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Moving abroad checklist - print and keep!

Everything you need to do before moving to another country

Accepting a job in another country is just the beginning of your exciting journey. There’s a lot to think about before the move itself. To make sure you don’t forget anything important before you board your outbound flight, we’ve come up with this list of questions to think about.

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Identification documents

Prepare for the small mountain of paperwork you’ll face over the next few months, by making sure you have all your identification documents in order. If you have the originals, your bank or solicitor should be able to certify a copy for you. If you don’t have the originals, apply to the relevant government department (registry office, drivers’ licensing authority, immigration) office for a new copy.

9 months

  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificates
  • Passport – If your passport is due to expire shortly after your move, it’s a good idea to apply for a new one now. It is possible to get a new passport when you’re overseas, but the process can be complicated and you may need to attend an interview.
  • Driver’s license/International driver’s licence – Take your driver’s licence, but you may also need an international driving permit. This is a translated version of your existing license and is accepted in many countries. You may find that your destination country allows you to drive using your existing license, but this is usually for a short period. You may be required to take a new test in your new country, even if you’ve been driving for all your adult life.

Visas and work permit

One of the first tasks you need to do is learn what paperwork is required for you to live and work in your new home.

9 months

Organise visa – You should be able to find this information online, but you could also ask your employer for guidance or contact the embassy of your destination country.

Read about tax, visas and work permits where you’re going:

If you can afford an immigration lawyer it’ll be worth it to avoid the mistakes made when doing it yourself.

Work permit – If you are moving with a company, the chances are they will be sorting your work permits – but it’s always worth asking!

If not, you can find out whether you will need a work permit and what your options are.

Personal ID number – Apply for a personal identification number. This has different names depending on the country you’re moving to and you may only be able to get one once your visa is approved. For example:

  • United States = Social Security Number (SSN)
  • Australia = Tax File Number (TFN)
  • UK = National Insurance Number (NIN)
Asian child counting coins Asian child counting coins


Your accounts may have expensive charges or tax levies when accessed from abroad. Talk to your bank manager about your options. It may be that an account opened in your destination country is easier to manage and can save you money on currency conversions.

9 months unless specified 

Bank account options – Your accounts may have expensive charges or tax levies when accessed from abroad. Talk to your bank manager about your options.

Open bank account in destination (6 months prior)  It may be that an account opened in your destination country is easier to manage and will save you money on currency conversions.

Budgeting (for 6 months) – If you’re being offered a better salary in a country with a lower cost of living than you’re used to, then you may have cash to splash. However, this isn’t the case for every expat. Many people find themselves struggling because they haven’t accounted for certain expenses. Spend an evening working out your cost of living. Click here for a handy calculator or use Numbeo to compare the prices of various products and services.

Also, put together a moving budget taking into account any expenses for visas and passport renewals, the predicted cost of your move, and settling in expenses.

Alert tax authorities  Make sure the tax authorities know about your plans. It may not be top of your priority list, but it will avoid problems in the future. The tax office will explain any relevant legislation and which forms you need to complete. You can also ask your accountant, if you have one.

Job – If you’re not moving as part of an existing role, or moving for an existing post, start looking into your job prospects in your new country: what are the job sites? Are there expat agencies? Also, do you require any additional certifications or training? What kind of salary might you expect? Do you need a work permit?

Nurse assisting senior patient Nurse assisting senior patient

Health care

No matter how fit and healthy you are, you can’t predict when illness or injury will occur.  You may wish to buy international private medical health insurance to cover you and your family, to increase your peace of mind.

3 months

Define health care requirements - No matter how fit and healthy you are, you can’t predict when illness or injury will occur.  You may wish to buy international private medical health insurance to cover you and your family, to increase your peace of mind

It is essential to define any specific health care needs you may have (ongoing conditions, chronic conditions) as well as the level of care you would like to receive if you do need medical attention (for example: flying (home) for treatment, choice of doctor/hospital, no waiting lists).

Research health care of destination - Research the health care where you’re going in:

Organise international private medical insurance (iPMI) - If you’re moving with your company, you should ask what the health care plan is: what it covers and what it includes.

If you’re going solo, and you’ve decided to get health care cover for your family and/or self, you can get a quote here.

Those not from the Americas can find out more about what’s on offer from iPMI coverage.

If you’re from the Americas, click here to get more information about international health care.

Check that your medications are legal in your destination - Many medications that we use every day are illegal in other countries and some expats can find themselves in hot water without knowing. Check the guidelines of your destination.

Check that you can get your medications at your destinations - It may be that your medication is hard to source or goes by a different brand name at your destination. Check with your health care provider who will be able to ensure you have access to the medication you need (providing it’s legal).

Woman looking down from balcony Woman looking down from balcony


9 months

Schedule departure – It’s important to choose the right time to move. And this can be driven by a number of factors, at home and at your destination. For example, seasonal differences, public/religious holidays.

If your children are moving with you, aim for the summer holidays so that they can join their school at the start of a new year. If you’re travelling alone or with a partner only, you may prefer to avoid summer and other times of the year that are popular with tourists.

If you’re moving to a country with vastly different weather, consider moving during the mildest month so you have a chance to acclimatise.

