In 2017 I moved abroad from Canada to The United Kingdom and joined the expat club. I moved for love, travel, and experience. While vacationing in Thailand, I unsuspectingly met the man of my dreams. We had a whirlwind tropical romance. At the end of the vacation, he returned back to England and I returned to Canada. So when he proposed marriage a short time later I said YES, YES, YES! Half a year after meeting him, I was on a one-way ticket to London, England. My move abroad happened very quickly because I did my research and I’m quite organized. If you’re thinking of moving abroad, then you will need to be organized too. Moving to a new country will be one of the best things you ever do for yourself, but it is important that you prepare yourself.
Keep reading for the top 10 things you should do before moving abroad.
1. Find out the Visa Requirements
If you only read one thing, READ THIS. The single most important step is to research the visa requirements for the country you want to move to. You should do this before moving abroad. If you travel to a new country without proper a proper visa or a landing card, you could be turned away and sent back to your homeland.
If you are a national of one of the four Commonwealth countries (Canada, UK, Australia, or New Zealand) you will find movement between these borders quite straight forward. Most of these countries offer a Youth visa for young people under 30 years of age with no children. You can apply for a Youth visa quickly and the turn around time can be as short as a few weeks.
Determine how long you want to live abroad. 6 months? 12 months? 4 years? Different visas have varying expiry dates and requirements so it’s important to research all of the options available and choose the one most suitable for you. I suggest going onto the official government website and visiting their immigration page to get the most relevant information on visas.
I applied for a UK Spouse Visa after I married my husband (who has British Citizenship). This visa was approved four weeks after submission, but I paid extra to have it processed as a priority application. At the time of writing, the UK Spouse visa lasts 2.5 years before it expires.
2. Check Your Passport
You know that passports expire, right? Typically a passport will last for 5 or 10 years, depending on what you opted for when you applied. You need to apply for passport renewal before it expires.
If you’re moving abroad you will need at least as much time left on your passport to cover the length of your visa. Many countries won’t even let you in unless you have at least 6 months left on your passport. Before I even applied for my visa, I applied for a new 10 year passport (with my married name on it). I only applied for my visa once I had a fresh passport in my hands!
You may also consider checking your drivers license expiry date, your permanent residence card, or any other government ID, as these things can all expire while you’re living abroad and it will be difficult to renew them across borders.
3. Sort out Your Bank Account
Going away for more than 6 months? Well, most bank accounts go dormant after 6 months of no activity. This is bad news if you’re suddenly in need of emergency funds when you move abroad. Make to speak to your bank, they will have suggestions for you. A simple solution to keep it from going dormant is to use the bank card once a month to buy a coffee.
Next, find out if you will be eligible for a bank account abroad. If you’re moving abroad as a student, there are often ways to get a student bank account. Things you might need are proof of a local address, permanent residence, and your passport. This can get tricky, so make sure to find out the specifics of your destination country.
4. Research the City You Want to Live In
What is your destination country like? Which city do you want to live in? Which community? Try to narrow this down as much as possible so that you can get a good idea of the life style you will be living. The city and community you live in will have a big impact on your finances, so make sure you are looking within your reach.
Go online and look at rental prices in different communities that you are interested in living in. Look for nearby grocery stores, gyms, and restaurants to get an idea of what is around and the cost of living once you get there. Answer these questions for yourself and make sure that you recognize both the positive and negative aspects of the country you are moving to.
5. Decide How You’ll Support Yourself Abroad
If you’re planning on working (Wait – does your visa allow you to work? Make sure it does!) where will you work? This is another opportunity to research. Go online and search jobs in the area and find out what types of work are available for you, and also how much you can expect to get paid. Before I landed in the UK I researched the sector that I wanted to work in. I was very picky with where I applied. It was worth it because I landed a job within my first month of sending out applications.
It’s good to know how you will support yourself from the standpoint of a visa application. The welcoming country will want to know that you will not be a drain on public funds.
6. Make Sure You Have Health Insurance
Does the country you’re moving to offer health care for non-citizens? Check! Now! The worst thing that could happen is you get sick and end up with a big medical bill (and trust me – you will get sick, because there’s all sorts of new bugs in the air that your body has never come in contact with before).
Lucky for me the UK has a free health care system similar to Canada’s. I paid a small fee as part of my health coverage, but it was included in the cost of my visa application. After only one doctors visit I was grateful for my health care coverage.
7. Become a Minimalist
Seriously. Renting a storage unit will be expensive, and that’s money that you could be putting towards travel in your new country! Shipping your furniture overseas will also be pricy, and if you’re moving from North America to Europe you might even find that your couch is too big… #tinyhouses
Depending on the length of your visa, you may consider selling assets like your car. You can also sell things like blenders and TVs and all your other knick-knacks. You’ll get cash straight into your bank account, rather than leaving your old electronics to grow mold in your parent’s basement.
Quick tip for becoming a minimalist: If you don’t love it – donate it, or give it away! Start with your clothes, pull everything out of your closet
8. Make a Long-Term Plan
This is one of the things you should do before moving abroad – make a long-term plan for yourself. Again, this depends on the length of your visa. But it’s a good idea to map out how long you intend to live in this new country. Future employers will want to know this, too.
9. Figure Out How You Will Stay In Touch
Ah, the dawn of the internet. These days, you should have no trouble keeping in touch with your loved ones back home. With apps like FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, and Whatsapp, you can call friends and family for free if you’re on connected to the internet. Lucky for me even my Grandparents use FaceTime, so keeping in touch has been a breeze.
You may also get a sim card abroad. This varies from country to country, but having a sim card will allow you to make calls to numbers that do not use data.
10. Get Excited!
Moving abroad was single-handedly the best thing that I have ever done for myself. I learned so much about myself. It has made me more patient, kinder, smarter, and more confident. It has been the biggest growth opportunity of my life and if you have an opportunity to move abroad, I would highly recommend it!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the top 10 things you should do before moving abroad, tell me, are you living that expat life? Planning to move abroad? Comment below and share your experience so far and join the expat club!