The Ultimate Moving Abroad Checklist & Step-By-Step Guide

11/29/2020

Nomadic FIRE Ultimate Moving Abroad Checklist

You have done months of research, read all the guides, made countless phone calls, and you are ready to take the plunge and to move abroad. Now your stomach twists in knots, your heart races with anxiety, and your mind jumps from topic to topic, thinking of all the things you need to do before jumping on a plane.

Whether it's the start of a new life, a significant career move, or just a new adventure, moving overseas is a HUGE step. Getting on a plane and starting life in another country doesn't happen without some stress. Major changes usually come with major potential complications.

"Making a big move abroad can feel stressful. Do you know what feels worse? Regrets"

I get it. I've been there. I've personally moved to 12 different countries as an adult. Let my years of experience help you out.

This guide to moving abroad is a collaboration of my personal experience with 12+ international moves combined with my extensive network of Relocation Specialists and International Moving Companies.  My partners and I have over 50 years of combined knowledge to share with you. This guide will provide you with the step-by-step details needed for a smooth overseas move.

Use this Ultimate Guide 4-ways:

  1. 1
    Download the moving abroad checklists for quick reference.
  2. 2
    Use this page to get specific details behind each step.
  3. 3
    Check out the FAQs for Frequently Asked Questions about moving internationally.
  4. 4
    If any section is unclear, leave a comment below for additional help.

Let's break the process down into 30-day chunks to simplify what you need for a stress-free international move.

Preparing To Move Overseas? What You Need To Do 90-Days Before Moving Abroad.

What Visa Do I Need to Move Abroad?

The visa is your first step because it can be the longest step in the process. What visa you need depends on where you are going and what you plan to do when you get there.

The application is arguably the most critical step of the entire process; your international relocation's success depends almost entirely on getting your visa.

Specific visa requirements vary from country to country. Check the Embassy of the destination country you are moving to for dates, timelines, and visa application deadlines.

Nomadic FIRE Colombia Passport Stamp e1589347780315
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 INSIDER TIP : Many countries require a passport with at least two blank pages and is not expiring for at least six months. If this applies to your passport, start your passport renewal now to avoid paying additional fees to expedite.

What Type of Visas Are Available To US Citizens

These vary from country to country, but visas generally come in 5 types

Temporary Visas

  • Students looking to Study Abroad
  • Tourists visiting for vacation

Long Term Stay Visas

  • Non-working or Retirement Visas
  • Working Visa for people looking for employment abroad
  • Working Visa for freelancers or digital nomads
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 INSIDER TIP Working Visas for Freelancers or Digital Nomad Visas are a relatively new concept. Estonia was the first country to issue a specific visa allowing foreigners to live and work in the country without a local company sponsorship. Other countries have followed with similar programs. As of October 2020, these countries are offering Digital Nomad Visas:

  • Barbados
  • Bermuda
  • Anguilla
  • Estonia
  • Dubai
  • Georgia
  • Portugal
  • Croatia (coming soon) 
Nomadic FIRE Barbados Stamp
Nomadic FIRE Barbados Live
Nomadic FIRE Barbados Work
Nomadic FIRE Barbados Work

Work permits and employment visas are the most difficult visas to obtain. Working visas go hand in hand with work permits and typically require a local company to sponsor your employment. Due to the cost, paperwork, and legal requirements, local companies will unlikely sponsor you for a work visa unless,

  1. They are an overseas branch of your current employer, or
  2. You have a high value or rare skillset that is not available in the local workforce.

High Valued Skill Examples:

  • Advance Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) jobs
  • Executive-Level Management

Rare Skill Examples:

  • English Language Teacher (in a non-English speaking country)
  • Unique Industry-Specific Knowledge (Helicopter sales, ERP analyst, Fab Manufacturing technician, Oil Drill worker, etc.)

What Do I Need From My Doctor Before An International Move?

