Making a move overseas can be an exciting adventure, but also takes careful planning and preparation. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know before moving abroad – from deciding where to go, to handling visas, to budgeting costs, finding housing, transferring your healthcare, taxes and more.
Whether you’re looking to improve your quality of life, advance your career prospects, be closer to family, or just experience living abroad, this guide will walk you through each step of planning your overseas move.
You’ll find the best resources and expert expat tips to set yourself up for a smooth transition.
From top destination overviews to nitty-gritty visa details, cost of living data to cultural assimilation advice, we have you covered.
So if you are thinking of moving overseas the you can use this guide to inform each stage of planning your life abroad.
The start of your next great adventure abroad awaits!
Table of contents
- Choosing the Right Destination
- Navigating International Job Opportunities
- Connecting with Expats
- Deciphering Cost of Living
- Travel Restrictions, Entry Requirements, Residency & Visas
- Healthcare Considerations – Am I Covered in My New Home Country?
- Finding & Buying a House – Overseas Property
- International Education
- Researching Tax and Laws
- Driving in Your New Home Country
- Prepare Your Paperwork
- Moving Overseas with Pets
- Banking And Finances
- Moving Your Belongings
- Who Do I Need to Tell?
- So, There You Have It
Choosing the Right Destination
Many individuals relocating internationally have a driving reason behind their decision—be it familial ties, professional opportunities, or simply an allure to a particular locale.
1. Define Your Purpose: Begin by crystalizing why you’re moving. This provides a foundational guidepost. Whether it’s proximity to family, a job opportunity, or an enamorment with the country’s culture, this reason will be your compass.
4. Broaden Your Horizon: Remember, at this initial stage, it’s about broad strokes—getting a feel rather than getting bogged down by details. Allow your main reason for the move to anchor your search, and then let your preferences and lifestyle needs radiate out from there.
By framing your decision-making in this manner, you not only streamline your research process but also ensure that your chosen destination aligns closely with your expectations and desires.
We provide a wealth of information on our blog to help you decide which destination may be best for you:
- The Best Destination to Become an Expat in 2023
- The Top 15 Best Places to Live in the USA in 2023
- Best Places to Live in New Zealand
- Best Aussie States to Live in 2023
- USA vs Canada for Expats: Which Country is Better?
- Which Country Should I Move To: Australia or New Zealand?
- 44 Great Reasons to Move to the USA
- 25 Great Reasons to Move to New Zealand
Navigating International Job Opportunities
You may be moving overseas to find work. Maybe you’ve already received an offer, or perhaps you’ll look for something once you have arrived.
Your employment status may affect the type of Visa that you need, or even prevent you from remaining in your chosen country on a long-term basis, so you must research this fully.
If you don’t already have a job, go online and look at the types of jobs available to you. Consider the most common jobs in the area, the jobs of most value, and your own CV history.
Once you figure out the jobs you have access to, consider the requirements that you would need, and the level of salary you should expect. The salary should factor into your cost-of-living research later on, while the location and salary could affect the area you can relocate to.
For help getting started finding a job abroad, check out 14 websites to find a job abroad by worldtrips.com.
While abroad, you can still draw a pension, but depending on your provider you may need a UK bank account. As with any income from the UK, you will need to adhere to UK tax laws – this includes pensions.
If you’re unsure how to manage your pension or any other UK income, contact a financial advisor who specialises in expat clientele. For a quick breakdown, jump to our Banking & Finances heading.
If you are moving to America, click here for more information on British Expat Pensions In The US.
Connecting with Expats
Don’t underestimate the importance of other people’s experiences.
Take to Expat forums from the beginning and benefit from those that have gone before you. From what to pack and which business to hire, all the way through to which restaurant you should visit to celebrate your arrival – these guys have gone through it before, so use their knowledge.
To get started, try searching for Expat groups on Facebook. These are great places to share experiences, ask questions and make new friends! These groups are very welcoming and their members are quick to offer advice and answer questions.
The same goes for TikTok accounts. Simply search “British Expat In [insert new country]” and you’ll see hundreds of people in the same situation as you. TikTok isn’t great as a communication forum, so making new friends shouldn’t be your aim. Instead, you can pick up on the unexpected cultural differences, genuinely funny situations you can expect, and the best local places to explore.
Likewise, do a quick search on Google for expat forums to find a wide variety of communities you can join and participate in.
Of course, it will also help to make connections with those that are living in your new area. Look for anyone who has similar situations to yourself, for example, children of similar age. You could find your kid’s next best friend.
To help with this, once you arrive, visit local groups, get involved with any local sports associations and continue the online forum chat to help the next family with your own experiences of moving abroad.
Make sure you join a forum from the beginning so you have help every step of the way, as your journey continues you’ll find more people in the same situation as you. You might even make lifelong friends.
