Published on June 26, 2019 | Updated on February 24, 2020
Moving abroad can be both an exciting and daunting prospect. But with the right planning, it just might become the best adventure you’ll ever have.
Whether you’ve made up your mind to immigrate or you just want to try out being an expat, being prepared is the key to success. But how exactly do you prepare for it?
It’s not easy, that’s for sure. You’re going to leave your whole life behind to build a new one in a foreign place. A place that could be completely different from the one you’re used to. You have to get used to new cuisine and face various cultural barriers. On top of that, you could be entirely on your own. Your friends and family are hundreds of miles away.
But on the bright side, you get to make new friends and experience new adventures. Plus you get to explore a new culture, drive to exotic locations and eat foods you haven’t heard of.
To help you prepare for such a momentous event, we’ve compiled this list of things you need to do before moving to another country.
1. Research the Country You’re Moving To
Though going to some far off lands where nobody has heard anything about sounds like the dream, it’s not advisable.
If you already have a country in mind, the next reasonable thing to do is find out as much as you can about it. After all, it would be your home for the next few years or even your whole life.
Find out about the weather. Is it tropical or do they have winters? How much rain do they get a year? This can help you manage your expectations and, of course, prepare the right wardrobe. Also, find out what are the cultural taboos. Every culture in the world has one and you’d want to know it before you make a complete fool of yourself.
You also need to check out accommodation options. In some countries, properties are rather cheap. If you’ll be living in a big city, look for the best place to rent in. Most of the time, expats huddle together in one corner of the city. Living with other expats can help ease the feeling of homesickness but it can be expensive. Living outside the expat quarters, on the other hand, can give you a genuine experience of the local culture and possibly even save you rent.
Some countries may also have some security issues so look out for any travel advisories or travel bans. You can usually find it on the embassy’s website.
Other things you have to take note of are transportation methods, your embassy’s address, and current events. If you haven’t already, you should also check out employment opportunities for expats. Because, you know, you still need to pay bills.
2. Prepare Your Immigration Documents
Your dream life in another country wouldn’t be possible if you don’t have the proper immigration documents.
So before booking that ticket, make sure that your passport is still valid. Most countries will require that your passport is valid for six months from the date of your flight.
You also need to apply for the appropriate visa. Some countries offer tourist visas for up to a year. But if you’re planning to stay long-term, look for other visa options that could lead to a permanent residency. If you already have an employer there, they should be able to do it for you.
Don’t forget to stash a copy of your documents in a secure place. So that when you lose the original, it’d be easier to request a replacement.
3. Get The Necessary Vaccine Shots
Even if you don’t believe in vaccines, some countries require it as part of their immigration proceedings. Especially if there is an ongoing epidemic in that country.
Besides, your immune system may not be acclimated to the kind of viruses present in there. So, just to be on the safe side, get vaccinated. The CDC has some particularly helpful insights on where you can get travel vaccines.
4. Stock Up on Medicine
Due to taxation policies and other legislative limitations, some types of medicines can be more costly in other countries. While in some countries, birth control medicines might not be readily available. To make sure you don’t run out of it, stock up on medicines that you usually take in, especially your maintenance (if any).
5. Do a Complete Medical Check-up
Before you go, make sure you’re in perfect shape. As an expat, it will be hard for you to avail of state-sponsored health benefits if you get sick.
Your medical check-up should include complete physical examination, dental, and even mental tests.
6. Straighten Out Your Finances
One of the greatest pitfalls when moving abroad is failing to straighten out your finances.
First, you need to make sure you’ve saved up enough funds to settle in and survive for a few months. Take into account the visa expenses and other immigration fees. Also, make sure you have a job or another source of income for the duration of your stay there. To be more precise on how much you’ll need, check the conversion fees and the cost of living there. There are many currency converter apps you can use to get a much better estimate.
Secondly, make sure you can make use of your funds at home even while abroad. For security purposes, banks usually block international transactions for debit or credit cards. You need to call them and inform them you’re moving so they can activate your account for international transactions.
7. Familiarize the Local Language
Your stay abroad will be a lot easier if you’re familiar with the local language. You don’t have to be fluent, learning key phrases is enough to get you by (for the first few months at least). Though there are many free translation apps you can make use of, they aren’t always accurate. Besides, locals love it when a foreigner makes the effort of learning their language.
Start from basic greetings to commonly used phrases. Counting numbers also helps a lot when you’re buying from local stores. It also makes bargaining easier.
8. Get an International Calling Plan
Homesickness is a real thing when you’re an expat. You miss everything from the weather to the weekend barbecues. So, on the moments when homesickness hits you hard, calling friends and family back home provides relief.
For this, you need to subscribe to a calling service that offers cheap international calls. Using roaming service can be expensive so compare prices first. Check out how much international call packages cost in your country. If you think your calls abroad will be far and few between, you’ll save more with a pay-as-you-go calling service.
9. Get Insured
When we’re traveling, there can be no telling what unfortunate events we’ll encounter on the road. To protect yourself from unexpected costs arising from an accident, get insured. You can buy international travel insurance or local insurance in the country you’re heading to.
10. Register With Your Embassy
Never forget to register with your embassy so they can keep tabs on you. Include contacts from home so they’ll know who to reach out to in case of an emergency.
11. Tie Up Loose Ends in Your Home Country
Before moving abroad, make sure you’ve tied up loose ends in your home country. Cancel your phone and cable plans, gym membership and all other subscriptions you might have. Inform your landlord and your car’s insurance provider. Look for a safe place where you can store belongings you won’t be bringing with you. If you’ve got no plans of coming back, you can put them up in a garage sale or give them to charity.