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A guide to planning your international removals

Planning an international move checklist There are many things to do when planning an international move, and even more so when you are moving abroad with your family. It’s not until you have to shift your entire life from one country to another that you realise the huge number of ways in which you’re tied to your current home.

But where to begin? What are the most important issues to deal with and which can be safely left to resolve themselves?

To help you arrange your international removal process in as smooth a manner as possible we’ve come up with this checklist of the most important issues to consider.

Quick guide to planning your international move

  • Look for a job overseas.
  • If you’re retiring, check to see what happens to your pension when you move.

  • Research and apply for the appropriate visa for you and your family.

  • Find a place to live in your new country. We have handy city guides to help with that.

  • Find a school if you're moving with kids.

  • Sort out your taxes in your current country - and figure out what the taxation system is like in the new one.

  • Redirect your mail.

  • Notify your student loan provider that you’re moving to avoid any repercussions.

  • Open up a bank account and notify your current one you’re moving. This includes credit card companies!

  • Make sure to notify your utility providers, and research utilities in the new country.

  • Registering with local authorities may be required by law, so check with your final destination.

  • Tell your GP and dentist that you’re moving, and get copies of your medical records!

  • Obtain health insurance abroad.

  • Arrange your international removals at least a month in advance.

  • Purchase removals insurance so you have less to worry about.

  • Make sure if you’re bringing your car or plan on driving abroad that you can with your current license.

  • Find cheap airfare/transportation to your new country months before your international move.

  • Register to vote from overseas - if your country allows that.

Full guide to planning your move abroad

Now that the shock of all the main aspects of your international move has worn off, time for an in depth look at what’s involved in planning a move abroad.

From pre-planning months ahead of time right up to the day of the big move and once you arrive, we cover all the major steps one may encounter while moving.

Before you move overseas

Finding a job abroad

If you already have a job overseas, or are retiring abroad, skip to the next section. Finding a job overseas is just slightly more complex than finding one at home. Depending on your sector, you can try LinkedIn or other jobs boards to get a feel for the jobs market abroad.

Planning an international move: finding a job

Each country and industry has their own preferred CV templates, so do a bit of research to see what is the norm and what you will have to adjust on your own CV. Large companies may allow Skype interviews or other telecommunications, but if you can afford to visit that is also a good idea.

If you’re unsure of where to start looking, see if your experience matches that of the skilled jobs shortlist many countries have on their government websites. For instance, if you want to move to the UK, check out the government’s Tier 2 Occupation List.

Retiring overseas

If you are moving abroad to retire, look up what will happen to your pension in your home country, if you can take it out while abroad, and any fees or restrictions that your new home country will impose. For example, the UK will pay retiring Brits their pension overseas, though only retired immigrants in the EEA or Switzerland will receive an annual increase.

Visas

Most of the time it’s not possible to start living, studying, or working in a new country without a visa (unless, for example, you’re moving within the EU). Many countries require you to be sponsored by an academic institution or employer before granting a visa that allows you to reside and study/work on either a temporary or permanent basis.

Planning an international move: make sure to get the correct visa

The website of the government department responsible for immigration in your destination country will normally provide all the information you need to apply for a visa. If not, contact the embassy of your destination country.

Make sure your passport has at least a few years left on it prior to applying for a visa, as that will alleviate any headaches down the road.

Driving abroad

Depending on where you are moving to, you may need an international driver’s licence to drive abroad. A quick check on the government’s transportation site or rental car website should do the trick. You can also see how much it would cost to get a driver’s licence from that country, and what sort of exams are involved.

Getting to your new home

Planning an international move: airfare

Once your moving date is finalised, either based on your new job start date or set week of house hunting, it is time to book your train, plane, ferry, or other mode of transport to your new home. Airfare is a tricky thing to get cheap if not bought early on, but keep an eye for deals and sign up to fare alerts to let the internet search for you.

Where to live abroad and go to school

Where to live overseas

Once you have a job sorted, it should hopefully narrow down where in your new country you will be living. If your new job is located in a city centre, start researching neighbourhoods that are a decent commutable distance away and if you will have to take public transport or drive.

If you are moving abroad with your partner and only one of you has a job at present, you will have to discuss which areas would benefit both of you once the other receives a job offer.

Moving with kids adds another complex angle to this moving adventure, but nothing that you cannot handle. The same with moving to a city in your home country, finding a family-friendly neighbourhood in Los Angeles or any other city takes a bit of research and seeking advice from expats. Thanks to the digital age, especially Google Maps Street View, this should be easy!

Schools abroad

If you’re moving abroad with family, you will most likely have to find a school for your children. If you are unsure of which neighbourhood to live in your new country, why not find a great school for your children first and then find a reasonable property nearby?

Planning an international move: find a school

Research whether you will have to apply for a school, or be automatically assigned one based on where you live. Whether you send your children to a state funded, private, or international school depends on how long you will be living in this new country, tuition costs, and the reputation of the available schools.