Deciphering Cost of Living
Now it’s time to consider your outgoing costs. This can differ greatly depending on the area of the country that you are relocating to. You may also have different outgoings depending on your country of choice, for example, healthcare might be free or a monthly cost.
When you research a new country or area, look at what the most important costs are first. As a starting point, you consider these outgoings as a priority;
- Food costs
- Housing (rental or buying)
- Utility expenses (such as electricity, water, internet, phones etc)
- Transport or Vehicle costs
- Child care
- Leisure (sports or eating out)
This list is not exhaustive and will be different depending on where you are planning to move overseas. For example, if you plan on moving to a surfing location, your leisure cost may only be the price of a surfboard.
Once you can estimate the living costs for each area, you can confirm if the location is too expensive for your expected salary. This can help you narrow down your location choices and help you prepare financially.
Try looking at Expat internet forums for ideas on the costs of living in the real world.
We have a range of blogs covering the cost of living in various destinations that might be helpful:
- Cost of Living in Canada vs UK
- Cost of Living in Australia vs UK
- Cost of Living in New York, USA
- Cost of Living in New Zealand
Travel Restrictions, Entry Requirements, Residency & Visas
Before you start booking rental accommodation and saying goodbye to your friends, you first need to research the rules and regulations of your chosen country. Take a look at the gov.uk foreign travel advice page as a starting point.
The government website will tell you if you can travel to that country or if there is a ban in place. It will also tell you what you can expect in terms of safety, money, terrorism along with laws and customs.
If you are part of the LGBT+ community make sure to click on the “Laws and Customs” tab for your chosen country. This is an essential step to ensure your safety.
Once you know that you can travel (physically or legally), you need to research whether you need a Visa, or something similar. Some countries require several Visas depending on your moving requirements.
For example, if you are moving overseas for employment, you may need a different type of Visa than someone who is relocating to study. In the USA various different Visas are depending on your purpose of travel or type of employment. This list can be found on the US Embassy Website Visa directory.
- Further reading – Green Cards & Visas for Moving to the USA
In some cases, if you do not have a Visa or permanent residency agreement, you may not be able to clear your personal belongings through Customs. Please check this before you plan to move your personal effects.
The country that you are moving to may require certain vaccinations. In these post Covid-19 times, you may still need to self-isolate on arrival, and there could be a fee too.
Check out the UK government’s advice on travelling abroad or their foreign travel advice, as well as the official government website for your country of destination for the latest advice on all vaccinations. Make sure you are looking at the most up-to-date advice as things can change quickly.
Although most countries have relaxed all Covid-19 rules, some may be dealing with other virus outbreaks so don’t skip this step.
If you need new or top-up vaccinations, check if they’re free on the NHS. Contact your GP or go onto the NHS travel vaccinations website for details on which vaccinations you need and the cost of those that aren’t free.
Then it’s just “roll your sleeves up” and look the other way!
Healthcare Considerations – Am I Covered in My New Home Country?
Depending on where in the world you are planning to move, you may need to pay for all, or part, of your healthcare requirements.
If you are moving overseas to Canada or Australia, there are tax-funded schemes called Medicare which would cover you for most of the essential care that you will need, but there are limitations meaning you’d potentially also need private health insurance. For more information take a look at our guide to moving to Canada and our blog “Healthcare in Australia for Expats”.
However, if you are relocating to the USA, the government only provides Medicare to people over 65, at the “End Stage” of a disease, or with specifically approved disabilities. Some parts of Medicare are free, while others are set by the US government as insurance. This means the premiums are lower than a standard insurance company.
Everyone else requires health insurance. Without health insurance, the cost of care is very high. It is a major contributor to bankruptcies in the USA.
Check out our guide to US Healthcare here.
Again, research is the key, and the potential cost of healthcare insurance, either as a “top-up” to government-funded care or to cover you and your family for all care, should be factored into your cost-of-living.
You will need to think about any repeat prescriptions that you or your family members have, along with the availability and cost of the medication in your chosen destination.
Finding & Buying a House – Overseas Property
By now you should know the area that you want to move to, and understand your budget.
Often, it can be easier to rent first and wait until you are safely abroad before looking around for a more permanent home. Physically being in your chosen country allows you to respond quickly when a new property comes on the market and of course, it’s always good to view each property in person before making any decisions.
Whichever route you decide to take, go online and find yourself a local estate agent. Explain your situation to them, and ask them what you can expect with your budget. They will know how far your money will stretch and the best options for you.
On the flip side, you need to make a decision on any UK properties too. You may decide to keep your property “just in case” or for some additional income. If you keep your property, you can either manage it yourself, get the assistance of family or friends, or employ a property management agency.
Be aware that any rental income that you get from your property in the UK, will be subject to UK income tax.
You will need the correct landlord insurance in place and if you still have a mortgage on your UK home, you will need to contact your mortgage provider before you make any decisions on selling or renting.
