You get the news that you will be working (or studying) abroad. Exciting – but also overwhelming. You may soon find yourself in a country where you don’t speak the language or are unfamiliar with the customs and culture. To make it even more overwhelming, you may be facing a move that could involve family members, a pet, a house to clear out and sell, etc. and you may not know where to begin. Don’t panic — here’s a step-by-step guide to moving overseas:
__Get your papers in order. You’ll probably need a visa – contact the immigration department of the country you will be living in to find out what exactly you’ll need. Much will depend on how long you are planning to stay. Don't forget to ask about getting a driver's license for that country, as well. Also, make sure your passport is up-to-date.
__Organize and downsize. Shipping your belongings will be expensive – do plenty of research on international moving companies and get several quotes. Be aware – reputation is much more important than cost when moving abroad. You want your belongings to arrive on time and in good condition, so check the companies out thoroughly. It will take weeks – possibly even months – to get your belongings after you move. It's a good idea to take as much as possible with you then buy what you need when you arrive. Also, there could be import and duty fees collected by the country you're moving to – and there may be restrictions on what you can bring into the country. Make sure you do some research before trying to ship your items.
__Consider what you can do without. If this move is temporary and you plan to be back in six months or even a year or two, consider leaving what you don't need (but don't want to get rid of) with friends and relatives (or consider putting these items in storage).
__Research your new neighborhood. You'll want to know what type of housing is available, how much you can expect to pay in rent, the distance to your new job, the public transportation available, the shops in the area, and (if you are moving with children) the schools available. Research schools carefully and don't hesitate to email them directly with questions. You want to know about the facilities, transportation, extra-curricular activities, tutoring, tuition, etc.
__Make sure your pet is comfortable – and welcome. You may have to provide proof of certain vaccinations for your pet, and there may even be restrictions on what types of pet you can bring into the country. Contact the country's consulate and ask about restrictions, any possible quarantine period, vaccinations, import fees, length of time it will take to clear customs, and necessary documents. Next, take your pet to the vet to get all required paperwork and vaccinations. Ask the vet to look your pet over carefully to make sure he will be able to handle the trip (especially if your pet is older). Next, contact the airline. Small pets may be able to ride with you in the cabin. If your pet is unable to be with you, ask the airlines about their safety precautions, the stickers and labels you'll need for the pet carrier, what to do in case the flight is rerouted, whether the baggage area where your pet will be kept will be air conditioned/heated, costs, and the check-in process. Keep a photo of your pet with you, just in case.
__To ship or not to ship? You may want your car – keep in mind that shipping your car will be expensive. It may be worth it to leave your car behind with a friend or family member if you plan on returning, or sell it and use the money to purchase a new car when you arrive in the new country. Get quotes for both options and then decide what is best for you – shipping your current car or purchasing a car later on. If you choose shipping, be sure you have all of the required documents (check with customs to find out what you'll need).
__Announce your move. Be sure to contact your bank, credit card companies, etc. to alert them to your move. You don't want the bank or credit card companies freezing your accounts for what they might see as unusual activity. Also, check with your bank to make sure your debit card will work overseas. You may want to consider switching to an international bank – make sure there is a branch available where you are planning to live.
__Stay up-to-date and safe. Check this important website to find out about travel warnings, how to vote while living abroad, what to do in case of marriage, divorce, birth, or death while living overseas, and other important information for residing abroad. Also – be sure to register with the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) – this is a free service that will help keep you safe in case of an emergency.