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How to Move to Another Country (An Ultimate Guide)

UPDATED
August 05, 2022

Preparing to move abroad can sound scary. I remember the mix of excitement and fear when I made my first move to Hanoi, Vietnam back in 2017, and Germany four years later.

 

It’s an emotional and financial rollercoaster, for sure, but it’s also hugely rewarding. And with the right mindset and preparation, you can definitely do it too!

 

So whether you’re chasing your dreams to live abroad, work remotely, or more – here are 13 steps I’ve learned from experience to help you prepare.

 

 

13 Steps to Moving To Another Country (with Expert Tips)

 

1. Research, research, research

 

When moving to a new country, preparation is key. Your first step should be doing research to better understand the country you’re thinking of moving to. Starting with the basics:

 

  1. Understand the economy and currency
    If you’re planning to work abroad, get familiar with the country’s economy. It’s best to move to a country with a favorable economy, especially one where your kind of job will thrive. Get familiar with the currency and exchange rate too, so you’ll know what to expect.
  2. What’s their healthcare system like?
    Healthcare systems differ from country to country, so ensure you’re covered before moving. Check if your healthcare provider can cover you abroad and find the immunizations and medical records you need to travel. If you’re on prescriptions, ensure they are allowed in your target country.
  3. What’s the transportation system like?
    Research if your new accommodation is easily accessible by public transport. Google Maps has integrated most public transports so you can check the routes and transits from Point A to Point. If you intend to drive your own car, make sure your driving license allows international driving.
  4. What’s the culture like?
    Reading up on the culture will make it easier to get used to their etiquette and culture. If you’re moving somewhere with a different language, you can start by learning a few words and phrases on Duolingo or Rosetta Stone. Some countries require you to have a B2 level of their language to get a permanent residence permit if you intend to relocate permanently.
  5. How far is it from your home country?
    How often do you intend to go back home? How much does it cost to fly back home? Flying back and forth can be costly, especially since going back home often coincides with public holidays – the days when tickets skyro
  6. What’s the cost of living like?
    Highly developed countries often have a high cost of living, which can eat a big cut of your income at the end of the month. Yikes! While some countries may not fare well in terms of healthcare and overall quality of life, the cost of living is more pocket-friendly. How much can you stash away after all the monthly deductions and expenses?
  7. Check the Social Progress Index
    If you’re a member of the LGBTQ community, a person of color moving abroad, or have children moving with you, you have to factor in the progressiveness of the place you’re moving into. Is it a child-friendly city? Is it a place with homophobic or racist tendencies? These are important questions that matter to many. It pays off to check the country’s development in terms of inclusivity and diversity.
     
    And from there, determine your nonnegotiables. Which ones are more important to you? In many cases, you can’t have everything you want in one place.

 

 

2. Get chatting to focus groups

 

What’s the best way to get to know a country from afar? Talk to people who are living there!

 

You can easily find online focus groups where you can ask questions and receive real-time answers from people living in these areas. Facebook is a great option – just type in the city you are interested in moving to, tail it with “expats” or “remote workers,” and ask away.

 

facebook expat groups

A glance at some of the expat groups for Vietnam.

 

These groups are usually very accommodating and helpful. There might be some trolls, but most people will genuinely answer questions on the best areas to live, the best insurance for expats, the best hospitals that speak your language, and tons of answers on “Who is down for a drink?”

 

 

3. Decide on your target country and start saving

 

plan and save money

It’s time to crunch the numbers.

 

Next, determine how much money you need to save up. You want to make sure you have enough for the move (logistics, paperwork, transport, etc) and at least the first months of your stay.

 

Some countries require a lot of savings, especially if you don’t have work waiting upon your arrival. Compare the pros and cons of living there, and take into consideration your existing financial sources or responsibilities.

 

A lot of my former coworkers chose Vietnam for its low cost of living and relatively high wage (for expat workers), allowing them to pay off their student loans while enjoying a pretty relaxed and travel-laden lifestyle.

 

Depending on your current income, saving for the big move could take months, or years. Personally, it took me two years to save up for my new life in Germany. Coming up with a savings strategy or using a budgeting app can help you make sure you hit your targets.

 

 

4. Determine your source of income

 

Next – how will you support yourself?