Young couple moving in to a new home Young couple moving in to a new home

Moving and logistics

Pets – 9 months – Your pet may need to be quarantined in your destination country before they can come to live with you. If you know that your work placement is temporary, you may find a relative or friend who’s happy to care for your pet while you’re away.

However, if you’d like to take your pet abroad with you, you’ll need to apply for a pet passport and check the requirements of your destination country. For example, you may need proof that your pet has had certain vaccinations.

Set up a postal redirection – 2 months – When you move abroad, you can tell the postal service in your own country to redirect any letters or parcels to your new address. The cost for this can be high, but you can usually choose how long you’d like the redirection to last. Bear in mind that it can take a long time for your redirected post to reach you, so it’s not a good idea to use this as a long-term solution.

School – 9 months – Look into the schooling options in your destination country and specific aspects of:

  • Curriculum
  • Language
  • Location
  • Quality
  • Cost
  • Space
  • Culture

Many schools have limited space so you’ll want to get on a waitlist as soon as possible. Some schools allow you to register before you arrive in the country.

Belongings – 3 months – Decide what you’re going to take with you and start making lists. Remember to consider customs restrictions for the country you’re going to, the size of your home on the other end, and shipping allowance if this is an employer-sponsored move.

It is an idea to start by looking round your home to make an inventory, rather than by staring at a piece of paper.

Decide what you want to take, sell, give away, or donate. You could have a car boot or yard sale to raise funds and help clearing unwanted items.

Countries’ laws differ and there may be items you’re not allowed to take. For example: firearms, antiques, memorabilia.  If in doubt, check

Movers – 2 months – It is usually advisable to look at arranging your household removal overseas with a minimum of one months’ notice to your chosen international removal company. This would be dependent on the time of year as summer can be particularly busy for removal companies.

Start researching movers and request moving quotes from three to five reputable moving companies.

It can be a good idea to arrange a visit from a removal company to visit you prior to booking. This means you will get an accurate quote. International removal companies will also be able to discuss the customs requirements of your international move.

Electronics – 1 month – Check whether your appliances and electronics will need power adapters or converters.

Flights – 2 months – Book your flights!

Move day childcare – 2 weeks – Arrange childcare for moving day.

Food – 2 weeks – Start eating food that cannot be moved. Consider donating unused canned goods.

Woman and little girl holding hands Woman and little girl holding hands

Homes and houses

9 months

Your new house - Look into housing options in your new area. You might take into account proximity to schools if you have children or look into where expats live. You could make a list of things that are important to you before you start. For example: schools, safety, type of housing, distance from towns/cities, infrastructure.

You may also consider renting for a time before choosing to buy, to make sure you make an informed decision.

For more information on choosing where to live in various countries, see our international housing guides:

Your old house - If you own property, you can either sell or rent. Selling a house can take a long time, so get the ball rolling as early as possible with your estate agent. If you’d like to rent your home, make sure you understand the tax implications and maintenance requirements of being a landlord.

Tourist couple looking at sandals in Dubai Tourist couple looking at sandals in Dubai

Knowledge, culture and lifestyle

Familiarise yourself with differences in laws – 6 months – It’s important to have a basic understanding of the laws in your destination country. Can you smoke and drink in public? Are there any laws about what you can wear? Do you need to cross the road at a designated crossing? It’s unlikely that you’ll get in any trouble, but make sure you know your legal rights, just in case.

Learn a few key phrases – 9 months – Locals will be more welcoming to a foreigner that they can see is making the effort to speak to them in their own language. You could take a few lessons before you go, teach yourself a few phrases with a guide book. You don’t need to be fluent by the time you move, but knowing some basic words such as ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ is a good place to start.

You might start to use a few at home with your partner/family/colleagues to get a head start.

Here are some useful Arabic phrases for Dubai expats.

Check voting status – 9 months – As you will remain a citizen of your home country, this means you should still be eligible to vote. You just need to check that you’re registered to vote, and that the authorities are aware of how you’d like to vote. You can either vote by proxy, meaning that you nominate a trusted person to place your vote in your absence, or by post.

Acclimatization – 3 months – If you’ve never visited the country you’re heading to, consider a pre-move trip so that you have a better understanding of the culture, lifestyle, housing and so on.

This has proven particularly effective at helping younger children prepare for the move and the idea of moving.

Network and support – 1 month  Research and contact an expatriate organization or group at your destination. These organisations can often help with questions to help you prepare for your move as well as supporting you as you settle.

There are also some great expat groups on Facebook, why not join a few? Expat forums can also be a great source of advice.

Help planning your move

You can’t plan for every eventuality, but with pre-trip planning we can make sure you and your family’s health care and well-being needs are considered and covered for your entire expatriate assignment.

Whether you’re concerned about which medications you can bring into your destination country or you need to find a suitable physician for yourself or your partner, our 24/7 year-round service includes:

  • a detailed pre-trip planning programme, including information about the health care system in your destination country
  • guidance about the nearest medical centres and what to do in the case of an emergency
  • a health assessment prior to departure to check for potential problems
  • help with shipping medications
  • medical support for chronic conditions
  • help arranging well-being programmes in your destination country.

If you would like more information about relocating abroad, take a look at our library, where you’ll find more useful articles.

Are you looking for expat insurance? Click here to get a quote.

If you’re an employer or broker looking for international Private Medical insurance for clients or staff, you can call us to discuss your needs. Get the right telephone number for your area, here.

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