Guide to Moving Abroad

Last updated: 1 August, 2017

Almost everything you need to know about moving overseas*

*You’re on your own for selling that collection of vintage lamps before your move

To move overseas:

  1. Apply for any relevant visas.

  2. Make digital and hard copies of transcripts, passports, birth certificates, visas and other essential documentation.

  3. Get quotes from international shipping companies.

  4. Make sure you have critical account passwords and consider removing 2-step verification from certain online accounts until you have a new mobile number.

  5. Make foreign currency payments or transfer your savings using OFX to get better exchange rates than the banks offer.

  6. Enjoy the adventure.


In this guide, you will learn:

 

What Should You Do Before You Move Abroad?

The best way to reduce the stress of a big move overseas is to plan ahead. Preparing as much as possible before your international relocation will help everything go as smoothly as possible.

 

Below are a few things that you should do before you officially move abroad:
moving abroad

Find a Place to Sleep

When you move internationally with a company, you may only have a few weeks of accommodation provided for you before you have to find a place to live for yourself. If possible, fly out beforehand to see some properties in person, and ask for assistance from a local realtor who can teach you about the market and its costs of living. You’ll want to check out a few different neighborhoods before making your choice. Ask about utility hookups and which utility costs are typically included in the rent.

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Notify Everyone About Your Move

This doesn’t just include your friends, family, and boss, but also your banks, creditors, credit card issuers, insurance providers, and other professionals who would need to know that you will be changing your address and moving overseas. Let your post office know about your move, so you can have your mail redirected. If you are a registered voter and you wish to continue voting while abroad, be sure to register as an overseas voter. When you move overseas, you’ll often be required to file an official change of address document with the tax authorities.

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Register With the Embassy

A good way to be alerted to emergency news is by registering with your embassy. In the United States, the State Department even offers a Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) that communicates information to citizens living abroad. Other nations may have similar programs for their citizens, so check your country’s State Department equivalent to find out if there is a program that you can register for before heading off. Your embassy could help you gain access to valuable information and may be able to assist you if you need help, such as if you lose your passport or get arrested.

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Get Your Visa

Research the visa requirements for the country that you are planning on moving to. A simple internet search will start you off on the right track. It is highly recommended that you sort your visa requirements prior to leaving, as it is often harder to get a visa or change your residency status after you have already entered a country.

moving abroad

See Your Doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor to let him or her know that you are moving abroad. You can get a full checkup before your move, and your doctor can also provide you with the vaccinations that are necessary to keep you healthy in your new country. Your doctor could also provide you with an International Certificate of Vaccination, as taking a record of your health and vaccinations with you can be helpful when seeing medical professionals abroad, especially if you happen to be in an area where an outbreak occurs and you need to prove that you have already been immunized. Also, don’t forget to refill your prescriptions, or have your doctor give you a letter of authorization, so you can get your prescriptions abroad without taking the medications through border security. Many medications have different brand names and slightly different formulations in other countries, so check with your doctor to make sure any substitutions are appropriate for you. Be mindful that infant vaccination schedules vary in different parts of the world, so be particularly careful when getting the next scheduled vaccination for children in another country.

moving abroad

Get Travel Insurance

Some countries will require proof of travel insurance before issuing a visa to you, so do your research into requirements before you move. Give yourself enough time to enroll and to receive all of the documents that you will need to prove that you are covered.

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Start Learning a New Language

If you are moving to a non-English speaking country, be aware that you will need to learn the new language if you want to get around easily once you settle into your new home. Because learning a new language is a long-term commitment, start as soon as possible. That way by the time you move, you should at least know the basics necessary to get around, including how to read street signs and ask for help.

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Apply for an International Driver’s License

With an international driver’s license, you may find it easier to drive abroad, and you may need it if you are planning on renting a vehicle in most nations. Once your original driver’s license expires while you are abroad, your international license will expire as well, so you can then apply for a license in your new country of residence. Be sure to take a copy of your driving record with you when you move so that you can use it to apply for a new license and potentially avoid having to take any tests. You may also need a copy of your recent driving record for getting auto insurance, if you buy a vehicle abroad.

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Sell What You Don’t Need

A good way to get some extra cash before your move is by selling whatever belongings you do not plan on taking with you. Once abroad, most non-essential items become cumbersome, so try to cull any items that you don’t need. If you’re leaving a home that your own, you may want to compare the market value of renting it out with the furnishings included, or putting your things into storage. No matter how careful you are with packing and preparing, your life will change in unexpected ways while abroad. You may need to adjust your household budget accordingly and expect to acquire some things new.