Health Check and Medical Clearance

Many countries (Spain and the Philippines, as an example) require medical checks or health certificates for the visa process. While getting the Medical certificate for your visa requirements, kill two birds with one stone, and do the following:

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 INSIDER TIP : Make sure your prescription medications are legal in the country you are moving to. Not all drugs have the same legality everywhere. I'm not just talking about medical marijuana, either. There have been cases of foreigners getting in serious trouble for bringing prescription drugs abroad when their destination country didn't recognize their prescription as legal.

Nomadic FIRE Prescription Drugs illegal in Other Countries
  1. Get a copy of your Medical Records (including your x-rays, scans, dental records, eye doctor prescriptions, immunization records, and drug prescriptions).
  2. Get a yellow fever vaccination and card. Several countries require this vaccination to enter the country or visit certain parts of the country (Tayrona National Park in Colombia, as an example).
  3. Depending on your new country of residence, it might be worth it to load up on certain shots, even if your host country does not require the vaccination. For example, I paid to get a TBE (Tick-Borne Encephalitis) vaccine in Austria because it is not available in the US.
  4. From Hepatitis to Rabies, all kinds of funky diseases are harmful but preventable. For an up-to-date list of proper vaccinations and immunization shots by country, check out the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers or IAMAT.org.
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 INSIDER TIP : Rabies in SE Asia. I know SE Asia is a common destination country, so I am making a specific warning for US Citizens to get their rabies shots in the US. Stray dogs are a significant issue in many countries in SE Asia. If a dog or monkey bites or scratches you, the cost of rabies shots in Bali  can run up to $5000.

If you are moving overseas because of a job, your new employer will probably take care of all your proper vaccinations and health insurance requirements in your host country. However, if you are retiring abroad or plan to be an expat freelancer, you need to sort your overseas health insurance.

Medical care and insurance are broad and deep topics. My comprehensive low-cost international healthcare strategy is the topic of a future post. Sign up below to get updated when I release the article.

For now, do your research. Most US-based health insurance has minimal coverage outside the US. Consider Travel Medical Insurance or Global Medical Insurance if you will be in multiple countries. If you are staying primarily in a single country, research the cost of private medical insurance specific to that country. With either choice, look for plans that give you the option to choose your hospital and have a 24-hour emergency line.

What Documents Do I Need for My International Move?

Nomadic FIRE Important Legal Tax Documents

Tax Documents. Legal Documents. Financial Documents. Personal Documents. Moving to a different country involves lots of paperwork. The easiest way to ensure you don't miss a crucial form, record, or certificate is to use my FREE Overseas Moving Checklists.


These checklists show you how to move to another country with the least amount of stress. Each checklist breaks down the steps to be completed 90-Days, 60-Days, and 30-Days away from your move date. 

You will need several legal records for your visa requirements. Since you are already collecting legal documents and making copies, let's organize a folder of important documents. I suggest photocopies and electronic copies of the following:

  1. Birth Certificate
  2. University Transcript and Diploma
  3. Police Clearance and Background Check
  4. Adoption papers
  5. Birth certificate or Child custody paperwork
  6. Marriage Certificate or Divorce papers
  7. Drivers license
  8. Certificate of Citizenship or Naturalization
  9. Passport
  10. Social Security Cards
  11. If you or a family member plans on attending school, bring school transcripts, diplomas, and a record of your grades
  12. Professional licenses or certifications
  13. Don't forget the medical history, health insurance documents, and prescription medications from the health care section above.

Do I Need To Speak A Foreign Language to Live Abroad?

Did you know 28 countries have English as the de facto primary language? Are you moving to one of these countries? If not, it's time to take some language lessons.

I've been living abroad for 5+ years, and I regrettably and shamefully admit to only speaking English fluently. Do I have an issue living abroad? No. However, life is much easier if you have at least "survival" level local language skills.

