Want to Live Abroad? This Moving Checklist Will Show You How to Make it Happen!
Congratulations! For some time, you’ve wanted to start a new adventure overseas and you’ve finally reached the place in your life where you’re ready to do it. Now that you’re preparing to hit refresh from the daily grind in America, (or any other country for that matter); how do you feel? Are you excited, overwhelmed, or are you unsure about what to do next?
It’s understandable to feel a mixture of emotions when you decide that you’re 100% committed to making your dreams happen. If you’ve been telling yourself, “I want to live abroad, but where do I start?”, don’t fret. You’ll soon learn all you need to do from the following American moving abroad checklist—to be honest this checklist is relevant for any nationality, not just U.S. citizens.
So, are you ready to get going on planning your big refresh? Read on to get started!
1. Where Do You Want to Live?
There’s a lot to think about before preparing the next chapter of your life in a new country. Figuring out where you want to live is a great place to start!
Pick a Country That’s Right for You
When looking at your options around the world, one of the first (and most important) things to consider is whether there are viable visa and residency options available for you.
No need to worry – I’m Outta Here! An American’s Ultimate Visa Guide to Living in Europe, has you covered. This digital book shines the spotlight on 16 European countries and addresses pretty much everything you need to consider – like visas – before choosing where you’d like to move overseas permanently.
Since every country is unique and special, be sure to pick a place that feels like a good fit for you. Some things to keep in mind when choosing the right country include:
- Quality of life: While subjective, your overall enjoyment of life can improve depending on where you plan to hit refresh. So, know your priorities and where you’re willing to compromise.
- Climate: Whether you thrive in warm sunshine or sweater weather, climate can help you hone in on where you’d like to live.
- Culture: Do you enjoy a culture that’s a bit chill or would you prefer more of a fast-paced vibe?
These are just a few examples of what to ponder when deciding where you’d like to move overseas. Take a look at Best Places for American Expats to Live Abroad in Europe for more things and ideas that’ll help you figure out which country you’d like to land in.
Find a City That Meets Your Needs
Once you decide on the country you’d like to move to permanently, you’ll need to delve deeper and identify the city that’s calling your name! Factors to consider typically include your age, finances, whether or not you have children, personal interests and other lifestyle preferences.
There’s no such thing as the perfect place; but as you research planning to move abroad, stay focused on landing in a city that meets your needs and top priorities. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Location: Is access to nature important? How about international travel?
- Size: Do you like a big bustling city with lots to do or prefer somewhere quieter?
- Cost of living: This can vary greatly from city to city, so your income will dictate which cities you can comfortably afford to live in.
- Language: Do you speak another language or are you eager to learn one? Do not assume English is widely spoken everywhere.
Just think, once you decide on the country and city you want to relocate to, you’ll be able to cross these items off your moving checklist! Then, you’ll be two steps closer to making your refresh happen.
2. Get Your Paperwork in Order
After you’ve chosen where you’ll live and confirmed there’s a visa that works for you, it’s time to gather your documentation. And, along with the various options available, don’t forget to research if you qualify for a visa by picking up our guide on Citizenship by Descent in 28 European countries.
Apply for Your Visa
Before you begin your visa process, check with the nearest Consulate or Embassy of your future home to learn about the documents required for your application. This can take time and may require digital and in-person legal documentation requests. Additionally, some guidelines insist that documents be translated and stamped with an Apostille.
Remember, patience is key. Even though the visa process may appear daunting, it’ll be worth it once you move overseas permanently!
Double, and Triple Check, That All Your i’s are Dotted
In addition to making sure all your papers are in order, your legal IDs should be current too. Confirm that you don’t have a soon-to-expire passport and if you plan to drive abroad, check that you have a valid driver’s license. Since driving rules vary by country, research if you’ll need an International Driving Permit (IDP) or a local license once you arrive in your new home too.
3. What Type of Living Arrangements Do You Prefer?
You’ll have a lot to get used to when you start your refresh in a new country. This is why how and who you want to live with are big items on your moving checklist. Along with this, your preferences, relationship status, age, budget, and location, will play a part in helping confirm your future living arrangements.
Are You Too Old for a Roommate?
Aside from the factors mentioned, you might decide your living arrangement based on how well you tend to acclimate to living in a different culture. So, depending on where you move, a roommate might be the best scenario for you – at least at the beginning of your adventure.
