16 things to do before you move overseas – preparing to live abroad

Moving overseas can feel daunting. It resembles moving house but on a much larger scale! Creating a checklist so you can break this big task into small steps will help make it more manageable. Other than booking your plane tickets, here are the top 16 things that should be on your checklist when relocating overseas. 

1. Pack up your house and consider what to keep, sell and donate 

You’ll need to decide what you want to keep and then either sell or give everything else away. Shipping can be expensive so it may be cheaper just to buy new things when you arrive.

When we made our big move from Australia, we let friends and family come through our house and take anything they wanted. We sent them photos of all the big items we were giving away so they could have time to decide what they wanted. Then we donated and sold everything else. The plus of giving special things or heirlooms to family is that you’re not necessarily saying goodbye to them forever, or at the very least they will appreciate the sentiment behind them.

2. Redirect your mail

Once you’ve packed up your house, the next thing to do is redirect your mail. If you don’t have a permanent address overseas yet, you could have your mail forwarded to a family member while you’re searching for your new home. Once set up, any mail with your old address will be sent directly to your new address. In most countries, you can apply for mail redirection at your local post office and they can set you up with either local or international mail forwarding.  

3. Rent or sell your house 

If own your house, you’ll need to either sell it or rent it while you’re gone. If you plan to rent, it’s worthwhile considering getting a real estate agent to manage the property for you. Some people prefer to save the fees and rent themselves, but when you’re overseas it can be a hassle communicating with the tenant and fixing things when they need maintenance. Real estate agents are paid to manage the property and sort out issues when they arise so it’s one less thing for you to do. 

The same for your car, if you’re not shipping it with you, then you may want to sell. As much as you’ll want personal transportation till the last minute, if you don’t have a buyer in mind, it’s best to put your car on the market a few weeks before you leave to give it time to sell. You may be able to negotiate with the new owner to use it till you leave. 

4. Renew expired passports

Passports take between 1 week to several months to renew, so it’s wise to renew your expired passport as soon as possible so you’re not cutting it close to your departure date. If you’re applying for a totally new passport for example for a baby, it can take even longer as there is more paperwork involved.

5. Apply for a visa

The time it takes to apply for a visa varies depending on what kind of visa you need. A tourist visa is generally easy to get, whereas applying for a student, residency or work visa is a longer process and it’s not guaranteed your application will be approved.  You may want to apply early so that if you get denied, you have time to consider another visa option.

6. Set up a bank account you can use overseas 

You will probably want to set up an account that favors international banking before you move overseas, as some banks have hefty exchange rates or charge fees for withdrawing money from ATMs overseas. 

Setting up a local bank account is also an option, but you’ll probably have to wait to do this till after you have moved as you will need to give a local address when filling out the application form. 

Before you leave, let your bank know you are moving overseas and make sure you have more than one bank card or credit card so you have a spare.

7. Purchase health insurance

Healthcare overseas can be expensive and not all countries have a high level of medical care freely available. Residents or citizens of a country generally receive reduced rates for medical expenses, whereas newcomers pay full price. If you end up sick or injured overseas, in some cases it can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

There are many plans for travel insurance that include medical help, but if you are moving for an extended period of time then travel insurance won’t cover you or long enough. You’ll have to look into something like Expat Health Insurance, which will cover things like hospital stays, dental, physio, optical care, etc and medical repatriation if you need to return to your home country for urgent or complex treatment.  

8. Get up to date with immunisations

Your doctor will be able to tell you what vaccinations are recommended for your destination. Some countries require proof of certain vaccinations in order to enter their country. You may even want to get some extra optional boosters to have protection for any common diseases where you are moving. 

The National Immunisation Program Schedule is a series of immunisations to be given at specific times in a person’s life, ranging from a baby to adulthood.

Most countries adhere to this program so it shouldn’t be a problem getting your (or your child’s) vaccinations overseas, however you may want to get up to date with vaccinations before you go as one less thing to do.  

9. Make medical appointments 

Even if your destination has a high level of medical care, it’s a good idea to book a final check up with your doctor so you can make a plan together for any ongoing medical care and medications. Check whether you can easily source your prescriptions overseas and work out what you’ll do if your medication is not freely available (organise postage, etc). 