  • Numbers to understand when people give you prices.
  • Directions for when you are inevitably lost and need a local to help guide you home
  • Descriptions of food, because when eatting, knowing the words for chicken, beef, pork, and vegetable make ordering food more manageable.
Nomadic FIRE Israel Jerusalem Machane Yehuda Market Shuk 2

Marco blindly guessing at what to eat in Jerusalem, Israel. Basics in the local language help when shopping for food at markets. 

At the very least, some basic phrases, "good morning," "I'm sorry," "thank you" are good to know. A little bit of effort goes a long way when talking to locals. I have personally used Pimsleur language lessons as my primary way of learning. Duolingo is a great app to waste time constructively. Mango Language is another app I use that is free if you have a public library card. 

Things You Need To Think About 60-Days Before Moving Abroad

Ship, Store, or Sell: What to pack when you are moving to another country

Before determining what you need to bring, start by identifying where you will end up. Do you plan on being nomadic? Will you be changing countries every few months or every year? If you plan on slow traveling and changing countries every year or so, taking a full house worth of stuff will be a hassle.

If this is a permanent or semi-permanent move, then it becomes a cost/benefit question. Decided what items are must-haves vs. nice-to-haves. Think twice about anything you consider a "must-have." Sentimental items, artwork, furniture, or kitchen appliances all have a logistics and financial cost.

Do you love those items that much that it is worth $5,000 and the hassle of packing and unpacking? Did you know that you will need power adapters and voltage converters for personal electronics and appliances outside the US? An overseas move is a perfect opportunity to downsize.

Source: Tenor

How much does it cost to ship household goods overseas?

Depends on where you are moving to and how much you want to take. For example the costs of shipping household goods from the US to Spain can run roughly $6,000. 

Nomadic FIRE International Moving Costs US to Spain 1
Nomadic FIRE International Moving Costs US to Spain 2

What Things Should I Bring With Me Overseas?

Once you figure out what you are taking with you, it's time to decide what to do with the rest. If this is a permanent move, then the decision is easier; you purge whatever you are not taking with you. If you are still undecided on coming back to the US, then you have the decision to sell or store your stuff.

Note that storing your stuff becomes another cost/benefit question. Storage units big enough for a 2-3 bedroom house cost ~$200 per month. Is having your old pictures and furniture worth $2400+ per year?

Create an inventory list of all the items you plan to store (including size, value, and estimated weight). A packing list gives a reference when you are overseas and need to determine if you want to purge what is in storage or ship it to your new permanent residence.

Start selling anything you can live without

Selling the entire contents of your house takes much longer than you think. The later you start, the more desperate you will get to make a deal.

Items generally easy to sell:

Large Kitchen Appliances

  • Refriderators
  • Freezers
  • Microwaves

Small Kitchen Appliances

  • Blenders
  • Toasters
  • Coffee Makers

Electronics

  • Computers
  • Televisions
  • Entertainment Systems
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 INSIDER TIP : Use an Estate Sales service- Craiglist and eBay are the most common way to sell your household goods. But the easiest way is using an Estate Sales service. Estate sales are like a giant garage sale of several homes but held by a professional service.


For my overseas move, I sold my expensive items (computers, bed, couch) through Craiglist and eBay. Everything else (clothes, small appliances, furniture, etc.) went through an estate sale. Estate sales can work a few ways, but with a smaller house (two bedrooms,1200 square feet), an estate service simply paid me $1200 to buy everything in my condo to resell. The estate service picked up and cleaned out my whole condo in one day—no more hassle for me. 

The Purge- Donate or Dump

If an item wasn't worth the cost/benefit of shipping or storing it and no one wants to buy it, it's time to purge the clutter. Donate what you can, dump the rest.

If you're are the type that likes to hold on to things, I suggest doing things in manageable chunks. Don't trash your entire garage at once. Look at clearing out one wall first. Don't freak out about clearing out your office; eliminate one bookshelf to start.

