Moving Abroad Checklist for a Happy and Stress-Free Transition

by Sojourner
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Ahhh, are you looking for a moving abroad checklist? I’m here to help. As millennials and young professionals, we are a generation who does not want to wait until we are retired to travel. We infuse travel into our career paths, whether that is a fellowship abroad, teaching English, working remotely, etc. We fit our career aspirations to align with our travel bucket list. When there’s a will, there’s a way, and we make it happen every time. 

When I moved from the U.S. to Spain to teach English with the Fulbright Program in 2016, there were crucial steps to take along the way. Visas, apartment hunting, and even more paperwork. However, I missed a few things, such as not unlocking my phone and forgetting to tell my bank I was moving. Rookie mistakes!

So how do you create the perfect checklist for moving abroad?

There are many things you should consider if you want to create a moving abroad checklist. For starters, you have to convince your boss. What do you need to tell your job in the US or elsewhere? How do you prepare for a move abroad? What do you need to do about your money? What are things to remember when you plan to move overseas? 

Well, I am here to guide you to not make the same mistakes I did the first time.. As I plan to move abroad (again) to work remotely, we’re in this together this time around too. We are creating a life we love, and sometimes that means living, working, and moving abroad. You are about to make a life-changing decision, and I am here to help make it easier. Let’s see how we can make it happen.

How to convince your job to let you work remotely from another country

Do all the research upfront

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail, right? That’s why this moving abroad checklist is helpful. Before you even broach the subject of working remotely abroad, do as much research as you can.

Think like your company and what they would want to know. Your job is wondering how they will be affected by your move. They are thinking about their financial obligation to you now and how it may change if you move.

Will they have to pay more taxes with you abroad? How does your visa status influence them? Do they need to invest in new software systems for virtual meetings? What other accommodations in the company’s workflow will they have to change or adapt? From communications to finances, these are questions to be thinking about from your employer’s perspective. Use that mindset in your research. 

Check the time zones

Time zones may seem minor, but they are a significant factor. If you have many clients and team meetings, you need to account for time zone differences. Before going to your boss about working remotely in another country, make sure that you know the time zones and how they will affect your work.

Unless you want to wake up super early or go to bed super late due to meetings, checking the time zone differences is crucial. Understanding time zones will also help you plan out your day. Once you move, it is all about adjusting and balancing living in your new country with your new remote work life.

Reassure them about taxes

Many US companies can be under the impression that you have to pay extra taxes if you have employees working abroad. However, that is not always (or hardly ever) the case. If you begin to work for a company in another country, that is a little more complicated. 

Talk to a lawyer, financial advisor, or tax expert for more information. You can also check out My Expat Taxes for a tax breakdown. This blog post can walk you through many of your frequently asked questions about taxes if you are a US American expat abroad. 

Create a presentation or proposal

It’s time to schedule that meeting! Once you have the research you need, compile it into a presentation or a proposal. Some people even decide to do both to cover all their bases. For a more traditional route, think of this as a professional pitch. 

Speak confidently, cite your sources and research, and leave time for questions. The extra flair and preparedness may get you brownie points with your boss. If you go a more informal route, this can be a conversation between you and your boss. Evaluate your working relationship to see what is possible and most appropriate.  

Offer a trial run

Next on the checklist for moving abroad is offering a trial run. If your employer is not feeling a complete move abroad, offer a test or trial period to ensure it can work. You may have to try to work domestically first. However, this can be a gateway to your company and your boss to offer and see that you can still contribute to your team and work remotely. 

If they are willing, suggest that once you do a week-long domestic trial run. This trial run may lead to a week-long international run. You can even offer to do this in the country that you hope to go to or a similar place. While that may be a little ambitious, it’s worth a shot. The worst they can say is no and you won’t know if you don’t try.

How to prepare to move abroad

Stack your money for an emergency fund

Moving abroad costs money! Once you have the approval, start saving for an emergency fund. You never know what may happen as you are transitioning to your new life abroad. For example, you may book an apartment or an Airbnb, and it doesn’t work out until you have to terminate it early. 

Or, if all of your credit cards get stolen or lost, you are going to need extra funds. Hopefully, none of these things happen and this is just an emergency fund that you can use later. However, some initial emergencies you may need to handle. While moving overseas is exciting, prepare yourself as much as you can! Your moving abroad checklist is not complete without this.

Determine where you want to go

Though this may seem like the easiest part of moving to another country, picking a destination to live abroad can be more difficult. In addition to accounting for the time zones mentioned in the previous section, you also have to account for what kind of climate you want. 