In the U.S., it’s common for people over 30 years-old to have their own place. However, it’s not unusual for expats of all ages to share a space when they move to another country.
Yes, having a roommate helps relieve some of the financial burden of rent and utilities. It can also provide an instant friend and support system – a perk for someone settling in a foreign country. After all, not everyone enjoys living alone.
Is Going Solo the Way for You to Go?
Be sure to check housing prices when you’re preparing to move abroad; especially if you’d like to live on your own. Depending on where in the world you live, rental prices can range from $400 a month for a residential 3-bedroom home to $1500 a month for a small studio in an urban area.
When you budget, also remember that some housing requires security and rental deposits. However, when it comes to planning for your overseas adventure, there’s no right way or wrong way. No one knows you better than you – so plan a living arrangement that’ll make you happy!
4. Make Sure You’re Clear About How You’ll Financially Support Yourself
While you don’t have to be rich to move abroad, you do need to have some level of financial security to make your dream happen. Give careful consideration to the following things on your moving checklist. This will help you set up a solid financial plan.
Finding Work in a New Country
Your ability to work in your future home is based on the type of visa you’re able to secure. Don’t assume that you can move overseas, apply for a job, and just get hired like in your home country.
Often, potential employers have to prove they can’t find a skilled local worker to fill their open positions before being able to hire foreign talent. Since employing an expat is timely and costly, the process isn’t worth it for employers in the country you’re moving to, unless you’re a highly skilled-worker.
Take Your Work With You
Rather than bank on the slim chance of being hired by a local company in your new home country, how about setting yourself up as a remote worker? This means you won’t have to rely on qualifying for a work visa abroad. However, there are some countries that offer visas for remote workers too!
If you’re not currently spending the day on your laptop and in your pajamas, don’t let that hinder your dream of living overseas. Nowadays, more and more employers are open to employees working from home. So, there’s really no harm in finding out if your current company would allow you to become a remote worker.
Keep in mind that working for an American company and living in a country with a lower cost of living is a huge perk, since you’ll be paid in USD. If you’d like to learn more about how to find work from home opportunities, take a look at these best sites to find remote work. And if you’re interested in building new skills that are in demand check out these 12 Online Sites to Launch You Into Remote Work.
Your Savings and Retirement Will Come In Handy
A rainy day fund is important, especially when starting fresh in another country. Therefore, when preparing to move abroad, make sure to have a financial cushion for emergencies and unexpected expenses. Granted, some people may be in a financial position where they don’t have to work or worry about their finances. If this is you – congrats!
Along with prepping a budget, do your homework on exchange rates and transfer costs to ensure your funds will comfortably support you abroad.
5. Think About What to do With Your Home
If You’re a Homeowner
If you’re a homeowner in the U.S., your financial situation and how long you’ll be abroad will help you determine what to do. For instance, you can leave your home vacant, sell it, rent out your home, join a house sitter program, do an exchange, or monetize your home with short-term rentals like Airbnb. Get more details about your options in Moving Abroad: What to do with your apartment or house?
If You’re a Renter
Options for renters in the U.S. are pretty straightforward: sublet your apartment, break your lease, or wait until your rental agreement expires. Read more about these options in the aforementioned piece.
6. Start Decluttering and Downsizing
One of the biggest questions on a moving abroad checklist is deciding if your stuff is a need or a want. Once you’ve started planning to move, you’ll have to address getting rid and organizing “stuff” before your big move abroad.
Yikes - It Takes Longer Than You Thought it Would!
When you start to look at what you’ve accumulated over the years, you might feel paralyzed and overwhelmed by the task at hand. Going through all of your things and choosing what to keep and what to purge can be a bit daunting. Even if you don’t have a lot of material possessions, the act of decluttering and downsizing can be an emotional and tiring process.
Minimizing your belongings is only the beginning. You’ll also need to decide if you want to sell, donate, lend, scan and shred, store, and/or throw stuff away. Check out How to Declutter and Downsize Before Moving Abroad for some helpful tips and tricks that’ll make this process easier for you!
7. Figure Out What to do With Your Pets
Your pet is a part of your family. This is why deciding what to do with them during your planning process can be the most difficult and agonizing thing on your moving list.
