions, look into MedicAlert membership, and check with hotels and airlines to be sure that any special needs can be met.

In case of an emergency

  • Although it may not be the most exciting thing to have to think about, make sure your personal affairs are in order before you depart. Your family or the company you work for should have access to documents like your will or guardianship arrangements, just in case.
  • Always make two copies of all important documents - one for you and one for your family or office.
  • Similarly, create a list of contact details including your doctor, family and business information, insurance information, as well as your passport number, place of issuance and flight details so you have your important information with you at all times.

Finance

  • If you don’t have one already, set up an account with an international bank. This will make it easier to find branches and access your money once you’ve moved.
  • Inform your current bank and credit card companies and ask them about foreign transaction fees - these can quickly add up, so explore your options and try to avoid them.
  • Compare the cost of living abroad with what you’re used to, and set a budget for your new monthly expenses.
  • It’s also a good idea to arrive at your destination with some local currency just in case.

Transitioning

  • Before you leave, you’ll need to research and decide upon new schools, medical facilities, doctors, and social activities - don’t forget to look into everyday services, like where to grocery shop. Some companies will assist with the transition and settling process, so take full advantage of the help if yours does too. Once everything is in place, make sure you file, label and make copies of all relevant paperwork so there are no misunderstandings when you get there.
  • Consider shipping costs and decide what you really need to take with you. For the things you can’t or don’t want to take, shop around for storage facilities and see what makes the best sense financially. You could also sell or donate old items you no longer need.
  • If you are selling or renting your house while you’re away, start the process as soon as possible. If not, make sure you’ve made arrangements to turn off all utilities so there are no unwanted bills!
  • Check the international capabilities of your cell phone plan and make sure you’ll be able to use it where you’re headed.
  • You’ll also need an international driving license and insurance if you plan on keeping a car - check that your license will be valid for the duration of your stay, and whether or not you’ll have to take either a theoretical or practical exam before being allowed to drive.

With so much to think about, moving overseas can seem overwhelming at first, but try to remember how rewarding the experience will be. With good planning and enough time, you’ll be able to take the practical arrangements in your stride and begin to look forward to the linguistic and cultural changes ahead.