When I was 18 years old and itching to move overseas, the questions “how” and “where do I start” constantly overwhelmed me. Now, a few years down the line, I have lived in various countries and call the Netherlands home. However, it took four international moves and a lot of trial and error to get a hand on streamlining the process. Since doing this was no easy feat, I wish to simplify the work for those wanting to move abroad too. I have created a moving abroad checklist to help you navigate the process step-by-step. These actionable steps will make your move much easier to execute.
Which Country Should I Move to?
The first to-do on our checklist is making a selection of countries you see yourself living in. The way I like to organize this is through an excel sheet containing the countries and metrics that matter most in my decision process. This includes the cost of living, quality of life, transportation, health insurance, local income based on your field, etc.
After doing the research and filling these in you can compare and contrast to see what country appeals to you most. I like to see the ranking of countries according to metrics for livability. For instance, Portugal may be more appealing than Germany the lower cost of living and warmer weather. These are examples of factors that may weigh heavily on your decision.
Start Planning with A Printable Moving Abroad Checklist
After choosing your country it’s time to start the official planning process. I have provided you with a free downloadable moving abroad checklist to help keep track of your progress. It consists of a timeline beginning two years in advance prior to your departure.
Why two years? I’ve found this to be a realistic timeframe to get all your tasks in order and complete them. I have made it easy for you by consolidating two years of planning into a step-by-step guide you can easily follow. Print it out so you can have it on hand, and after completing a task, tick it off and move to the following.
Moving abroad can be a hassle without a proper plan. This checklist will lead you in the right direction and ensure you won’t miss any fundamental steps.
Go on a Visit Beforehand
If you have the means and haven’t been to the destination are interested in moving to, I suggest going on a visit beforehand. This is a great way to get a feel for your potential new home. I like to call this a pre-moving visit. Stay for a few weeks or months to get a feeling of the local environment and what it’s like to live there. Living in a place isn’t the same as a vacation. check for aspects such as affordability, environment and people. Is the public transport system efficient? After spending some time here do you envision yourself calling this place home?
This isn’t a mandatory step on the moving abroad checklist but it is ideal for knowing what type of life you will be living. I find that it also helps with easing the transition period because you have an idea of what to expect. I’m not against blind moves but with every country and city I’ve relocated to, I’ve previously made a visit – and this has made a significant difference.
Begin the Visa Proccess
The next step on our moving abroad checklist is obtaining a visa and permit. This will vary because every process is country-specific and has distinctive tiers. Depending on differing requirements you may need proof of funds, a stable income, language qualifications, a local house address, etc. If your company is sponsoring your move, they will be taking care of this for you.
However, if moving abroad on your own accord and without corporate support, obtaining a visa will be more hands-on. Some expats consult with lawyers who are better advised on visa eligibility and the paperwork.
What are the different types of visas?
If you wish to continue higher education, definitely try the undergraduate or graduate route. Not only is it a fairly easy visa process but you get the benefits of integrating with the culture and people, expanding your network and learning the language.
Highly Skilled Migrant
Another option is the highly skilled migrant visa which countries offer to foreigners with skills that they cannot find within the country. This includes fields like academics, technology and research.
Citizenship by Visa
If you don’t have one of these particular skills to offer there is citizenship by investment. Therefore, when investing a certain amount, you can obtain residency. For example, Portugal’s Golden Visa allows you to obtain residency through investment. Lastly, these investments come with a hefty price so unless you’re willing to drop 100K-200K, consider another route.
If you want to get a visa without all the hassle, here is a list of the easiest countries to immigrate to. This post goes more in-depth into the types of visas you can obtain.
Now is the Time to Set Your Budget
Now that we’ve got our plan down it’s time to start thinking about finances. You don’t need to be rich to move abroad but I recommend having a cushion of savings. Some of the top expenses you will need to think about include: airline tickets, storage, international movers, custom and duty fees, housing deposit, a few months of rent upfront and pet transport. I also recommend saving for a buffer and three-month emergency fund in case the unexpected happens.
How much does it cost to relocate internationally?
This depends on the country, cost of living, local area, whether you already have employment, etc. Therefore, I will give you a general estimation of the upfront costs. Feel free to adapt this according to local factors. If your employer is providing a relocation package these costs may give or take depending on how much is offered:
- Passport Renewal: $200
- Visa: $150
- Airfare: $1,500 (excluding extra luggage)
- International Moving Company: $1,500
- Security Deposit: $1,000 (1-2x the monthly amount)
- Emergency/Buffer: $3,000
- Transportation: $300 (this is out of pocket unless your company is providing this)
- Pet Relocation: $1,000
This brings us to a total of $8,650 including pet relocation or $7,650 without. As you can see, these costs can really add up so it’s best to start planning your budget in advance. Work out your monthly budget and start saving from there. Before moving to Europe I saved around $800-$1000 per month, but this wasn’t without taking a hard look at my finances and changing things in my life in order to meet my goal.
If money is a big determining factor for your move abroad like it was for me, I encourage you to take an audit of your finances too. Perhaps you’ll need to cut back expenses, give up creature comforts or consider additional ways to make money. I strongly stand by these same tips that allowed me to save thousands and move abroad four different times.
How do I Get Work Overseas?
Every country will require proof that you are authorized to work within its borders. Foreigners must have a work permit and this won’t happen without first obtaining employment.
- The easiest option is to ask the company you are currently working with if they will transfer you.
- If you obtained a bachelor or masters in your prospective country of hire this may give you advantage over others.
- What skills do you have in demand? Healthcare, IT and teaching are industries in demand for people with specific skill sets.
- In today’s environment you can practically work anywhere. Look for remote work job boards or search for companies that offer virtual work.
If you’re seeking more in-depth tips on job relocation check out my post on how to get a job abroad. It is a step-by-step post containing 11 tips on how you can find employment.
Join Expat Dedicated Forums and Social Media Groups
There are thousands of social media groups and forums that allow you to connect with expats and locals in the country you are moving to. These groups share helpful information regarding everything from integration, job searching, housing, and hot spots to visit. If you have a question, it’s guaranteed there are a number of sources and individuals who are happy to give advice. I cannot stress how much of a good resource these groups are!
Start the Active Housing Search
Finding housing is one of the more difficult aspects of planning a move abroad because it is hard to find a place before your arrival. However, you can get started as early as possible. As mentioned above, joining local expat groups is a great resource, especially for housing. I’ve found housing in competitive cities like Amsterdam this way. Make sure to turn on your notifications so you get updates on new listings.
Declutter Your Space and Hire a Professional Mover
I like to start the decluttering process a minimum of three months in advance. This gives you enough time to go through all your items and decide where they will be allocated. Will you sell it, donate or throw it away? Many of my belongings went to donations or family. Holding a garage sale is a nice way to make some extra bucks to help offset the moving costs.
Hiring a professional mover can save you time and peace of mind especially if you won’t be keeping your home. If you are moving abroad for an indefinite amount of time I recommend downsizing and putting the rest in storage since it will be too costly to bring along.
Are you ready to make the move abroad?
Having this moving abroad checklist on hand should take the overwhelm out of your relocation. If you have any questions or comments feel free to post them in the comments below.