Hit Refresh With Your Fur Baby
Pets don’t have to be an obstacle to moving abroad. Most countries will let you bring them over as long as you meet their necessary guidelines. Requirements typically include making sure your pet has its vaccinations, health certificate, medical records, and is microchipped. Some countries require pets to remain in quarantine for a period of time too.
Make the Decision That’s Best for Your Pup
For some pets, relocation isn’t an option due to age, climate, and other regulations. Traveling overseas can be a stressful process for your animal, especially if they can’t come in the plane cabin with you.
Sometimes leaving your pet with family or a loving friend may be the best solution. It’s a difficult decision, but you have to think hard about what’s best for both you and your fur baby.
8. Decide What to do With Your Cell Phone
Part of preparing to move abroad means doing all you can before setting off on your adventure. This includes researching your phone plan options. If you’re like most people, your cell phone is your lifeline. So, choosing how you’d like to stay connected with your friends and family is an important decision on your moving abroad checklist.
Should You Keep Your Number?
Your professional and personal needs will likely determine if you want to hold on to your U.S. phone number, switch to a local one, or have both. If you travel back to the States a lot, it might make sense to hold onto your original digits. However, keep in mind that not all U.S. numbers work overseas. So, check with your current carrier about their global plans and rates.
Benefits of Switching to a Local Number
Once you arrive in your new home country, get yourself a local phone number. Aside from being more cost effective, in-country digits make it easier to connect with the friends you’re making, businesses, doctors’ appointments, and other everyday tasks. You’ll also have the option to contract with a provider or use a pay-as-you-go option.
9. Research Your Bank and Credit Card Options
As mentioned earlier, one of the most important things to do before moving abroad is sorting out your finances. Therefore, along with planning and saving, take the time to find the best bank and credit cards that’ll give you the most bang for your buck!
Local and Foreign Bank Accounts
It makes sense to hold on to your U.S. bank accounts, especially if you have recurring expenses like credit cards, loans, and bills. You’ll also need to open a bank account abroad. This will make it easier to take out cash and make payments such as rent.
Check Out TransferWise
Thanks to wire fees, getting money from your American to your foreign account can become expensive. However, TransferWise is one of the most cost effective ways to shift funds because they use the best exchange rates available. The service also provides you with the fees before you pay for any transaction.
10. Save as Much Money as You Can
While you might have a certain budget in mind when planning your move overseas, remember that unexpected expenses tend to come up when you make a big life change. Some surprises might include extra taxes or deposits when you go to rent or buy your future home. Incidentals, medical bills, and entertainment are other costs to keep an eye out for too.
Usually, a big move overseas means you’ll need some time to get settled. If you intend to take days off from work to get adjusted in your future home, will this affect your cash flow and how much you save? If this is the case, plan accordingly!
Little Ways to Get Started on Saving
As soon as you decide to move overseas permanently, begin tightening your current budget. Take small steps like cutting back on eating out and buying things you really don’t need. Also trim out unnecessary items – like cable television, fancy gadgets or a daily coffee from your favorite cafe.
11. Start Taking Language Classes
Learning the language of the country you’re relocated to might just be one of the highlights on your moving abroad checklist. Before arriving in your new home, it’s a good idea to at least be familiar with the local language spoken. Aside from being a sign of respect, you’ll feel a little bit more grounded if you’re able to understand what other people are saying.
With So Many Ways to Learn, Where Should You Get Started?
There are tons of options for learning a new language. You can use an app, check out a YouTube channel, take part in a language exchange program, or even arrange private lessons. Also research if there are local language schools in your future hometown. If they have an online course, start there. Then, once you’re settled, you can continue your classes in person.
12. Join Expat Groups
Along with SHR, there’s pretty much a group for everyone. Surf through Facebook and you’ll find expat communities based on location, gender, ethnicity, hobbies, and much more. This informative post with great tips of meeting like-minded people: Making Friends Abroad: Finding Your Tribe After 30 has other ideas of how to connect with peeps like you!
If you’re still not sure where to get started, I’m Outta Here! An American’s Ultimate Visa Guide to Living in Europe is your go to source for preparing to move abroad. If you’re looking for more individualized support, you can also arrange a consultation with Cepee Tabibian, She Hit Refresh’s founder.
Planning to move abroad to start a new chapter in your life is an exciting decision. Remember, She Hit Refresh has a wealth of information that’ll help get you where you’re meant to be!