Items not worth moving and are difficult to sell

  • Books
  • DVD or Blu-Ray 
  • Heaven forbid, you still have CDs
  • Bedsheets 
  • Blankets
  • Old Clothes
  • 80s - 90s Baseball Cards
  • Setimental Items
  • Souvenirs

How Do I Ship My Things Overseas?

Which model of International Move fits your situation?

Selling everything and moving to another country

Jump on a plane with just your carry-on bags? Great news, your move is the easiest and cheapest way to move your things overseas. Most international flights allow one 40L carry-on and one small personal bag without any additional charges.

Exceptions I have found are international long-haul, low-cost airlines such as French Bee, Norwegian Air, and Level.

Bring your household goods, but leave the furniture in the US.

Most major carriers (think not the cheap ones) allow passengers one or two free 50 lbs checked bags, then another $50-$100 for extra luggage. These policies vary by airline and by destination, so check for your specific flight.

For my semi-permanent (2-year) move to Brazil, the airlines allowed me 2 checked luggage at 75 pounds per box. I checked five boxes. The airlines charged me for the three additional boxes as extra luggage. I fit in five boxes in all my work clothes, office equipment, and an entire kitchen of small appliances, pots, and pans. The total cost was less than $500. That's a cheap international move.

My furniture makes a house a home

If your packing list includes more than a few boxes of small appliances, it's time to bring in the professionals. Overseas Moving Companies aren't just about the labor to pack and ship your household goods. You will need a company familiar with the multitude of regulations and tax authorities specific to your new country of residence. Laws, customs paperwork, duties, and import taxes are complicated and vary considerably from country to country.

How to Research and Choose an international Moving Company is critical, so I made a separate article on 10 Things You Require of Your International Moving Company

How Do I Find A Place To Live In Another Country?

Booking temporary housing.

It's tempting to save money by moving directly into your long term housing. My experience is it's better to take a week to a month in a hotel or Airbnb to smooth the transition to your new home country.

If you are getting your household goods shipped, your shipping container will arrive in-country after you. The delay is a valid reason to start in temporary housing and familiarize yourself with your new city.

Even if you brought everything with you on the plane, temporary housing is still the best option. I find it less stressful to get over my jetlag, learn the neighborhoods I'm interested in, and find out how to get around my new city before deciding where I want to live long term.

Looking For Your Primary Residence

The sources I use to find housing depends on the city.

  • I almost always start with Airbnb. A hint for saving money on Airbnb. Contact the host directly and negotiate a discounted long-term rental price. 
  • Check Facebook groups for locals, expats, and digital nomads- Join Facebook groups and forums to get an idea of housing prices and best neighborhoods to consider. Some Facebook groups even list apartments for rent. 
  • Check local websites- These sites take effort to find but are worth it. Local websites used by locals are the best deal. Examples: Austria, Spain
  • Walk around- Look for "For Rent" signs. Just call the number on the poster and ask to look at the apartment. Walking around and making phone calls is how most locals find their housing. If you don't speak the local language, you may need a local friend to help you translate. The language barrier may be a hassle, but it is the best way to ensure you don't get "tourist prices."
Nomadic FIRE Croatia Split Apartment 1
Nomadic FIRE Croatia Split Apartment 2
Nomadic FIRE Croatia Split Apartment 3

A large 2-bedroom apartment we found on a local website in Split, Croatia for $530 per month

How Do I Bring My Pets Into A Foreign Country?

Moving overseas with a dog costs between $1,300 and $5,000. Cats are less expensive and can cost between $650 to $2000 to move abroad. These costs vary with the breed and size of your furry friend.

If your pet has any health issues or is getting up in years, get a veterinarian check-up to see whether your pet can handle a move.

Determine if your new home country will be the right home for your pet. Outside the US, apartments and houses are much smaller. Will your furball need room to roam? If you move from a countryside home with a big yard to a smaller apartment in a big city, is that an environment your pets will enjoy?

Source: Tenor

Move pet abroad is an extensive topic. We detail the costs, process, and issues of moving your pet internationally in a future article. 