- Further reading – Tips for Purchasing a House Abroad
Moving your family abroad is stressful for you and everyone else involved. From your child’s point of view, they’ll be saying goodbye to lifelong friends, and forced into a whole new world.
To help them settle into your new home, research the schools in the area you are relocating to and include your kids in the decision-making. This will help them feel in control, and give them something to invision.
Depending on the country you’re moving to, you might choose public or private schooling. You need to be aware, however, that those terms could mean something different in your new country than in the UK.
In the USA for example, a public school is funded by the government through taxes and doesn’t require an upfront payment. Whilst in the UK a public school does require payment. The term “public” simply means anyone can apply to join the school – there are no restrictions based on lineage, denomination or locality.
If you are planning a temporary move, there may be international schools that you can enrol your children into. This means they are mixing with other children who have gone through the same experience of moving overseas, and the school will understand how to manage your temporary stay.
Whichever option you decide, research your choices fully online by looking at parent’s forums as well as results league tables if they are available.
Here are some resources to help get you started:
- Countries With the Best Public School Systems (metroparent.com)
- The 11 Best School Systems in the World (independent.co.uk)
- An Age-by-age Guide to Moving With Kids (parents.com)
Researching Tax and Laws
Unless you’re travelling to this new country to become a lawyer, you don’t need to know all the laws and taxations of the land.
Your first port of call should be the Foreign Travel Advice page of the government website. This page will tell you the most important differences between the UK and other countries. For example, some countries require ID to be carried at all times, while others believe camouflage clothing is offensive.
Use that website to find the basic information in your chosen country.
If you’re moving because of a job opportunity, you may be given onboarding assistance. This is when the HR team explains what’s needed in your new country, from taxation laws to social expectations.
If you don’t have an onboarding assistant, talk to the other expats in the area as well as the locals. Other expats will be crucial in helping you navigate the new rules, while locals can help you learn the easiest path through the process.
You can also search for this information online, however, because most locals understand the laws and taxes intrinsically the information might be sparse. In our opinion, you should talk to your HR team and your newly found expat family.
Driving in Your New Home Country
Part of your cost-of-living research would include vehicle costs, including the price of either buying a vehicle or shipping your car.
Some countries may require a local driving test before going on their roads. Taking their test means you’ll understand their legal requirements, signs and customs on the road.
If you are planning to permanently move overseas, you should first apply for an international driving permit. Some countries will allow you to drive temporarily on a UK licence, but only if you’re staying for a short time.
Longer-term relocation often requires an international driving permit. Depending on the country, you may be given a driving licence issued in that country or a temporary pass until you take the local test.
Check out these guides on applying for a driving licence in some of the more popular destinations:
- How to Apply for a US Driving Licence
- How to Apply for a Canadian Driving Licence
- How to Apply for an Australian Driving Licence
- How to Apply for a New Zealand Driving Licence
- How to Apply for a Cyprus Driving Licence
- How to Apply for a Maltese Driving Licence
Make sure you check the local driving rules, whether you have to retake the test or not.
Each country will have a different take on which side of the road you’ll need to drive on, speed limits, rules on mobile phone usage and more.
AutoShippers provide a range of driving guides for various destinations that may help you get acquainted with the laws and customs in your new home:
- Driving guide: USA
- Driving guide: Canada
- Driving guide: Australia
- Driving guide: New Zealand
- Driving guide: Cyprus
- Driving guide: South Africa
- Driving guide: Malta
- Driving guide: Singapore
- Driving guide: Dubai
- Driving guide: Hong Kong
- Driving guide: Caribbean
- Driving guide: Namibia
- Driving guide: Bahrain
You may be able to take your vehicle with you. This possibility depends on the country and the specification of the vehicle itself. You’ll need to compare the cost of buying a new (or used) car against shipping it.
The best place to start would be contacting 1st Move International’s sister company Autoshippers. Autoshippers can help with pricing and information for shipping your car overseas.
Lastly, you’ll need to tell the DVLA that you are exporting your vehicle by filling out the ‘permanent export’ section of the vehicle logbook.
Prepare Your Paperwork
When moving overseas there will be a lot of form filling, such as for Visas and permits as above, and you will need to have all of the relevant paperwork to hand. Before you begin, your best bet is to make sure that you have all documentation you need. This includes;
- Passports (makes sure it is up to date)
- Birth Certificates
- Marriage Certificates
- Driving Licences (including an International Driving Permit if applicable)
- Vaccination records
- Appropriate Visa once issued
- Financial records such as bank statements, tax records etc
- Travel tickets (very important!)
Depending on the country that you are moving to, there may be other pieces of documentation required, but the above is a good starting point to find and keep safe together.
To find out what your location requires use the Foreign Travel Advice guide.