If you wear glasses, take a spare pair with you or pack your prescription.

10. Let friends and family know how to contact you 

Your friends and family won’t be able to send you text messages while you’re overseas (unless you activate international roaming, which is expensive), so it’s a good idea to let them know your preferred social media or messaging platform, such as Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger and Skype, Facetime or other video chatting platforms. 

Letting everyone know how they can keep in touch with you a few weeks before you go means you won’t miss any important messages.  

11. Make copies of important documents 

You’ll want to take certified copies of your important documents with you if you’re moving oversees for an extended period of time. If you’re planning on relocating with your spouse, you may need to provide proof of marriage for your visa application. Important documents like birth and marriage certificates can come in handy when applying for a driver’s license, photographic identification or setting up a new bank account. You may also want to make 2 copies of your passport, travel insurance and credit cards. 

Be sure to keep these documents close by in carry-on, just in case your suitcase goes missing at the airport. If you’d rather not take the original copies of the documents with you, then leave them for safe keeping with family and friends or in storage.  

12. Get an international driver’s license

If you’re planning to drive when you’re away, it’s a good idea to apply for an international driver’s permit (IDP). Many countries require an IDP in addition to your regular driver’s license to legally drive a car or motorbike.

You can apply online for your IDP and it generally takes a week or so to have it posted to you.

An IDP is valid for 12 months and you’ll need to have it on you at all times when you’re driving, along with your regular driver’s license as it’s not a stand-alone document. 

13. Set up a phone plan that you can use overseas

You may be able to use your phone overseas if it is unlocked and compatible with local networks. However just because you can, doesn’t mean you’ll want to. International roaming is expensive, and most likely not something you’ll want to do for very long. 

Instead, you can buy yourself a local sim card or get an e-sim. Buying a local sim is the cheapest option when using your phone overseas, and you can generally get a generous amount of data and local call and text.  You can buy a local sim at the airport when you arrive or at most supermarkets. 

14. Notify relevant authorities of your plans (government tax agencies, etc)

If you are moving overseas for 6 months or more, some countries require you to notify an appropriate government agency within 7 days of leaving, for example in Australia you need to contact the Australian Taxation Office to update your details. This is commonly called an international travel notification and involves updating your mobile and international residential residence, mail and email addresses. 

Most countries require you to report your worldwide income while you’re away, and if your income is above a certain amount you may have to pay tax.

You may also have to keep making repayments overseas if you have a study or training loan. 

15. Cancel all memberships, utilities and subscriptions


Many internet providers require 30 day’s notice to cancel, so let them know early to avoid paying for longer than is necessary.

Car and House insurance 

Not taking your car with you? Then you don’t need to be paying for insurance.

If you also have house insurance, call them to let them know you’re moving overseas. 

When renting out your house, you will need to contact your insurer to switch from personal to landlord’s insurance.  


Call your gas or electrical provider to let them know you’re moving. Again, if you’re renting your house, let them know so you don’t end up paying your tenant’s bills while you’re away.


In some countries like India, Pakistan and Turkey, the cost for things like Netflix and Photoshop is much cheaper so you are better off cancelling your current subscription and creating a new account when you get there. It’s worth checking costs for your destination to work out whether to keep your current accounts or to cancel. 

16. Make a plan for your first week overseas 

  • Are you planning to rent or buy a house abroad? Then come up with a list of places where you’d like to go house hunting in the first week. You also will want to pre-book temporary accommodation for at least the first few days so you have somewhere to go when you arrive. We chose to book an AirBnB for the first month when we moved overseas to give us time to explore longer-term options.
  • Planning to learn the local language? As much as you’d like, you won’t become fluent overnight and you’ll need to make a plan to get there.
  • Starting a new job or studying overseas? Then you’ll want to have a contact person set up so you know who to call for all your questions.
  • Moving overseas for the first time? Then prepare yourself for the adjustment by asking others you know who have already done it about their experience. We also have an article on First Time Moving to a New Country.

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