Financial Moving Abroad Checklist

Getting your finances ready for a move abroad is complicated. To help, I built a specific Finances and Banking Checklist to include as part of my FREE Downloadable Moving Abroad Checklists


These checklists help breakdown all the critical steps you need to complete before moving to a different country. Each checklist breaks down the tasks to be completed 90-Days, 60-Days, and 30-Days away from your move date.

Contact the Social Security Administration (SSA)

As a United States citizen, you can still receive any Social Security payments you are eligible for, even outside the United States. Living in a handful of countries (North Korea, Cuba, etc.) would disqualify you from receiving Social Security, but for 99% of the people retiring abroad, this is not an issue. You can check the SSA's Payments Abroad Screening Tool to confirm.

Change of Address with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

The IRS uses your "last known address" to send any required legal documents and announcements. This address is also where they will send your refund or notices concerning your tax return. Use Form 8822 to do an official change of address.

Filing and Paying US Taxes to the IRS

This one trips lots of people up, and mistakes here can cost you thousands. Many people move abroad and think that they no longer have to file a US Tax return. They are verrrrry wrong. No matter where you live, you have to FILE an income tax return every year. Failure to file will cause problems with the Internal Revenue Service.

Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE)

Bad News: Did you know that the US is the ONLY developed nation that taxes its citizens on income earned ANYWHERE in the world?

"If you are a US citizen or resident alien, the rules for filing income, estate, and gift tax returns and paying estimated tax are generally the same whether you are in the United States or abroad. Your worldwide income is subject to US income tax, regardless of where you reside."

Good News: If you meet certain conditions (mainly not being in the US for more than 35 days in a year), FEIE eliminates your tax obligations on roughly $100,000 of earned income ($103,900 for 2018, $105,900 for 2019, and $107,600 for 2020). FEIE can get tricky. Avoid expensive mistakes. Consult with a tax accountant when filing.

Nomadic FIRE Capital Gains Tax

Filing and Paying Taxes in Your Host Country

You will need to research here or even better contact a tax planning expert in your new country of residence. Some key questions to ask:

Does your new country have a taxation treaty with the US?

You might be subject to double taxation (taxed in the US and your host country) if no tax treaty exists. Find out what agreements and treaties are in place and how they apply to you.

How many days can I stay in the country without becoming a tax resident?

In many countries, if you stay in a country for more than 183 days, you will need to file and pay taxes in that country.

Who are the tax agencies (at city, state, and country level) I need to pay?

Knowing who to pay is as important as knowing what to pay.

How is capital gains taxed in your new country?

The US has favorable tax treatment for assets held long term. Not every country taxes long-term capital gains favorably.

Does your new country have a wealth tax?

Wealth tax is like property tax but on all your assets. Sounds terrible, doesn't it? Only a few countries have this tax, but popular retirement countries like Argentina and Spain do, so check if this applies.

Do I need to pay VAT?

For people in the US, consider Value Added Tax (VAT) an extremely high sales tax. For example, VAT in popular expat countries like Portugal, Hungary, and Poland have VAT above 23%. Some countries allow foreigners to get a VAT discount or refund.

Banking Abroad

Let your financial institutions (bank accounts, credit cards, etc.) know you will be abroad. This heads up will cut down on the potential flags your overseas ATM or credit/debit card transactions trigger.

  1. 1
    Set up all your bank accounts for internet banking. If your financial institution allows, interlink all your accounts and banks electronically. Having accounts linked online makes bank transfers more accessible.
  2. 2
    Let your financial institutions (bank accounts, credit cards, etc.) know you will be abroad. This heads up will cut down on the potential flags your overseas ATM or credit/debit card transactions trigger.
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 INSIDER TIP : Consider signing up for a travel credit card with Return Protection and/or Purchase Protection. Some credit cards have additional benefits I found valuable when traveling abroad. Return protection allows you to return an item up to 90 days after purchase. If the merchant does not accept the return, your credit card will cover your return. 

