The Ultimate Checklist to Move overseas
I decided to write this ultimate checklist to move overseas to help you identify things you need to do before you move abroad. Is this the year you are moving overseas? It can be overwhelming when you think of all the things you need to do before you move over. Creating a checklist is something we did before we moved, but I have added some tips that we learnt along the way. Truthfully in hindsight there were a lot of things we would do differently if we had the chance to do it all again. We learnt the hard way through trial and error, but hopefully with this checklist to move abroad in hand, things will be easier for you and your family.
BEFORE YOU DECIDE TO MOVE OVERSEAS
Before you start the moving abroad process there are some things you should consider and research. This is a key step and it should not be skipped over. Moving overseas is a big step, it should not be decided on lightly. There will be lots of things you will need to weigh up and decide, and it’s important to get all these areas covered and figured out before you take the giant step forward into becoming an expat and living overseas.
- Research the new country. I have spoken about this in previous blog posts, on why we chose to move to Ireland. For us, Ireland ticked a lot of boxes for us. For starters, my husband got a job offer and work permit sorted out before we leave our home country. Secondly, we found out that I would be able to apply for my own work permit, and find a job too. Third, we knew our dog would be able to make the move with us.
- Have a job offer before you leave. The reality is looking for a good job takes time, and if you leave it till you are in the new country to find a job you could land yourself in trouble. If you are looking to move to Ireland, then I suggest you figure out if you need a work permit, and research job opportunities in your field.
- Get an idea on cost of living. If you managed to find a job then before you accept the job offer, figure out if you will be able to afford to live on the salary they are offering you. Cost of living in Ireland is at an all-time high – rent is scarce and expensive, and cost of living is generally quite high here. I written two posts on cost of living in Ireland; one blog post compares costs between Dublin and Johannesburg which I wrote when we first arrived. More recently, I wrote a post about how to figure out how much you need to earn to live in Dublin.
- Save as much as you can. As much as your new job will keep money coming in, there are some unexpected costs to moving overseas. When we first moved over we never fully realised how long it would take for me to find a job and get my work permit sorted out. So we were left with over a year on living on one salary. Thankfully we managed to cut our grocery costs, and we had a small savings to fall back on when times got tough. People often ask how much should they save, and the answer is never going to be a rounded figure – the answer is: save as much as you can, then try save even more than that. We also knew that moving over, our lifestyle would have to change. There will be sacrifices you might need to make when you first over, and we learnt a few tips on how to save money when you first move overseas, maybe these tips will help you too.
- Get your important documents updated and filed. Before we moved over we made certified copies of everything. Things like marriage certificates, insurance policies, wills are important to keep and file copies separately. Later on in this post I will suggest a few other documents that are important to get in order before you move overseas.
- Update your passport before you leave the country. If your passport is expiring in a year then it’s worth updating it before you leave the country. Rob is in the process of updating his South African passport through the embassy here in Ireland and he has been told it takes 6-7 months to process!! Besides if you want to travel, you will need at least 6 months left of your current passport to be able to visit most countries. Another thing to consider is that if you decide to move to Ireland and you require an Immigration Residence Permit (IRP; formerly called GNIB), you will need to get this yearly, and they will make it valid for as long as your passport is valid. So if you move over with less than a year in your current passport, then your IRP card will be valid for the same time. Save the stress, get your passport updated.
- Get your driver’s license updated. The same goes for your driver’s license. Ireland allows certain countries the option to swop out their existing driver’s license for an Irish one. This option is available for South African driver’s license holders. However, if you arrive with an expired driver’s license then you will not be able to swop out your driver’s license. So make your life easier and get it updated before you leave.
- Do you own a house? You will need to decide if you will sell your house or put it up for rent. Since we only recently bought our house before we left, and for the fact that we were not sure how long we would be overseas; we decided to rent our home out. We went through a company called Just Letting in South Africa. In all honesty, they are a pretty shit company to work with. But they do make it easier to live here, knowing that there is someone managing our tenant and home back home. I think the reason I get so frustrated with them would be the same with most companies you decide to use – not proactive, slow to respond, plus they were slow to find tenants even though when we first spoke to them they told us that we would have no problems renting out the place. They were filled with lots of promises at how easy the process would be, but in truth it was a long and trying road to finding a tenant.
Right so all of the above took us about a year to research and find jobs etc., we had been planning and talking about the move for a year prior to actually starting the process too. This work can’t be rushed, take your time doing your research and making sure that a move overseas is best for you and your family.
