Checklist for Moving to Another Country

Preparing to move overseas can feel like getting ready to climb a mountain—that is, if you don’t know what you’re doing. That’s why we’ve created this handy checklist for those planning on moving to another country. Whether making the move for a short time (like for a summer internship) or for the long term (you're marrying a Swede!) this checklist covers crucial items to take care of before locking up your apartment in the U.S. one last time:

Get the proper travel documents

This is an important first step, as passport renewals could take up to six weeks. Without a passport, you may not be able to enter many countries and you certainly won't be able to return to the U.S., at least without a significant headache. U.S. citizens must use a U.S. passport to leave and return to the U.S. If you're a first-time applicant, the passport process could take even longer, so get your passport squared away as early as possible.

Also, research your destination at travel.state.gov. In addition to ensuring that you have a passport (and it hasn't expired), you may need to prepare further documentation for the country's visa requirements. Refer to the U.S. State Department's website to learn more about these requirements, local laws, customs, and medical care in the country you'll soon call "home."

Coordinate your housing arrangement

Choosing a place to live is vital to the international moving process. It will determine so many other details (like the amount of furniture you'll bring, whether you'll have roommates, your monthly budget, etc.). Start by asking people in your network for referrals, then do an online search for apartments or alternative housing arrangements. If you're not comfortable relying on your web search skills, and many people aren't, turn to a trusted relocation service like CORT Destination Services. Their consultants specialize in locating international housing options that make sure you and your family find the right place, in the right community.

Book your flight (more than 90 days out)

While the best time to buy a domestic airline ticket is 47 days before your flight, international flights don't follow the same pricing trends. According to CheapAir, the lowest international fares are found much further in advance. According to their research, most international flights open up for sale 335 days before departure and once posted, don't typically drop much from their initial price. Instead, they stay flat and then start creeping upwards until 90 days before departure. Then the price really ramps up! Once you have a move-in date at your next apartment home, go ahead and buy your plane ticket. The earlier, the better!

Ship or store important possessions

If you decide to ship your belongings overseas, you have two choices: by boat or by plane. For those moving for an extended period of time (or who have many possessions to bring), explore shipping them by boat. If you decide to ship by air freight, however, talk to your airline's cargo freight department for shipping rates and details.

If you’ll be gone a short time, you may want to rent a storage unit or coordinate with a friend who wouldn't mind lending you some space in their garage. Compare self-storage rates in your area on SpareFoot.com.

Plan to furnish your new apartment

Shipping every piece of your furniture internationally may not be the most economical way to furnish your new home. Because of this, many people choose to rent furniture when they live abroad. After all, international furniture rental companies take care of all the heavy lifting, including delivery, set-up, and pick-up. All you have to do is show up with your suitcase!  

Make plans for your pet

Taking your pet overseas may be a priority for you. If you decide to bring Fido or Felix along for the journey, there are certain things you’ll need to do in order to make this possible. Contact the country's consulate to learn more about quarantine requirements, breed restrictions, and any necessary vaccinations.

Start learning the language

While becoming fluent in the native language of your new country may not be necessary, take time to learn the basics through digital programs like Duolingo (free) or Rosetta Stone (paid).

Notify your bank

Major banks expect their customers to travel, but they may be suspicious of international charges to your account if this isn't a typical spending habit of yours. You can reduce suspicion on your account by notifying your bank of the specific dates you’ll be leaving and returning to the country. This allows them to know that it’s you spending money overseas, and not someone else!

Research additional insurance coverage

Consider purchasing additional health insurance and travel insurance for your time away. While these coverages may not be necessary, they could become important should something unexpected occur. Find out whether your current medical insurance covers you abroad. Some companies will only insure you in your resident country, while others provide limited international coverage. If you're moving for work and health insurance is included in your benefits package, ask your employer when your coverage will begin; it's not unusual to wait three months before you're considered a resident or as a probation period.

While they don't vouch for them, the U.S. State Department has compiled a list of domestic and foreign organizations that provide medical and travel insurance.

Get vaccinated

Depending on where you go, your destination country may have regulations that require you to get additional vaccinations before entering. Common vaccines for those traveling abroad may include cholera, typhoid fever, and yellow fever. Locate your destination on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's list and review all advised vaccinations.   

Notify your embassy

Before leaving, enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). As a service offered by the U.S. Department of State, STEP notifies your nearest U.S. Embassy of your trip. Enrolling in the service makes it easier for the Embassy to contact you about safety conditions in your destination country and contact you in case of emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency.

While this overseas moving checklist is a great place to start, there may be other to-do's that you’ll want to include. From hosting one final dinner party to visiting your favorite hometown grocery store, make sure to add anything that's personally important to you to this list.

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