In some countries, returning an item, even unopened and with a receipt, is difficult. Your credit card can save you here. Purchase protection can cover an item lost, stolen, or damaged for up to 180 days from purchase. Trust me. You will have someone lost, stolen, or broken at some point during your travels. 

  1. 3
    Update your contact details and new mailing address with your bank. You may consider a Mail Forwarding service (see details below) for your essential US mail. 
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 INSIDER TIP : Use a US Mailing Address for Your Brokerage Accounts- I've heard recent complaints that US brokers are closing expat accounts after discovering expats moved abroad. Brokerages are enforcing a decades-old law that prohibits cross-border sales of mutual funds. The law depends on where you are living and the brokerage's legal structure.

Rather than gamble if my accounts are affected, I adopt a "Don't Ask. Don't Tell" policy. My understanding is the law does not require I tell the broker what country I am living in but mandates I provide a mailing address. My mailing address is in the US. So far, so good.

  1. 4
    Learn what fees you may incur using your ATM or credit/debit cards abroad. If you have credit cards that charge foreign transaction fees or give you low foreign exchange rates, consider opening up a new card. 
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 INSIDER TIP : I highly recommend a Charles Schwab checking account. Not only does this account not charge me an ATM fee anywhere I withdraw money, Schwab even refunds me for the fee the foreign bank charges me to use their ATM. A Schwab bank account saves me hundreds of dollars a year on ATM fees.

  1. 5
    Sign up for a contactless debit card. Many stores abroad have a hard time processing debit or credit cards that require a signature.
  2. 6
    Consider opening a bank account that has an international branch in your host country. International banks with branches in multiple countries make transferring money or accepting direct deposits easier. Due to US government reporting requirements, many overseas banks refuse to accept US Citizens. An international branch of your current bank is usually easier than finding a local bank in your host country that will accept you.
  3. 7
    Confirm your new country of residence doesn't have a "Proof of Funds" requirement on entry. Some Low Cost of Living countries have been cracking down on "begpackers" or tourists without means to support themselves. Thailand, as an example, requires bank statements proving you have enough money for living expenses. 
Nomadic FIRE Marco Avatar

 INSIDER TIP International money transfers- If you need to frequently send money to bank accounts in your new country of residence, fees can get expensive. For example, Schwab charges $25, and Bank of America charges $45 to send each international wire transfer. You can reduce potential fees by using Transferwise or Revolut for international money transfers. Revolut money transfer fees are free to send up to $6500 per month. Transferwise's money transfer fee is between 0.5% - 2.5% of the transfer amount.

Credit Report and Credit Reporting Agencies

Unpaid bills can affect your credit rating. Now would be a good time to pull your credit report. Check for any outstanding bills, no matter how small, that you may have forgotten. It's much easier to dispute any mistakes or irregularities before you are 10,000 miles and ten time zones away. Coming back to the US to find I owe late fees and interest from a forgotten bill would make me want to punch a wall. 

Things You Need To Think About 30-Days Before Departure

Driving and getting around

How do you plan on getting around in your new country? Unless you plan on walking or taking public transportation everywhere, you will need a driver's license. Ensure you know the local laws and regulations about driving in a foreign country. Many countries require an International Drivers License (IDL), sometimes called an International Driving Permit. An International Drivers License is easier and cheaper to get in the US than once you are already overseas.

 INSIDER TIP Driving in a foreign country with or without an International Driver License is often only permitted for up to 90 or 180 days. Some countries allow you to simply exchange your US drivers license for a local one, but in other countries you may need to take a driving test and potentially even a written exam. So, keep this in mind.

Aside from big things, like driving on the wrong side of the road, foreign countries' laws can differ from the US. For example, making a right turn on red in most countries in Europe would get you a hefty fine.