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Find a Reputable International Shipping Company

To make moving abroad as easy as possible, take as little as possible. For the items that you can’t leave behind, use an international shipping company to have them securely packed and shipped. Get quotes from various companies, so you can find the most affordable match that will provide the best value. To save money, think clearly about the gap between when your shipment arrives and how long you will have to live without your things. For instance, if you can’t go a month without a frying pan or microwave, there’s not much point to paying to ship items that you’ll probably end up purchasing for immediate use. Similarly, don’t pay a premium for expedited delivery if you don’t need it. Faster shipping may increase your costs of warehousing and storage, if you haven’t found a permanent home by the time your goods arrive. And to be certain a company is a reliable choice, check its credentials and accreditations, such as FIDI Accredited International Mover (FAIM) accreditation. Avoid companies that have terrible customer reviews, that request cash or large deposits, and that don’t provide insurance or storage options.

What Should You Do After You Arrive?

When you arrive in a foreign country, you should:

  1. Start forging new relationships.
  2. Get a mobile phone.
  3. Decide on your primary means of transport: bus, bike, car, etc.
  4. Find a place to live and sign rental agreements, if you haven’t already.
  5. Compare and sign up for health, vehicle and home insurance.
  6. Open a bank account
  7. Explore. Explore. Explore.

 

Your ability to build a reliable personal network abroad will make or break your experience overseas, so we recommend investing in new relationships from day one. You can join some of the local clubs that you find, as well as connecting with fellow expats. If you don’t have a job already lined up, getting one will give you an instant community. Tapping into any alumni communities abroad can be useful for further developing your professional network abroad. Using online services like MeetUp.com to find events in your new locale with like-minded people is another great way to meet people in a foreign country. If you have children, look for parenting groups in your area to gain further recommendations for settling in.

 

In addition to making friends abroad, determine what you need to do to access local health insurance and car insurance, as requirements will vary from one country to another.

 

Just keep in mind that you can’t predict most of how your time overseas will unfold. Be willing to adjust and remain adaptable to reap the greatest rewards.
moving abroad

How Can You Find a Job Abroad?

To find a job abroad:

  • Use your networks, including your work contacts, your social media networks and affiliation groups, alumni groups, and your friends and family. You never know who might have the right connection to help you find work overseas.

  • Apply to jobs abroad online, as there are many international job boards that you can find with a simple search. You can also attend job fairs once you move abroad to meet local employers.

  • Employ the help of hiring agencies and recruiters who can check your resume and match your skill set with the appropriate temporary or permanent jobs.

  • Consider volunteering or interning as a means to meet employers, make a solid impression, and potentially get hired to fill a full-time, paid position.

  • Work as a freelancer in order to start making money while also making valuable connections in your new locale. There are a variety of global freelancing platforms that connect talent with jobs based all over the world.

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How Can You Save Money When You Move Abroad?

  1. Use OFX instead of your bank to get better exchange rates on all your international bank-to-bank transfers saving up to 75% on exchange rate margins.*
  2. Assess any employment contracts in light of costs of living and additional expenses incurred when moving overseas.
  3. Read expat forums to get insider tips for how to save in your particular locale.
  4. Use group buying sites like Groupon and LivingSocial to get introductory offers to key attractions and nearby restaurants.
  5. Investigate study abroad scholarships, if you plan to study overseas.
  6. Consider hiring a tax professional who can help ensure you take advantage of all double-taxation treaties.
  7. Review how your move will affect any retirement contributions both back home and abroad.

Once you arrive overseas, you’ll likely want to get a new bank account, but we also  recommended that you keep your old bank account open. It may help you maintain credit-worthiness for when you return home. 

 

Once you have a local account ready, you can then use OFX to transfer your funds swiftly and securely from your old account to your new one at a great exchange rate. You can even use OFX to transfer your pension if you are retiring abroad. And you can use OFX to transfer money for everything from paying your rent or mortgage, to paying everyday bills until you have found steady employment abroad.    

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Start Your New Life Abroad

Making a fresh start in a new country comes with a fair bit of admin, but the advantages of living overseas are too numerous to count. At OFX, we’re inspired by the risk-takers and adventurers who seek out new experience. Check out our other guides to managing your finances abroad or dive into blog for further reading on all things expat.