 

Suppose you already have a full-time job that you love and don’t want to lose. You may be able to chat to your employer to see if they’re open to a remote work agreement. You may also need to figure out a flexible work schedule, especially if there’s a big time difference between your HQ and the country you’re moving to.

 

To help, we’ve written a guide on how to negotiate a remote work agreement at your current job.

 

The odds are on your side: a study by Upwork predicts that, by 2028, 73% of teams will be accommodating remote work. The time will come when employers have no choice but to cave to the demand!

 

Alternatively, if you plan to give up your current role and start afresh, then the sooner you start looking for another job, the better. Start job hunting for jobs in your target country and make sure you have a Plan B in place before you turn in your resignation letter. Once you get a job offer, you can also try to leverage this with your current employer.

 

 

5. Consider looking for a new remote job

 

If you’ve always liked the thought of having more freedom and flexibility, your move abroad may be a great time to look for a new remote work position.

 

The number of remote jobs is increasing every day, and you’ll have access to a wider global job market. If you’re not sure where to start – here are some of the best sites to find remote work that pays well.

 

Remote work certainly has a lot of perks:

 

  • You’ll save on transportation costs since you won’t need to commute.
  • You have better control over your work-life balance.
  • It makes it easier to ease into an unfamiliar country.
  • You can enjoy greater freedom as you explore this new chapter of your life.

 

Alternatively, it may be a great time to kick off a freelance career to support yourself on the side (although don’t expect to make bank overnight).

 

Just be sure to check your target country’s policies on remote work / digital nomadism. Which leads to our next point.

 

 

6. Apply for your Visa (and Passport)

 

For some, visa processing is a bit of nightmare.

 

To minimize heartache, be sure to check out the visa requirements of where you’re going as soon as possible. These will vary a lot depending on the country itself, your nationality, and the activities you intend to do over there.

 

If you’ve decided to work remotely abroad, some countries in eastern Europe, Latin America, and Southeast Asia offer visas that are perfect for digital nomads.

 

Depending on the visa requirements and your passport strength, visa processing can be easy, or time-consuming. For some, it is a total nightmare (oops, said that twice). Either way – always allow a considerable time frame for the entire process.

 

It’s also possible to find migration lawyers or agencies to take care of the visa process for you. Just make sure you do your research to check they’re legit, as there are plenty of scams out there. If you decide to work in a physical office, it should be on your employers to process your papers.

 

Pro tip: If you already have a passport and it is near expiration, make sure you process it way ahead of time!

 

 

7. Contact your bank and phone provider

 

One thing that I ended up doing late was sorting out my bank and phone providers in my home country. Don’t make the same mistake!

 

Ensure you inform your bank and credit card company that you’re relocating soon and ask them to maintain your credit score before moving.

 

Getting an international credit card or a cash app that allows international and multi-currency money transfers is also a good idea. Wise and Payoneer are popular among digital nomads, who don’t have a base, or don’t have the patience to go through yet another bureaucratic process upon arrival: opening bank accounts in a foreign country. Check out our full review on Wise for more details.

 

Making international transfers?

Check out our research on the safest and cheapest methods to send money internationally.

 

 

8. Get good travel insurance

 

If you’re working in person while abroad, your employer should include travel insurance to keep you covered. However, remote workers will have to get travel insurance themselves.

 

Do some research on travel insurance and their coverage – especially since we are now living in a mid-pandemic world.

 

 

9. Decide what to do with your pets

 

If you intend to bring your pets abroad, be prepared to shell out additional expenses on top of your own. Asking clinics that specialize in moving internationally with pets is a huge help. The whole process might take up to six months, depending on the requirements of the country you are moving to: a titre test, microchip, and many other documents might be needed for your pets to be allowed entry in the country. Sad fact: moving abroad with pets will most likely double your relocation budget.
cimb itrade

 

I have witnessed so many heartbreaking stories of pet owners being separated from their pets for two reasons:

 

  1. They miscalculated the time needed to process all the papers.
  2. They do not have the financial capacity to do it. If you intend to hop from one country to another, it may be best to rehome your pets. Please allow some time to find the perfect new parents.

 

 

10. Decide what to do with your belongings

 

packing your stuff

Decide if you want to store or get rid of your stuff.