Driving in developing countries is a whole other, very chaotic experience altogether. Stoplights and driving lanes are mere suggestions in most of S. America or SE Asia. Driving here is not the meek. Aggressive driving here is the norm.

Motorbikes and Scooters

Many countries require a motorcycle license or endorsement for any bike above 50cc (i.e., most bikes are above 50cc). Companies are not responsible for checking your license. Just because you can rent a bike does NOT MEAN you can legally ride a bike. If you are riding a bike illegally, no insurance will cover you in an accident. Motorbike accidents are widespread in SE Asia. A single motorbike accident can cost you a $70,000 hospital bill that you and only you will be responsible for paying.

Who do I need to notify when I move abroad?

With roughly four weeks to go to your moving date. Let's close up some loose ends. Here is a last-minute checklist to ensure you are not missing anything

  1. 1
    Give your landlord your 30-day move out notice.
  2. 2
    Cancel any local subscriptions (Cell phone, cable, newspapers, etc.)
  3. 3
    Cancel gym memberships
  4. 4
    The U.S. Postal Service- You can change your mailing address at any local post office, but USPS simplifies it with a change of address website. Although mail forwarding can start as soon as three business days of your request, it's best to allow up to 2 weeks.
Nomadic FIRE Marco Avatar

 INSIDER TIP Warning: Scam websites offer to submit your change of address for ridiculous fees (the Post office only charges ~$1. There is no reason to use another service besides the official USPS Change of Address website.

  1. 5
    The United States Embassy- Register with the US Embassy's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP will try to notify you of natural disasters or other emergencies.
  2. 6
    Check the State Department website for the latest threats and travel warnings in your destination. 
  3. 7
    Notify your utility companies (Electric, Gas, Garbage, Internet, etc.) for cancellation.
  4. 8
    Contact your insurance companies and cancel any policies that will not apply when you're abroad (rental insurance, car insurance, home insurance, etc.). For insurance policies that you will be keeping (rental property insurance, US health insurance, etc.), make sure your insurance provider has your updated mailing address and contact information.
  5. 9
    Register to Vote- Check your state's voting mail in ballot and overseas voting rules

Last Minute Arrangements

  1. 1
    Unlock Cell Phone - Cell phone plans tend to be much cheaper outside the US. To use your US cell phone with a foreign SIM card, you need to unlock your phone.
  2. 2
    Travel Adapters - Many countries require a different style electrical plug than the US.
  3. 3
    Extra Passport Photos - Can be required for travel visas, public transit cards, and other legal documents.
  4. 4
    2F Authorization - Many banks, credit cards, and other online services will require Two-Factor Authorization. I recommend setting up a Google Voice account and giving that phone number to all your financial institutions.
  5. 5
    Set up a Virtual Mailbox and Mail Forwarding Service - There are companies that will assign you a permanent physical US mailing street address (Not just a PO Box). All mail sent to that address gets scanned and is made available to you online. For $10-$25, this is the best method I have found to keep a permanent US address. 
  6. 6
    Print all relevant travel documents - passport, visa, proof of funds, an onward ticket, medical certificates, etc.
  7. 7
    Exchange dollars for some local currency - It's good to have a little bit of pocket money on arrival to deal with any unexpected cash expenses (tolls, buses, snacks, etc.).
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 INSIDER TIP Currency exchanges, especially at the airport, typically give you terrible exchange rates. Low exchange rates are how they make their profit. 

Use an airport ATM instead. If you signed up for a Schwab ATM, like our insider tip above suggested, getting cash out of the ATM in the airport is the cheapest way to get some local currency for incidental expenses when you arrive. 

That was a ton of information. I warned you about a MASSIVE To-Do List. Download these FREE Moving Overseas Checklist to ensure you don't miss a single task. 


These checklists detail all the critical tasks you need to complete before moving to a new country. Each checklist breaks down the steps to be completed 90-Days, 60-Days, and 30-Days away from your move date.