Moving Overseas with Pets
Depending on the country you’re moving to, you will probably need to microchip and vaccinate your pets. Rabies is a big problem in many countries, so part of the pet procedure may include blood tests to confirm a lack of infection.
Countries may require your pet to quarantine for a certain amount of time once you have arrived. Make sure to confirm if your new location requires this, and then factor the time restraint into your travel plans.
There will be a cost associated with transporting your pet overseas, so make contact with a reputable pet transport company as soon as you can to discuss your options. You must meet all of the requirements to take your pet with you. Failure to do this might result in your pets being sent back home without you.
Check out our blog on top tips for taking your pet abroad for more detailed advice on moving overseas with your furry friend.
Banking And Finances
In some countries, you may not be able to pay your utility bills or get paid your salary, unless you have a valid bank account set up. Having a local bank dealing in the local currency also avoids potentially expensive rate of exchange fluctuations or transaction fees.
If you are planning to rent your house in the UK, it is a good idea to keep your UK bank account open. Again, this avoids expensive charges like “rate of exchange” fees, but it will also ensure a simple payment method for your renters.
Some banks have specific Expat Bank accounts which allow you to have different currencies in one account. Ideally, you should switch to one of these banks as all exchange-based charges will be reduced or removed.
At the beginning of your financial process, you should apply for a credit card that doesn’t charge you for foreign exchange transactions or cash withdrawals. This way you can get money for emergencies as soon as you arrive overseas.
- How to open a US bank account
- How to open a Canadian bank account
- How to open an Australian bank account
- How to open a New Zealand bank account
- How to open a Dubai bank account
- How to open a Hong Kong bank account
Moving Your Belongings
By now you should know where you want to move and the size or type of property you’ll be moving into. With this information, you can decide exactly what to bring with you.
- Further reading – Everything You Need to Know About Shipping Belongings Overseas
Space and cost will make up the bulk of this decision, but you must also consider legality. Some countries do not allow you to take certain items. For example, if you are relocating to Thailand you aren’t permitted to take non-full-figure Buddha statues!
- Prohibited goods USA
- Prohibited goods for import into Canada
- Prohibited imports list Australia
- Prohibited imports list New Zealand
- Prohibited and restricted goods South Africa
- Prohibited goods Singapore
- UAE (Dubai customs prohibited goods list)
Your first port of call should be 1st Move International. We have been moving our customers overseas for over 25 years and international removals is our speciality.
Our knowledgeable and dedicated team can help you through the process of moving your personal effects, and using our global network of agents, we can offer a door-to-door service to all of the most popular destinations.
You can either ask for a quote on our website, give us a call on 0800 389 0784 or +44 117 982 8123, fill out our contact form or send us an e-mail at email@example.com and we can arrange for a bespoke, no-obligation quotation to suit your needs.
Who Do I Need to Tell?
Relocating internationally is not just about packing up; it involves tying up many loose ends at home. It’s essential to notify various agencies and service providers about your move to ensure a smooth transition:
- Government Offices: Especially if you’re receiving benefits or have tax considerations. This includes departments like HMRC and your local benefits office.
- Retirement Considerations: If you’re moving post-retirement, connect with the International Pension Centre about your pension claims.
- Debt Obligations: Remember, moving doesn’t dissolve obligations like student loans.
- Service Providers: This includes utility providers like gas, electricity, mobile, and internet, as well as healthcare providers and your children’s schools.
- Financial Considerations: Don’t forget about mortgage providers if you’re retaining a UK home, banks, and even minor memberships that might be auto-deducting from your account.
As you wind down connections in your home country, it’s equally important to initiate essential connections in your destination country. A handy tip is to review your bank account outgoings to ensure you haven’t missed notifying anyone.
Want to help ensure that your overseas move goes as smooth and seamlessly as possible? Our Ultimate Moving Overseas Checklist is your trusty bookmark, ensuring you don’t skip a single important detail, especially when it comes to keeping all the right people in the loop.
So, There You Have It
We hope that this article has been helpful to you and that we have been able to cover everything that you need to think of when moving overseas.
There may be specific difficulties depending on where you are moving, but this should be a starting point to tick off the important items that you need to be thinking of for yourself and your family to relocate overseas and not run into anything untoward. Take a look at some of our articles for more information on some main destinations;
- Moving to Canada
- Moving to the USA
- Moving to Australia
- Moving to New Zealand
- Moving to South Africa
- Moving to Dubai
The government webpage on moving or renting abroad covers what you need to be doing in relation to HMRC, tax and benefits and has lots of other relevant information so hop on over there after you have finished with us.
You’ll need to be doing all of the normal moving things as well such as having a clear-out of your belongings or running down the food in your freezer, but this guide should give you more insight into requirements if you are moving overseas.
And finally, when you’re ready to begin the moving process, keep our ultimate moving overseas checklist to hand to ensure you don’t miss anything out!.