Once you have decided on the move, and you have a job offer and work permit is being processed… then the checklist to move overseas really kicks into full planning and doing all the things mode! Take a deep breath, and let’s dive in.
3 MONTHS BEFORE YOUR MOVE
- Book hotels or flights that you might need. If you know when you start date is, then try to arrive a bit before you start work, because you may need some time to find a place to rent. In our case, my husband got a relocation package with his job, which meant that the company paid for him to stay in corporate accommodation for a short time while we looked for a place to rent in Ireland. Not all companies offer this to new employees coming from overseas but it is worth asking about. If that is not something that is available, then you will need to book into a hotel, hostel, or Airbnb when you first move over. Perhaps you have some family or friends you could stay with until you are on your feet. Some people are lucky enough to secure a rental before they arrive overseas but I have found that in Dublin, it is better to be in the country and with a letter from your employer before you start looking for a place to rent.
- Check your pet relocation requirements. Although there are no quarantine requirements in Ireland, you do need a blood test and certificate that your pet has no rabies. You can only leave 90 days after this blood has been taken, as well as your pet needs to move over with you (either 5 days before or after you arrive). I have heard of people bringing their pets in later once they are settled but I believe there is a different process if you send your pet over at a later date. I wrote a post about how we moved our pet over to Ireland which covers off some other points you will need to consider.
- Find a moving company you like the look of and ask for quotes. And organise a moving date. If you plan to ship over your belongings then you will need to get an idea on what furniture and number of boxes you think you might send over. We sent over 3 boxes and then just 2 suitcases each when we flew over. The 3 boxes we shipped using a company called Seven Seas. They were the most affordable company we could find at the time, and our stuff arrived in perfect condition, barring a plate I didn’t bubble wrap properly. Just a note that we opted for the boxes to be delivered in 3 months (it worked out cheaper) and another thing to consider is that there will be a customs fee you will need to pay when it arrives in your new country (over and above the fee you pay the couriers. Seven Seas did give us an estimate on what this would be so we weren’t surprised 3 months later). Another point I would like to make about sending over belongings, in hindsight we probably didn’t need to ship those 3 boxes. The stuff we shipped ended up not being so essential when it arrived 3 months later and we hadn’t really missed too much of it. Also most rentals here in Ireland come furnished already, and houses here are a little different in terms of size compared to back home – so your furniture might be costly to send over only to find it doesn’t fit in your new home.
- Label and pack boxes up with things you won’t need to use until you move. I started this process very eager to pack everything and get rid of the rest; we ended up the last few weeks living with only our camping chairs as seats! Just make sure what you pack away or get rid of, is everything that you won’t actually need for a while. Another good tip is to make a checklist of all packing boxes and what will go in each one. This would have been handy to have on the other side, because when our boxes did arrive, I had forgotten what we had actually sent over!
- Put your house on the market if you’re selling it or start finding a tenant. We only started looking for tenants a month before we left and we really left it late because we ended up with an empty house for a few months which was less than ideal.
2 MONTHS BEFORE YOUR MOVE
- Depending on your existing work contract, you will need to choose the right time to resign. For us, we wanted to give our employers enough notice that we were leaving, and in the end this notice period worked in our favour because my company asked me to stay on working remotely for a few months which was helpful to keep me busy while we moved over and looked for a job overseas.
- Cancel subscriptions and direct debits you won’t carry over with you. If you are leaving the country it is best to cancel these subscriptions while you are still in the country. I had a phone contract that would have costed a lot to cancel, so I just notified them that I want to cancel at the end of the subscription period. We still have our bank accounts open in South Africa, but since we don’t have many debit orders still left (just house stuff), it was easy to see if there was any debit order we forgot to take care of. If you close your accounts, you will need to make sure all your contracts are cancelled beforehand.
- Sell or give away items you don’t want to take with you. We sold, donated and threw out most of our stuff. We used it as a great way to declutter and let go of all the stuff that served no purpose for us anymore. We sold most of our stuff online too, which was very easy to do.
- Sell your car. We decided to sell our cars online, you can choose to sell it privately yourself. We just found it easier and less hassle to sell it through an agent who handled all the paperwork for us. We used webuycars.co.za and they even arranged for our cars to be picked up as close to our move date which was convenient for us. Another benefit of using webuycars is that they paid the outstanding cash for our car loan direct to the bank, so we didn’t have to stress about transferring that ourselves.
- Arrange travel and health insurance for your move. You never know if you might need emergency care when you first arrive, so rather be safe than sorry.
