I’ve made a comprehensive list to help you plan and organise for your big journey.
But first, Congratulations! You have just made a tremendous decision! You’re about to embark on the most incredible adventure, filled with life changing experiences. Along with the endless dreaming that will fill your time before departure there are practicalities that come along with this migration.
The timing for when you’ll work through everything will be different for everyone. It will vary depending upon things like what country you’re going to, when you’re migrating, what your living situation is like now, and who is coming with you. Make sure you read through the whole list and make notes of things you need start organising now and what can wait until later. Happy planning!
For Organising Yourself
- Get a passport! If you already have one check that the expiry date is at least a year or two away. You don’t want to have to apply for a new passport in the middle of your visa application processing or right when you land in your new home country!
- Work out where you’re migrating! You don’t need to know the house, neighbourhood or even the city yet. Just as long as you know what country that’s enough for now!
- Start a budget! The costs of moving internationally can really add up. Make sure you have enough in your savings to cover everything you’ll need. As you go through this list of things to prepare, make note of the items that apply to your situation so you can start putting numbers to them. I’ve also written a list of costs that snuck up on me so don’t forget to add those in as well. This will give you a solid foundation for your financial planning.
- Make sure that you’ll be able to get a visa for your chosen country. Australia and the United Kingdom both have questionnaires to help you determine what visa you might need. The sort of visa you get is often dependent upon your intentions to work or not and your length of stay. You can find out what visa might be required pretty easily through some simple Internet searches around your chosen country.
- Determine whether or not you want to use a migration agent (immigration lawyer) or if you’re going to go for it on your own. I’ve made visa applications with and without professional help. Whilst you can save a lot of money doing it yourself, sometimes it’s nice to have a professional eye review your documents. If you do decide to get an agent, make sure you get a good one! If you have any doubt or questions, learn from my experience!
- Make sure your vaccines are up to date for your new country. You can easily check on the WHO website.
- Get any overdue health check-ups or follow-ups you’ve been putting off! If you can avoid qualifying periods for insurance in your new country this could save you lots of money. It’s also just nice to know you’re in good health before you head off.
- While you’re at the doctor/GP, request a copy of any medical records and prescriptions that you will need to follow-up on once you’re overseas.
- Make copies of all of your ‘important’ documents and store them together! This cache should include copies of your drivers license, old passports, old visa and migration documentation, educational awards/degrees/certificates, wedding certificates, divorce certificates, proof of work and/or income, proof of address and anything else that seems ‘official’ or ‘important’. Chances are you will need some form of evidence for your visa but others you may need further down the line. To prove your work experience or your identity. You can never guess what a certain government or agency will request of you. Best to be prepared!
- Find someone you trust to give power of attorney (or lasting power of attorney) to handle any affairs you might have remaining in your home country.
For Getting Your Family Prepared
- Determine whether you will (and can) take your pets with you! Some countries, like Australia, have very strict regulations about bringing in pets. Others, like UK, are more relaxed. If you have any doubt consider hiring a company to help with your pet’s travel. There are a lot of boxes to tick when it comes to pet travel. This will include tasks like making sure all of their vaccinations are up to date, registering for permits, health checks, booking flights, ensuring the right travel crate/cage size, booking quarantine, and organising pick-up in your new country.
- Organise to get copies of all your pet’s previous injections and treatments. This will be helpful for your new vet to know what’s been happening with your pet’s health upon arrival.
- Plan for your pet(s) to settle in. We made sure that our dog (Samson) was eating a brand of food we could also get in our new country. To help settle him in we brought a few of his old (lightly used) toys. We used these to help us introduce the new house to him. After such a long journey on his own we wanted to make sure he had some comforts and familiar smells to ease any anxiety.
- If your kids are in nursery, kindy, or school age make sure you give notice to their teachers. It is helpful even for small kids to have closure and get to say goodbye to their wee pals.
- Similarly to school, make sure any clubs, activities or groups your kids are involved with are aware of the move as well. Get any certificates or progress reports that may be relevant for joining a new club once you relocate.
- If your kids haven’t finished having all of their immunisations make sure you get good documentation of where they are up to. Get their health records as well to ensure continuity of care. Not all countries have the same standards and common practices. For example, in the USA wisdom teeth are routinely taken out where as in Scotland, they are only taken out if they are actually causing problems. Best not to assume anything!
- Talk to your kids about moving and what that will mean for them. Even if they don’t get a vote in the final destination, kids need to feel heard!
Plan For Your Belongings
- Decide what you will take with you! Whether or not you are going to take all of your belongings with you, just what you can fit in your suitcase, or somewhere in the middle.
- For those items you’re not taking with, you’ll either need to organise storage or disposal. Hopefully you can give some to charity! I’m a big fan of up-cycling and re-cycling.
- If you’re taking more than a suitcase worth of goods you’ll need to use a shipping company of some description. The earlier you plan the better to ensure you get your chosen collection date. If your items are going via boat it can take 12 weeks or more for your stuff to arrive so you’ll need to think about what you’ll do for that time. Whether you live with the bare bones in your current house, stay with somebody else, or get a short term furnished rental. There are loads of options you just need to work out what is best for you.
