The Ultimate Moving Abroad Checklist
Moving to another country is a big decision and can be an overwhelming process. Of course, It’s so exciting to start the adventure of living abroad, but the process to get there is difficult (and sometimes exhausting)! It’s also easy to forget the most important things. That’s why you need to have a moving abroad checklist!
When I moved to Sweden in 2018, I had to create my own checklist for moving abroad so I can keep track of where I’m at.
The process is exhausting, especially when things are not in your hands. Like in my case, I’m a Filipino who was leaving the Philippines on a work permit. This means I have to go through the hassle of getting an exit clearance (OEC), which delayed my move for a few months.
I wanted to put together a moving abroad checklist for you who are also planning to move abroad to make your life easier and also learn from my past mistakes.
At a quick glance, here is the checklist for moving abroad. I will also share the important information below.
Moving Abroad Checklist
- Check your passport’s validity
- Apply for the right visa
- Get an exit clearance – Philippine Passport Holders
- Research the job opportunities, cost of living and build your finances
- Make initial plans on how you will settle abroad
- Arrange your bills
- Set up a local bank account and update your home bank account
- Buy the stuff you can’t get there
- Make a list of things you will bring (and not bring)
- Complete all your health appointments and obtain prescriptions
- Get travel and international health insurance
- Get a power of attorney to grant someone to sign legal documents on your behalf
- Find a new home
Check your passport’s validity
Your passport is the most important document next to the visa. Usually, the validity of your visa is based on your passport’s validity. So, before obtaining a visa, make sure that your passport is valid for a few more years (or at least 1 year).
In Sweden, you can only register to the Swedish Population Register if your visa is valid for at least one year. I couldn’t get an appointment to renew my passport before I apply for a visa. My first visa was valid for 8 months only, so I couldn’t register in Sweden. I had to renew my work permit again instead of renewing it in 2 years.
Apply for the right visa
Please move to another country legally!
The visa depends on where you are coming from and your reasons for moving. I moved to Sweden for work, so the visa I have now is a work visa.
This visa is valid for 2 years and can be renewed for another 2 years. After that, I can apply for permanent residency. If I have lived in Sweden for 5 years, then I will be able to apply for citizenship also.
So, when choosing a country you want to move to, you also need to consider these questions before applying for the visa:
- What type of visas can I apply for?
- Which visa fits best in my situation/circumstance?
- Can this visa allow me to bring my family?
- How long can I stay in the country?
- Can I extend this visa?
- Will this lead me to permanent residency/citizenship?
- What kind of social benefits can I access with this visa?
- How much will it cost me?
Fortunately, my visa allows me to bring my family. This is why my husband moved with me a few months after we got married. He has the same rights as I do.
Obviously, this is not a one-size-fits-all guide because there are different visas and requirements for different citizens.
In most countries, you are not allowed to work when you are on a tourist visa.
Get an exit clearance – Philippine Passport Holders
The work visa application to Sweden was a smooth process. But, getting the exit clearance in the Philippines is such a pain!
I got delayed for a couple of months because the process is so slow.
Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC)
If you are a Filipino with a work permit, the OEC should be on top of your moving abroad checklist!
All Filipinos moving overseas with a work visa must secure an Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) before departure.
The requirements will depend on what type of job you have. You also have two options when getting an OEC:
- As a direct hire
- Through an agency
I didn’t have an agency when I applied for an OEC, so I followed the process and requirements for a direct hire.
The processing time now is around 1 month, as long as you have all the requirements. In 2018, I processed my OEC for about 3 months.
In some cases, POEA will require you to get an agency.
Commission of Filipino Overseas (CFO) Sticker
This is different from the OEC. A CFO sticker is for the Filipinos leaving the country with immigrant visas.
For this one, you need to contact CFO to see if you are required to get the CFO sticker.
When my husband left the Philippines, he got a confirmation email from the CFO that he doesn’t need the sticker on his departure. Unfortunately, the immigration officer at the airport insisted that he needed to have one (despite my husband showing the email from CFO).
Just a typical encounter in the Philippines.
At least the second immigration officer he talked to knows more and told him he was good to go.
So, to have a smooth departure, make sure you have all the proofs and documents.
Research the job opportunities, cost of living and build your finances
Before moving abroad, what is your plan? Are you planning to find a job when you arrived? Do you have an idea of what you can afford with your relocation funds?
You should research the job opportunities first so you will get a realistic overview before making a big decision.
Related: Life and Work in Sweden
Another important thing to have on a moving abroad checklist is to research the cost of living. It depends again on where you are from; moving abroad can either be cheaper or more expensive!
The cost of living in the Philippines is lower than in Sweden. So, when I moved to Sweden, I needed to have huge adjustments when it comes to expenses.
When you are new to a country, you wouldn’t exactly know how much money you need. This is why it’s important to research the cost of living and start building your finances.
You can refer to numbeo.com to get an idea of the cost of living. But, I prefer to look at other people’s budgets and expenses.
My employer provided me an overview of the cost of living in Stockholm. That’s why I can prepare financially. And because I moved for a job, I know that I will be receiving a salary within a month. This helped me manage my budget.
