Thinking of moving to another country? Don’t miss these essential steps as you plan your move.
As some of you may know from my Facebook post a while back, I’m planning to move to Europe in 3 years when my son leaves for college.
Before anyone gets all judgy on me, he will be staying with his family in California to attend school. So he will be safe and cared for. And since I can’t return to California, there will be a ton of distance between us anyway. So instead of sitting at home and stewing in empty nester depression, I’ve decided to have an adventure instead.
It’s the first time in my adult life that I will be footloose and fancy-free. So why not? Plus, my son can come to visit me in Europe on summer breaks. How many kids get to say that? He wants to eventually move to Germany anyway. So this will be the perfect opportunity for him to test the waters on that decision. It’s a win-win!
Getting Clarity On Your Move Abroad
At any rate, I’m starting to get my ducks in a row so I can make this monumental move. It definitely takes planning! It also takes some clarity. There are many countries you can move to as an American, but they all have different visas with different qualifications. So you have to decide not only which visas you can qualify for, but also, what qualifications you are willing to meet.
For example, I could move to Germany if I wanted to go back to college or do an apprenticeship. But if I don’t want to do either of those, then France would be my next choice. But for France, I have to earn more money because it’s one of the pricier places to live. If I can do that, great! If not, then Spain or Portugal may be better options for me. But Portugal requires more planning ahead because their visa process is rather involved and you must apply from your country of origin. While with Spain, I can just fly over to the country and apply in person. So it’s critical to study what the different visas allow, as well as what you are willing to do to meet certain qualifications.
Aside from that, I’m starting to put together a checklist of things I have to remember. My brain can be pretty forgetful at times, so checklists are my world at the moment. (Thank you perimenopause…)
So here’s my current checklist. I will update and make changes as time goes on and as I learn more. I may even do specific checklists for the different countries if people are interested in that. But that’s a whole other blog post. In the meantime, here’s the current checklist:
Before you leave:
Join Facebook groups for the country you want to move to. In most cases, they will have titles such as “Expats in German” or Expats in France. They are a wealth of information. I cannot stress this enough!
Decide on a country and then research the visa requirements and obtain the necessary visas or permits. Or at the very least, start the process if it’s lengthy. Timing is everything. And in some cases, you may have to fly to the nearest consulate to apply. So plan for that as well.
Check passport validity and obtain a new one if necessary. This takes time, and some countries have restrictions on how old your passport can be in order to use it.
Make copies of important documents such as passports, visas, birth certificates, etc. Make sure to scan them so you have digital copies as well.
Cancel subscriptions, services, and memberships in your home country.
Notify banks, credit cards, and other financial institutions of your move, and make sure you can use your cards overseas for the long haul. Not just for a vacation amount of time.
Obtain health insurance for your new country.
Arrange for any necessary vaccinations or medical exams. Some countries have health requirements.
Sell or donate items you won’t be taking with you. If you have the funds to pack and ship everything, more power to you. But for the average person, this looks like Swedish Death Cleaning.
Make arrangements for shipping or storage of your belongings. The less you take, the better!
Notify your employer or school of your move and arrange for necessary paperwork or transfers. Better yet, try to get a remote work setup.
Make arrangements for temporary housing in your new country. Many countries require you to have a full, 1-year lease in place.
Learn about the culture, customs, and language of your new country. Like it or not, you will HAVE to learn at least some of the language. Especially if you plan to stay forever. So bite the bullet, download a free app like Duolingo, and get started way in advance. The more practice you have, the better off you’ll be. And locals will be far friendlier when they see that you are trying.
After you arrive:
Register with local authorities and obtain necessary permits or IDs. In some cases, you only have a few days to let authorities know you have arrived. So don’t forget this one!
Open a bank account in your new country. If you can do this before you leave, all the better. But in some cases, you have to be in the country to do this. Do not underestimate the paperwork you will have to take with you for this. They want proof of everything.
Obtain a local phone number and internet access. A mobile phone is often the quickest and cheapest to get and can be paired with your internet access in many countries.
Set up utilities such as gas, electricity, and water. Here again, if you can do this ahead of time, all the better. But as with banking, some countries require you to be there.
Register for health insurance and find a doctor or medical provider. This will depend on your country and situation. In most cases, you will already have health insurance because it’s required to get the visa. But finding a doctor is key. And don’t forget a vet for your furry companions!
Register for a local school or university if necessary. While this too can be done before you go, it’s one of those things that can be put off until your arrival if you get overwhelmed. That is unless you are going on a student visa. Then, you will, in most cases, have to register before you leave. Or at least be accepted into the school.
Learn the local transportation system and obtain the necessary transportation passes or tickets. In most cases, you can get monthly transportation passes that are cheaper than paying per ride if you won’t have a car.
Register to vote if applicable. In most cases, it won’t be unless you are already a citizen.
Learn about local customs and culture, and make an effort to meet new people and make friends. And don’t forget expat communities! They can often be your foot in the door when you first arrive. Most of these groups can be found or located on Facebook.
Update your resume and start searching for a job if you haven’t already.
Explore your new city and enjoy your new adventure! Get involved in the local events, eat the local food, and totally immerse yourself in your new culture. Enjoying these things will help you overcome homesickness when it gets bad. And it will get bad. But it will also get better. So hang in there!