What You Should Know When Moving Overseas

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Moving internationally can be daunting — it’s hard to understand and adjust to a whole new culture and society. Outside of the emotional and mental challenges of moving between countries, you also have to juggle complicated paperwork with a seemingly endless list of tasks.

If you’re planning an international relocation in the near future, use this simple checklist to avoid stress and make sure you don’t miss a thing.

Arrange All Necessary Documentation

Passports
Passports allow you to travel between countries, and they’re a fundamental part of an international move. Each individual member of your family will need their own passport, regardless of age.

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Photo by Nathan Borror/Flickr

A passport book costs $110 per person, while a passport card, which allows you to travel to only Mexico, Canada, Bermuda, and the Caribbean, costs only $30. You can apply for either type of passport at most U.S. post offices, public libraries, and governmental offices. The U.S. Department of State (USDOS) offers a useful search engine to determine where you can apply. Be sure to bring evidence of your U.S. citizenship, a valid ID, and a two-inch square photo of yourself to your application appointment. As it takes around six weeks for your passport to arrive, apply at least two months before you plan on moving.

Visas
A visa gives you permission to enter foreign countries. Visa regulations vary widely depending on the country of issuance, but the USDOS provides a searchable database of travel requirements for different nations. Some systems are more complicated than others and require a lot of time to navigate, whereas a few tourist-oriented countries simply issue visas for free upon arrival.

If you are planning on working in your new country, the regulations are more complex than for general tourism visas. Contact the U.S. Embassy in your destination country directly for more specific instructions.

Other Government Registrations
Notify all major governmental agencies of your plans to move. Make the IRS your first priority, as U.S. citizens still have to pay taxes on foreign-earned income. Be sure to also set up mail forwarding with your local post office to ensure that all important mailed documents make it to your new residence.

As for your driver’s license, you’ll want to get licensed in your new home country as soon as possible. In the interim, apply for an International Driving Permit before traveling overseas. They last for a year and, when paired with a valid U.S. license, will allow you to drive legally until you have time to apply for a new driver’s license in your destination country.

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Photo by nyuhuhuu/Flickr

Finally, don’t forget to register as an overseas citizen voter by visiting the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s website and following the prompts.

Plan for Logistical Needs

Packing
Before you start packing, check with customs to learn the regulations around what you can and can’t bring into the country — import taxes on certain items may be steep enough that you’d be better off repurchasing them in your destination country. Nearly every country in the world has a website on customs regulations – the information shouldn’t be hard to find in a quick Google search. Similarly, determine the voltages and outlets your new home country uses, as that may affect what electronics you opt to bring with you. Include your phone in these considerations, too, as you might need to purchase a new mobile device that’s compatible with foreign carriers.

Once you’ve decided what you can leave behind, consider having a moving sale or eBay liquidation sale to recoup expenses and get rid of excess stuff. You could also donate any unnecessary possessions to Goodwill.

Get a free estimate for the cost of your international move.

Bank accounts and credit cards
Unless you bank with an international institution, you’ll probably have to open a new bank account when you arrive in your new country. Before you leave, however, notify your current financial institution of your overseas move to assess the best way to access and move your current funds or savings. If you decide to maintain your U.S. account, let your bank know when and for how long you expect to be abroad to avoid false fraud charges. You should also discuss any international fees, as most banks typically charge around 1% to 3% for foreign transactions.

Many credit cards work internationally, but you may still have to pay for currency exchanges when using your old cards. Depending on how much you’ll be using credit, it might be worth your time to apply for a new card that waives international fees.

Prepare for Personal Needs

Vaccinations and Medical Needs
Check the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and talk with your doctor about which immunizations you’ll need before traveling. Obtain signed proof of your vaccinations, and keep a current record to avoid having to get them twice.

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Photo by COM SALUD/Flickr

You’ll also want to ensure that your health insurance offers coverage in foreign countries, or make plans to find a new insurer in your new home country. Alternately, you might consider applying for international health insurance to guarantee your medical coverage.

For prescription medications, check with doctors in your destination country to see if they can renew the medications when needed. If not, you may need to take a supply with you, as well as proof that the drugs are medically necessary. Make sure you contact the customs office of your destination country to verify that you can bring medication into the country.

Pets
Some countries restrict the types of animals allowed across their borders, so verify pet regulations ahead of time. Any permissible pets will need to be checked and documented by a licensed veterinarian before traveling internationally.

To help your pet stay comfortable during transit, try to introduce them to their kennel or cage beforehand, so that they are familiar with it on the day of travel. Keep in mind that shipping your pets overseas safely can be very expensive, so be prepared for the cost — veterinary consultation fees, airline tickets, and ground transportation can all add up to several thousand dollars.

Have you moved overseas? What further advice would you give to someone considering an international move?

Featured photo by Kevin Hale/Flickr

About the author

Jess once moved from Tennessee to Utah and about a dozen places in between. She loves reading, researching, and being outdoors with her husband and two silly puppies.

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