- Look into getting insurance for any goods your shipping. Whilst you may have packed your stuff with the utmost care, there’s no saying whether a boat may capsize or your crate will fall off the racks in the container yard. We couldn’t afford to replace everything we owned if anything was lost or damaged so we decided to go with insurance. A small price to pay for a lot of reassurance.
- Make an inventory BEFORE packing or as you pack if you’re doing it yourself. You’ll need to provide a list of all goods for customs and its much easier to do when you can see everything and you don’t have to guess.
- Do you have all of your identification and travel documents put away in a safe place? Make sure your cache of important documents isn’t going to get picked up by removalists or friends helping you pack.
- If you’re getting removalists to organise your shipment, book them! Many relocation companies will partner with local removalists so you don’t need to do any of the heavy lifting.
- If you’re in a rental property, organise bond cleaners. This will save you hassle of having to re-purchase all the cleaning supplies you just shipped. It also saves a lot of headache when all you can think about is flying out!
- Consider whether you need to ship any alcohol/wine. I’ve heard of Wine Arc for shipping wine cellars however, I’ve never actually done it myself.
- Clean all your ‘dirty’ things. This includes BBQs, hiking boots, outdoor toys and furniture. Make sure anything that is used outside is clear from dirt and debris.
- Get rid of flammables and items you can’t ship. Depending on how your stuff travelling (whether via plane or boat) there are undoubtedly items you can’t put on board. Check with your airline or shipping company about prohibited items.
Final Touches On Your Old Way Of Life
- Request your final payslips for future tax purposes. If you’re American, you will still need to file taxes every year even if you don’t live in the states.
- Give notice to your work. Consider how long in advance you are required to give notice and also, whether or not you have any left over holiday/vacation days or time-off-in-lieu. You’ve earned those hours so don’t be afraid to use them!
- Ask if your employer or manager will be a job reference for you. Your new employer will still want to contact them even though they’re overseas.
- Cancel any magazine or other subscriptions that get delivered via post.
- Set up a cancellation date for your car insurance.
- Organise to sell your car. If you sell your car too far in advance of your moving date you can always hire a car on your last few days for ease.
- Cancel your mobile phone plan.
- Cancel any subscription television plans.
- Cancel your Internet service.
- Cancel subscriptions like amazon prime/Netflix (unless you plan to use a VPN to continue your access). When you move to a new country you will have to make a new local account.
- Organise a mail redirection service.
- Close any bank accounts in current country that you won’t use once you’re gone. I kept one account open in my home country as I still have a recurrent bill to pay there. Just consider whether there are any fees for holding open a single account and if it is actually necessary for you.
- Consider whether you need to move your retirement account or savings accounts. Consult your financial advisor if you have one to make sure you are serving your own best interest!
- There is no doubt people where you are living love you and will miss you. Organise a going away brunch/party/dinner/extravaganza. Whatever suits you and your pals. It’s nice for you to say goodbye and for people to get to wish you fare well.
Your Journey Overseas
- Book your flights!
- Organise somewhere to stay for your last night in town. Before our last move we were renting a property. I handed in the keys the day before my departure and stayed with a friend on my last night.
- Book somewhere to stay on arrival. If you already have friends where you’re going find out if you can stay with them. It will save you a lot of money not eating out every night and paying for accommodation while you look for your new home. With that said, it can also be nice to be a tourist in your new town when you first arrive.
- Organise a hire car for last day if you need it. I didn’t want to use public transport and carry around all my bags since I had a few stops to make. Hiring a car made this day so much less stressful and I just dropped it at the airport on my way out of town.
Get Started On Your New Life
- Open a bank account in your new country.
- Find out what the common languages are and learn to speak at least one of them! You won’t need to be fluent but you should at least be able to get around and ask some basic questions.
- Get online and look at neighbourhoods in your new country. Find out what areas suit you and what you can afford!
- If you’re going to need to work in your new country like I did, get on the job websites to see what’s going. Gumtree often has local jobs or just jump on google for job search engines. Once you arrive you can walk around your local neighbourhood and easily pick up work in cafes and bars.
- Not all resumes or CVs are created equally. Do some research about how employers prefer resume’s/cv’s in your new country. You want to stand out in a pile of CVs but not for the wrong reasons!
- Search mobile phone service providers and order a Sim card. Or at least workout where the nearest retailer is so you’ll have communication from day 1, or maybe 2.
- If your visa came with any conditions make sure you satisfy them! For my move to Scotland this meant I had to pick up my Biometric Resident Permit from a specified post office and obtain a National Insurance Number in order to be able to work. Your visa documents will state what exactly you need to do. If you’re confused, Facebook groups for migrants are always really helpful.
- Make sure you packed enough stuff to hold you over until your house arrives. If you’re going to have a while in your new country without the bulk of your stuff think about whether you need your favourite tea strainer, job interview clothes, or extra books.
- Once you’ve arrived get to know your new neighbourhood. Go to all the cafes, shops and pubs and make yourself right at home.
- Be a tourist for a while. You may not have loads of cash to see every site in the first week but see something. Go for a hike and take time to enjoy being where you are. The settling in part will take a while so have a bit of fun in the mean time!
With all the planning and organising there is to do it can be easy to forget to enjoy the process. That is the best part! Get a drink, sit down, and just soak it all up. After all, this is the beginning of a big adventure!