Make initial plans on how you will settle abroad
This one is a bit broad. Now that you have researched the job opportunities and cost of living, it’s time to start planning on how you will settle in your new home!
For example, if you don’t have a job yet before moving, then it might be best to have an emergency fund. Sometimes it takes time to find a job abroad as a foreigner.
Few small things that you can also add to your moving abroad checklist:
- You can also start learning about the culture and social norms of the country.
- Research about the location and where you want to live.
- Did you live in a tropical country and you want to move to a country with 4 seasons? Then it’s best to prepare for different weathers!
- Where are you going to stay upon arrival? Hotel? Airbnb?
- Are you planning to rent an apartment or buy one?
- Check if you can open a bank account, or what are the requirements.
- Do you have kids? You can research about schools.
- Are you bringing your pets? Then you should look for pet import laws.
- Can you use your current driver’s license or do you need to get an international driver permit?
Arrange your bills
One of the most important things to have on a moving abroad checklist is to cancel any ongoing subscriptions in your home country especially when you’re not going to use them anymore.
One example is your gym membership!
If there are bills that you need to keep paying, it can be difficult (or hassle) to manage expenses in both countries. Create a list of bills you will have left in your home country, and start signing up for the auto-payment.
If your bills are being sent to your home, you should update the address or better yet signup for paperless bills.
Another thing to consider is how you are going to pay for your bills at home. Do you have to transfer your money?
I use Wise to transfer from my Swedish bank account to a Philippine bank account. It is more cost-effective than using traditional bank accounts and they have low fees.
Set up a local bank account and update your home bank account
Depending on the country you are moving to, some banks may allow you to open a bank account with a few requirements such as your visa and passport.
When I moved to Sweden, I don’t have a personal number & Swedish ID yet, and most banks require residents to provide these. I was lucky enough that a bank helped me set up a bank account as long as I provide my job contract, passport, and residence permit card.
You will also need to update your home bank account before moving abroad. In the Philippines, we usually inform the bank if we are traveling, so they won’t flag the cards for transactions abroad.
If possible, you can also update your home bank account to use your new address abroad.
If you are going to use your credit cards abroad, then you need to make sure that your bank allows international transactions.
Buy the stuff you can’t get there
This is the number one on my moving abroad checklist!
You will get homesick when you move abroad. So, you should buy everything you can at home before moving!
I’m lucky to find some food and snacks that I crave from my home country in the Asian store in Stockholm City! I don’t often buy though; because it becomes so expensive.
Make a list of things you will bring (and not bring)
Okay, I just need to say this after I tell you to buy the stuff you can’t get there! It’s normal if you want to bring everything. But, it’s not practical!
I know it can be hard to leave everything behind, so make a moving packing list. Consider the amount of luggage you can bring or the cost of shipping large items to another country.
When considering what you will bring, you also have to know if it is more cost-effective to replace the item or take up the space of your luggage.
You can also look at international moving companies to help you.
Complete all your health appointments and obtain prescriptions
As you are new to the country you moved to, it can be difficult and expensive to get access to healthcare if you are not yet part of the system.
Or, like in Sweden, you need to be registered and have a personal number (personnummer) to book an appointment. Otherwise, you will have to go to a private clinic or hospital.
If you have prescribed medicines, then you might need to talk to your doctor and mention your plan to move overseas. Your medicine might be inaccessible to another country, or you might need to get another type of medicine.
Ask your doctor if you can get a longer supply.
Fun fact: Dental care in Sweden is not covered and you pay higher fees yourself. Though there is a dental care grant worth 300 or 600 SEK per year.
If you can have a dentist appointment, then you should also add it to your moving abroad checklist!
Get travel and international health insurance
Regardless of you plan everything, something can go wrong. Delayed flights, canceled flights, lost or damaged bags, accidents… and a lot more.
The least you want to do is think about all the things that could go wrong. So, it’s best to get travel insurance. World Nomads is the best option. Their plans are affordable and cover almost everything such as unexpected cancellation, emergencies and medical costs abroad, emergency medical transport, and protection on personal items.
Get a power of attorney to grant someone to sign legal documents on your behalf
Before moving abroad, if you have properties or businesses at home, then you should get a power of attorney to grant someone to sign legal documents on your behalf.
This is useful when you cannot travel from time to time especially when immediate decisions are needed.
Find a new home
You have to decide where you are going to stay when moving abroad. You can get a relocation company that can show you apartments or houses before moving. Or, you can get a temporary apartment (like Airbnb) until you find an apartment in your new country that you can rent long-term.
Don’t make the same mistakes I did!
I planned everything and I thought everything’s on track, so I signed a contract even before moving to Sweden. Unfortunately, my flight got delayed for a few months because of the exit clearance in the Philippines. So, I had to pay for those months also.
My first apartment in Stockholm is close to the city center. It’s perfect for those who are new in the city! It’s easier to explore Stockholm.
I admit that this is a lengthy moving overseas checklist, but it’s better to be prepared for everything! Some may apply to you, some are not. But, I hope this checklist for moving abroad helped you get an idea.