 

If you’re unsure how long you will stay abroad, selling or donating your belongings may be much better (and cheaper!) than keeping them in a storage unit. Places like Facebook Marketplace and Letgo let you sell virtually anything off, from furniture to clothes (check our full guide here on where to sell stuff).

 

If you have some belongings you don’t want to let go of, you can always ask a friend or family member to hold on to them.

 

When moving abroad, it’s highly advisable to pack light. It’s a good opportunity to purge as much as possible. And yes, the process can be painful – there are always things you don’t want to let go of, but it may be time.

 

Unless of course, you have the budget to hire an international mover. You can also negotiate with your future employer if your employment includes a relocation package.

 

 

11. Choose a reliable moving company

 

This step can be utterly foregone if you pack light. A lot of things you need to survive in a foreign country can be sourced once you have settled down in your new home, and hiring a mover may not be worth it unless your employer shoulders a chunk of the expenses.

 

But if there are things that you cannot let go of, then do some research on reliable international movers.

 

Here are some benefits that I noticed when working with an international moving company:

 

  • Getting in the pros can save you considerable time and energy.
  • Compared to insane oversized-luggage fines, you can save tons of money.
  • Your belongings will be insured and protected.

 

 

12. Tie up any loose ends

 

We’re almost there!

 

  1. Keep a local mailing address
    Since you won’t be cutting off ties from your home country, you should keep a local mailing address. This can be your parents, family members, or friends. This will also be helpful if you end up moving often.
  2. Reach out to someone you know abroad
    Having connections abroad makes your move easier. Some people even intentionally move to a country where they already know someone. They can help you find a new apartment, a flatmate, or drink buddies. Don’t forget to post on your focus group that you are down for some meetups and drinks!
  3. Book your flight
    Now that you have taken care of your home, belongings, income, and visa, it is about time to book that flight!

 

 

13. Look after your mental health

 

Many guides online don’t really mention this. It’s been proven that moving abroad can have some negative psychological effects. You’ll be vulnerable to alienation, homesickness, and loneliness, which can sometimes dampen the excitement of living abroad. But if you factor in these concerns early on, you’re on the right track.

 

Finding some groups that have similar interests and hobbies can definitely help. You can ask your focus groups for after-work or weekend activities. Some social activities can be found on apps like Meetup too.

 

And yes, find time to socialize and integrate into your new city, or else the notorious, confusing three-month slump (yep, this can be applied to your budding relationship with a new country too) can extend indefinitely if you let it be.

 

 

Wrap up: The final countdown to moving abroad

 

pin on the date at calendar

Make sure you tick off these final tasks.

 

Moving to a new country means you’ll have a lot to do, even more when it’s one month to your flight date!

 

Here’s a quick checklist to follow as you approach the big day.

 

One month before your big move

  • Contact the international movers to confirm all the details.
  • Refill medications that are legal in the target country.
  • Finalize all paperwork that is still pending.
  • Research more about the country and the city you are moving in.
  • Start packing your belongings.

 

Two weeks before

  • Set up your new mailing address while keeping everyone aware of what it is. Also, choose your local mailing address.
  • Go shopping for any other essentials you might need. Again, do not go crazy on these. All the things you need abroad will mostly be available.
  • Make copies of important documents like your passport, credit card, and ID in case you lose these when you’re abroad. Save a copy on your phone, your cloud storage accounts like Google Drive, and share a copy with your most trusted person.

 

One week before

  • Prepare cash or traveler’s checks that you will use abroad.
  • Research some online cash apps that can be useful in your country of arrival.
  • Contact your international movers again to go over the details.
  • Notify your credit card company of your move.
  • Confirm other travel arrangements, especially your flight.
  • Chill and relax. Everything will work out.

 

 

You’re All Set! Happy Moving!

 

No matter how well you prepare – there’ll always be hiccups here and there. Good news though – it is what it is. Don’t be hard on yourself if some things don’t go your way.

 

You’ve done your best to be as prepared as possible. Now, enjoy that mimosa, those hugs, and well wishes from your loved ones and friends. A new chapter of your life is about to unfold. And as someone once succinctly advised me, embrace the process!

 

 

 

Jona Branzuela Bering

About The Author

Jona writes on remote work, circular economy, and SaaS. With the objective to help businesses scale up, she blends quality, storytelling, and SEO expertise.