Do you want to live near a beach? Do you want to live more in a city? You also need to live in a city with a good Wi-Fi connection to do your remote work. Luckily many countries are opening up for smaller work opportunities and have co-working spaces. Yet, the most critical aspect to consider is the cost of living. 

Analyze the cost of living

Cost of living is one of the main parts of moving and living abroad. Most people do not want to spend more than they already pay in their own country. Therefore when you are looking at places to work remotely, you need to analyze your finances.

Depending on your currency, your money can be worth more, or less, than it is in your home country. Use a cost of living calculator like Numbeo to understand what your average monthly cost would be. Start a Google doc or Excel sheet of possible expenses that you will have to incur and compared to what you usually pay in the US. 

From there, you can figure out the budget that is best suitable for you based on your destination. It is always nice to be more conservative when looking at your finances, especially upfront if you are preparing to move abroad. You would rather be over prepared than underprepared.

Apply for a visa

Depending upon where you live in the United States, sometimes getting your visa is easier said than done. Look up which consulate you need to visit to attain your visa. And around here, we do things the legal way.

If you are going abroad for six months or more, chances are you will need some sort of visa to stay in someone’s country legally.  Also, you need to account for the time you may need to take off, using your PTO, to get this paperwork done. The location of consulates in the U.S vary by state/region. 

Remember, different countries have different visa tiers. If you do not apply for the right one, you may get deported from your chosen country. There are tourist visas where you may or may not be able to make money. How often will you have to renew it? How long is it good for? Are there fees you need to pay? Ask these questions to find the right visa for you.

There are also permanent resident visas available too. It truly depends on the country, so be sure to check the consulate or embassy of the country that you plan on moving to before applying for your Visa. In some cases, people also hire a lawyer to ensure they are not breaking any laws as remote workers / digital nomads. Therefore visa research should be at the top of your moving abroad checklist.

Notify your bank of your plans

Notifying your bank you are moving abroad should honestly be at the top of your checklist for moving abroad. It is very awkward when you go to pay for groceries or set up payment for your new apartment, and your cards do not work. 

This situation is familiar. It often happens when people forget to tell their bank that they are going to another country, and then their bank decides to close or declines the card because of international transactions. Your bank is attempting to protect you from someone possibly using your card abroad.  They just don’t know the person trying to use the card is you.

As soon as you know that you are moving, go to your bank and let them know your plans. Notify them if you have other travel plans throughout your stay abroad. It may be wise even to get a trusted family member or friend on your bank account. 

Having this contact person is a good idea if something happens to this account while you are gone. Your person in the city or state where you have your bank can mediate the issues. For example, I have a parent on my account just in case because I travel a lot. If you choose to put someone on your account, it should be someone you can trust with your money. 

Meet with a financial planner or advisor

Having a financial planner or advisor is a luxury. But if you do, check in to understand how moving abroad will affect your finances. How will it affect your 401K or IRA? If you have loans, how will moving abroad affect those payments? What will happen to any insurance policies you have? Do these insurance policies need to be changed?

Ask these questions upfront and before you go to minimize any future stress. Create payment plans for any bills, triple-check on your insurance, and review all your credit card coverage. You’d rather be safe than sorry to cover all your bases. 

Schedule all health appointments 

A routine check-up for your dental, vision, and physical is a vital point on your moving abroad checklist. Depending upon the insurance you get, which you should also be prepared to pay for it and consider, it is imperative to make sure you are in the best health possible. The sooner the better.

Have conversations with your doctor and dentist about what they can do for you while you’re gone. If they have any tips from past experiences with clients who have moved abroad, do not be afraid to ask them. They are there to help you make sure you are in the best health you can be before going to an entirely new environment. 

Decide what you will be packing and leaving behind

You cannot take everything when you move abroad! Downsizing is necessary only to pack what you need. Overpacking is possible, but it also means you have to carry everything that you pack. Pack things such as clothes, shoes, sweaters, jackets, and other essentials. Try to take two large suitcases and a backpack at most.  

Remember to pack based on the climate too. If you are moving from Chicago to a beachside town, you probably do not need that winter coat. You can buy toothpaste, towels, soap, etc., upon arrival. However, if there is an essential you cannot live without, bring it with you. 

For Black women, hair products may not be available upon arrival. Be sure to pack as much as you can that you will need. What is available depends on the destination. For example, big, international cities and predominantly Black countries may have what you want. Still, take some things just in case and use this list to help guide you.