- Visit the doctor for a final check-up and arrange for vaccinations if you need them. We didn’t need any vaccinations to move to Ireland, but we went to the dentist, doctor, gynae and Rob got his eyes checked. It’s helpful to get these down before you leave because it will take a while to settle and time to find doctors over in your new country.
- Get copies of your medical records for yourselves, children, as well as your pets. This is especially important if you are on any existing medication, so as to show your new doctor overseas.
- Get a stock of your prescription medication. Find out what the local names and equivalents are for any prescription medication you or your family are on. Make sure that it will be available in your destination country. If not you will need to arrange to take a supply with you, together with proof of your need for the medication in case you are stopped at customs. I carried 6 months of my own medication with me, together with my script and letter from my doctor. I wasn’t stopped at customs, and just went through without any problems.
1 MONTH BEFORE YOUR MOVE
- Begin packing up your home. Normal people can wait till one month before to pack their home, I guess I am not like most people because like I said I started this as soon as we decided we were moving – absolutely zero chill! But really, one month is more than enough time. Especially considering you hopefully won’t need to send over too much stuff.
- Make sure your house insurance is due to be cancelled on moving day. This is something some people forget to cancel, or cancel too soon – but if you have household insurance, remember to cancel it on the same day everything is getting picked up to be shipped off.
- Contact utility companies and cancel. Or you can change the names on the bill if you’re renting out. We actually kept it in our name, as it is through the body corporate of the complex we lived in. It just made it easier for us to manage this direct with body corporate as we still handle levies etc. with them. These are accounts that you don’t necessarily think about, but it’s good to cancel/ settle before you leave the country.
- Pay any bills you have outstanding. The last month before you leave is when we really felt like money was coming off left right and center. We settled all our outstanding bills; we also treated ourselves to dinners out at our favourite restaurants, and met up with friends for last drinks etc… This month really flew by.
1-2 WEEKS BEFORE YOUR MOVE
- Get currency for your new country. Because we didn’t close our bank accounts we didn’t have to worry about getting Euros before we left. We took a few over but not too much, the rest we used our SA bank cards in Ireland when we first arrived. It was quick for Rob to open up a bank account in Ireland, because he had a job and needed a place for his salary to be paid into. For me, it took a while longer, so I used my SA card a lot more.
- Start packing suitcases. Make sure you have the essentials in your suitcase. You will be living out of these cases for the immediate future until your shipment arrives. I packed extra toiletries and make up etc. as I knew money would be tight when we first got over there, so I made sure I went with a stock to keep me going.
- Empty your fridge/freezer. Since we lived with family in the last weeks before we left, empty the fridge/freezer happened earlier for us. However this was still a sensitive point for us. About a month or two before we decided to move over to Ireland, our old fridge died. So we went out and splurged on a nice big fancy fridge and then a month later had to put it up for sale – ouch! That really hurt as you never really make your money back on reselling purchases like that.
- Moving Day. If you are shipping over some items, confirm the date they will come collect the boxes. We scheduled this for 3 weeks before my husband left, just because we wanted to stay with family and make the most of our time left in South Africa. Make sure you keep an inventory list for yourself of items you intend to ship over. Also, now is a good time to confirm when you expect items to arrive in your new country.
ON THE DAY OF YOUR MOVE
- Triple check the house to ensure nothing is left over. This was a surreal experience for me, walking through our empty home, not knowing what our new home would look like.
- Keep your jewellery and important documents with you. We carried these on us in our carry on. Rob had a set, and I had another set of copies as we were flying at different times. If you are the spouse of someone who has a work permit and you are arriving after them, then it’s best to keep the following documentation on you for when you go through passport control: copy of your Spouses work permit, letter from their employer, your marriage certificate.
- Say goodbye to everybody. Tears, all the tears when we were at the airport saying our goodbyes to our family. It’s important to remember to take your time and be kind to yourself today. It’s a big deal; there will be a lot of emotions!
AND THAT’S IT, THE ULTIMATE CHECKLIST TO MOVE OVERSEAS! I HOPE THIS MAKES THE MOVE EASIER FOR YOU!
Live Simply & Travel Slow,
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Great advice thank you so much
Thanks Lauren – hope it helps!
Wow I discovered your blog today and am completely fascinated by your in depth view and experiences- thanks Megs
thanks for reading!
Anthony Worthington says
Lovely to do list. You must be getting a vast amount of come backs, especially from South Africans
South Africans and a lot of Americans are keen to move over!
This is super helpful thank you so much!!