Register in the new and notify the old

Tax

It’s important to inform the tax authorities in your current home that you’re moving abroad. Otherwise you could end up with escalating bills in your absence or lose the right to claim benefits or a state pension upon your return.

Planning an international move: taxes

When leaving the UK you need to fill out and return the form P85 to HMRC as well as the P45 from your most recent employment (you might be due a rebate if you’re leaving part way through the tax year).

Even if you become a non-resident you might still be required to pay income tax on any income earned from your home country or to make contributions to a national insurance scheme.

If you find that you’re paying tax to two different countries on the same portion of income it’s advisable to seek professional advice - the fees of an accountant or business manager might quickly pay dividends.

Mail

Unless you’re maintaining a property in your current country, you’ll need to have all your mail redirected. The public mail service in many countries offer an automatic redirection service, for a fee.

In the UK the Royal Mail can forward your mail to an overseas address for 3, 6 or 12 months at a time, charging per last name. It’s common to have post redirected to a relative in the country you’re leaving when no overseas redirection service exists.

The alternative is to change your address with every organisation that you receive mail from (cancelling any non-essential mailing lists to which you subscribe) but you might find that many won’t be willing to go to the expense of sending letters overseas.

Remember to change your address with:

  • magazines
  • Amazon and other global goods services
  • online shops
  • airlines and other rewards programmes

Student Loan

Planning an international move: paying student loans

Since student loan repayments are often calculated based on your income you’ll have to start completing overseas income assessments on a yearly basis. Make sure you inform your student loan organisation of your move and that they’re able to get in touch with you. You wouldn’t want to default on the loan by mistake. And, no, sadly it won’t just disappear when you move.

Banks

Again, make sure each bank where you hold an account is able to contact you. Small penalty charges can snowball over the course of a few years into huge outstanding debts.

Utilities

Get a final bill from your electricity, gas, water, and other utility suppliers based on the day you move out. This is another area where small unpaid bills can become huge sums in your absence via debt collection agencies and court fees.

Electoral Register

You may still be entitled to vote in national elections in your home country even though you live overseas. In the UK any British citizen who has registered to vote within the last 15 years is entitled to vote in parliamentary and European elections. Brits will need to fill out a form at the About My Vote website.

Planning an international move: register to vote overseas

Certain countries like Ireland, Nepal, and Zimbabwe don’t allow their expats to vote, and Canadian expats are unable to vote in federal elections once they live abroad for more than five years.

Collect medical records

Pay a visit to your GP and dentist before you go to collect your medical and dental records. Digital and hard copies are recommended, and make sure that they are translated where necessary.

It is also advisable to visit your GP a few months prior to moving for checkups, any vaccinations you may may need, or advice on generic prescriptions if you have certain conditions. Moving from the USA to the UK, for example, means that certain prescriptions you might have may not be available in the UK or will be under the generic rather than a specific brand name.

Arranging a removals company

You’ll probably have personal items that you want to take with you that are too large to form part of your luggage e.g. furniture, books etc. International removals companies can pack and ship these items to your new home relatively inexpensively. The most common (and cheapest) way to transport belongings overseas is by container ship, a process which can take several weeks. Air freight is quicker but considerably more costly.

Planning an international move: removals company

International removals companies usually offer a door-to-door service which includes clearing your items through customs (though you’ll have to pay any unforeseen charges or duties that arise). Anything from a couple of boxes to a full 20ft container load, including shipping an automobile is suitable.

If you pack your own belongings be sure to follow the instructions of your removals company and try to achieve as secure a load as possible which occupies the least possible volume - the cost of your international shipping is calculated on volume as well as weight.

Removals Insurance

Shipping your items halfway round the world does of course involve some risk that they’ll be lost or damaged. To combat this risk you can insure your belongings for around 1 to 5% of their value. This type of insurance is available from most removals companies as well as third parties.

When you arrive

Local authorities

Depending on where you are moving from and moving to abroad, you may have to register with local authorities in your city or town. It is also recommended to let your embassy know where you will be living, especially if you are planning on moving overseas for quite some time.

Medical Cover

Acquaint yourself with the healthcare system in your destination country. Some territories (e.g. Abu Dhabi) require that you have private medical insurance in place before you’re allowed to enter.

Drug regulations also differ between territories: your prescription medication may be unavailable in your destination country due to copyright or even outlawed.

Some countries also require that you have an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP) before you’re allowed to enter. Saudi Arabia, for example, requires proof that you’re vaccinated against certain types of meningitis. In the UK you can check whether you need vaccinations at the Fit For Travel website.

Enjoy your new home

Planning an international move: moving into your new home

After double checking you have everything, get take away from a local eatery and relax with the whole family, whether that’s your children, partner, dog, or prized books. Congratulations on your new adventure abroad.