Moving to a new country can be a daunting task. There are so many things to think about and to do before you set foot on an airplane. Preparation for moving abroad starts from the moment you decide you want to go abroad and continues up until moving day. From trying to figure out what to do with all your belongings to figuring out visa requirements, there is a lot to do. Where do you start? Here is a practical guide to help get you started on your moving abroad process.
Decide on what you’re going to do with all your stuff
Store it, send it or sell it - those are your basic options. If you’re able to store some of your belongings in your home country, then great. The less you bring with you the better. However, sometimes that isn’t an option, or you want to bring most of your belongings with you. You will need to find a reputable international mover to help you get everything from home to your new country. Look for a company that is certified by FIDI Global Alliance which is an organization that represents qualified professional international moving companies or ask for recommendation from others who have moved abroad. The third option is to pare down your possessions by selling things you no longer need. You can try Craigslist, eBay or give items away to friends and family.
In the same vein, if you have newspaper and magazine subscriptions, be sure to cancel them or change the address to a family member or friend to receive the last of them until your subscription runs out.
Check your passport before moving abroad
This may sound simple enough, but double check that your passport isn’t about to expire. While you can renew passports while abroad, many countries won’t let you enter if you have less than 6 months before the expiry date on your passport.
Research visa requirements
The earlier you apply the better. Typically, if you are moving abroad for work, your company will help you through the visa process by helping you get all the necessary paperwork. However, you need to be familiar with the process as well to ensure you get everything you need in a timely basis. Make sure you have all the documents your need. Often the visa process is a confusing one so it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. Consult others that have done the process before. There are plenty of expat forums available online where you can read about first hand experiences and ask any questions you may have.
Knowledge is power
Beyond just knowing about your visa requirements, the more you research about your new country the better prepared you will be. Read everything you can about the country from the good to the bad and the in between stuff. Learn about its history and culture. Read the news. The internet and Google are your friend here and anything that you’re remotely curious about will probably have some sort of answer. Another trick is to use the localized Google search for your target country. You get to see the search results specific to that country that otherwise may not come up if you’re searching from home.
Visit the doctor and dentist
Especially for those with universal health care or have a health plan from school or work, get a check up and make sure all your immunizations are up to date. Depending on where you’re going, you might need some additional shots as well. Be sure to get copies of your medical records so you can pass them onto your doctor abroad.
Speaking of doctor visits, make sure that you have health insurance for your time abroad. Health care while abroad can be expensive when you least expect it. Depending on the length of time that you’re away, you can purchase insurance from home for the duration, or look for local options once you’re in your new country.
No matter how well you prepare, moving abroad usually results in a lot of unexpected and sudden expenses. The more money you have saved up, the more flexibility you have. When moving you may not want to bring all your furniture with you so you will need some extra cash to furnish your new home. It could be even for simple things like moving from a warm climate to a much colder climate means you’ll need to spend extra money on getting appropriate clothing. Those little costs here and there gradually add up so it is good to have some savings to help you through the process.
Tell your Credit Card Company and bank
Let your credit card company know that you’ll be out of the country for awhile so they’re aware of your location. The last thing you want happen to you when you’re in a foreign country is to have your cards, and access to emergency cash, stop working. Trying to call customer service over the internet is never fun.
Unlock your phone
Most phones come locked to the carrier from which you purchased your phone. If you don’t unlock it, then your phone won’t work with international SIM cards. Depending on your carrier, if you’re long enough in your contract or you can pay a small fee to get your phone unlocked. Rogers Wireless in Canada does it for $50 and T-Mobile and AT&T in the US will unlock your phone for free if you fulfil certain requirements.
Learn the language
This can be tough depending on where you’re going as there are more resources for certain languages than others. The best way would be to find someone that speaks the language and can teach you some of the basics before you go. You can find people in your local community, or even online via sites like Livemocha. Otherwise, there are podcasts, books and videos that you can use to get the basics. Duolingo is a great app if you’re trying to learn one of the languages they offer. The majority of your language learning will happen after you arrive in your new country, but it doesn’t hurt to pick up a few key words and phrases before you arrive.
This is the most difficult part. Waiting to leave. Until you are stepping onto the plane, it can be easy to worry and to stress out about everything that could potentially happen once you’re abroad whether it be good or bad. It’s hard to set that anxiousness aside, but it is important to focus on why you’re deciding to move abroad. Understand that homesickness is a part of the process, but contact with friends and family at home can help to mitigate that. With all the research you’ve been doing on your new country, you should be able to minimize surprises. And most of all, be proud of your bravery. You’re doing something challenging and going on an adventure.
Have you moved abroad? What tips do you have for others to get ready?