Sell, downsize, or put stuff in storage

Once you decide what you will be packing and what you’ll be living behind, it is time to get rid of the rest. You have a few options based on what you want to do and how you want to do it. You can sell any of your clothes or shoes. 

Selling or donating will help you downsize your wardrobe and have less to pack. You can also decide to pay to put it in storage. While this is a slightly more pricey option, if you do not plan on staying abroad forever, it could be an easy way to have some stuff up on your return still. Other places where you can sell your things include Poshmark and the Facebook Marketplace. 

Cancel any unnecessary subscriptions and forward mail

If you have any subscriptions that deliver products to your door, now is the time to cancel them. Unless you have Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or any other streaming service, the ones with physical products can go. They are probably not going to deliver to your new beachside apartment in Mexico.  And you also won’t need them.

Your funds will probably change when you go abroad, and there will be other things that you want to put your money on. You just don’t want to be stuck with a subscription deal that you no longer need. Also, forward your email before you go! You can do this to another domestic address or abroad if you want.

Purchase travel insurance

Planning for the worst can work out in your favor, and that is why you need travel insurance. Having insurance brings you peace as you plan your move abroad. You never know what may happen to your luggage, rental car, or if a valuable is stolen. It is best to have your things covered.

World Nomads is the most popular option for travel insurance. You can get a quote based on your country of origin, how long you will be traveling, where you will go, etc. They have a standard plan and an explorer plan. Choose the one that best fits your needs!

What to do after successfully moving abroad

Permanent apartment hunting 

When you move abroad, you have to find a place to live. There are a few options you can choose to pursue. In the beginning, some decide to couch surf to save money. You may rent out an Airbnb until you find something more permanent. You can also rent Airbnbs monthly.

In some cases, destinations allow you to rent out an apartment from month to month instead of signing a full-year lease. Other people choose to house sit during their time abroad. There are multiple ways to find accommodations during that transition abroad. Go with what you are comfortable doing. Your preferences comes from your personality, travel style, and expenses. 

Opening a bank account

A checklist for moving abroad is not complete without money. Most likely, your home country company pays you in your currency. However, some people decide to open a bank account in the new country. This situation is more common if you are working with an organization in-country or through a US government program with partnerships in other countries such as Fulbright.

If neither applies and you still want to open a bank account, the process to do so depends on the destination. In most cases, you need paperwork, proof of employment papers, etc., to do so.  As mentioned previously, this is something to think about in the planning phase. You could also meet with your financial advisor so that they can guide you on the best and legal ways to do this.

Unpacking and setting up your space

Your moving abroad checklist is almost complete!Now that you are unpacked and getting settled, it is time to set up your workspace! As you are now a remote worker, you want to make sure your workspace has all of the amenities that you need to be comfortable. Depending upon the agreement you decided when discussing your move with your boss , they may be able to cover the cost of the things in your new office space. 

Regardless, you must have what you need to feel adjusted to it. You may need to adapt based on the destination you chose. Setting up your workspace can be a great way to help transition to being a remote worker. How you design it is up to you! 

Some things to consider when setting up your workspace include lighting, plants, books, and pictures. You can bring some stuff from home as well to make you feel more comfortable. You can also go out and about in your new home and use this opportunity as a way to find the nearest mall or local store to decorate your new apartment space and workspace. This space is your new life as a remote worker, and you get to make it fit your personality and style.

Start making friends

Alright, it’s time to start building that community. Moving abroad means you have to find like-minded people to hang out with, create new memories with, or maybe even a little more than friends. Whatever the case may be, this is the time to go for it. After you unpack, open that bank account, find a grocery store, and organize that workspace, take time to get acquainted with your new home. 

Join Facebook groups geared toward expats or locals in your destination. Research if there are any community centers with cultural events or networking opportunities to meet new people. Find any and every way to start getting connected to your new home by building those connections with new people. This step can be one of the most difficult items on your moving abroad checklist, but go all in.

What is the last thing to do on your moving abroad checklist?

Relax and enjoy

Once you are all settled in, relax! You did it and have ticked everything off your moving abroad checklist. You moved abroad and now are living one of your dreams. It is something to take in every single day because not many people can do this. It is a blessing to move freely and work abroad. If you can make it happen, you are one of the lucky ones. Do not take it for granted. Cherish each day. Take the ups with the downs. And get ready to have the adventure of your life. The world is literally at your fingertips. Make it worthwhile, and use this checklist for moving abroad to get you there!

Want to know the pros and cons of living abroad? Click here to read more.

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