Wrapping Up: Guide To Moving To A New Country

Time to say goodbye and throw a going away party. You are moving to another country! Congrats!
An international move is a life-changing adventure, but I understand that leaving your current country can be a little anxiety-inducing. Nomadic FIRE is here to help. If Colombia, the Philippines, or Spain are in your expat plans, review our visa guides on ways to legally stay long term. Our guides take the guesswork out of the visa requirements and detail the process.

If Manila or Medellin is your final destination, our Ultimate city guides can give you the local perspective of where to live, eat, and play. We can't make your travel arrangements for you, but you can provide you with relocation checklists and expat insights to make you transition as easy as possible. 

Remember to use all four parts of the guide to get the information you need:

  1. 1
    Print out the moving overseas checklists to get quick reference lists to use offline.
  2. 2
    Use this guide to get the specific details behind the steps.
  3. 3
    Check out our FAQs for common questions about moving internationally
  4. 4
    If there is anything that isn't covered or unclear to you, leave us a comment below

"What makes expat-life so interesting is "normal boring" things become mini-adventures overseas:

  • Figuring out a foreign country's public transportation system? Woohoo! 
  • Effectively arguing for a store refund in another language? High five yourself.
  • Successfully driving a motorbike on the wrong side (left-side) of the road? That one deserves a beer. 

Boring and normal no longer exist."

FAQs: Ultimate Guide To Moving Abroad

Can I receive social security living abroad?

Unless you are living in one of the restricted countries (North Korea, Cuba, etc.), US citizens can still receive Social Security payments outside the United States.

If I live outside the United States, do I still need to pay taxes?

The US is the ONLY developed nation that taxes its citizens on income earned ANYWHERE in the world. However, if you meet certain conditions (mainly not being in the US for more than 35 days in a year) your first $107,600 (for tax year 2020) of earned income is TAX-FREE. 

How much does it cost to ship household goods overseas?

The cost varies significantly depending on where you are moving and how much you are shipping. To give you an idea, the average move for a two-bedroom house from the United States West Coast to Spain is $4,700 - $6,500. 

What should I NOT pack when moving abroad?

Any heavy items or items that can be easily replaced when you move overseas. I recommend leaving large furniture, kitchen appliances, televisions, books, and most sentimental items or keepsakes in your home country.

What is a good checklist for moving out of the country?

Getting ready for a move abroad is complicated. To ensure you don't miss a crucial document, task, or step download this FREE Essential Moving Abroad Checklist.

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About the author

Hi, That's me. I'm Marco Sison. I am a survivor of the corporate rat race. I started Nomad FIRE to show you an alternative to the stress and grind of 70-hour weeks to pay off a mortgage, student loans, and countless bills. After getting laid off in 2015, I said screw it all and retired early at 41 years old. I have traveled the last five years to over 40 countries to show you the best ways to save, invest, and live in amazing countries for 70% less cost than the US. I have been featured in: US News & World Reports, Huffington Post, MSN Money, USA Today, ABC Network, Yahoo Finance, Best Life, Hacknoon, CW Network, The Times of Israel, Dr. Wealth, and others. [view press...]

    • Marco Sison says:

      It’s a big step, but so worth it.

  • You have laid out some great tips for people moving abroad here, my biggest headaches are mainly when leaving countries and closing banks down, getting good rates back to GDP from local currencies like when I left the Czech Republic to head back to the UK before moving out to Bali – Over in the Uk we have Monzo which helps, that’s like Schwab ( shared this post on my twitter too)

    • Marco Sison says:

      Interesting. I’ve never heard of Monzo. I’m guessing it’s primarily a UK bank? Do you have write-up or anything about Monzo on your website?

  • This is a very thorough guide. When I moved to a different country, dealing with finance – both in the old and new country was a hassle. Thanks for the great tips!

    • Marco Sison says:

      Dealing with banking, finance, and taxes are probably the hardest part of living abroad. If you can figure those out, the rest is easy.

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