How to Move to Another Country: A Step-By-Step Guide

Slow down there, globetrotter. You may be done with 2016 (we certainly are!) and perhaps you’re ready to jet off somewhere completely new in the New Year. Maybe 2017 will be the year you finally leave the states behind!

While it’s romantic to think about dropping everything and spontaneously moving to another country, some of us like to be a least a little prepared when it comes to making big decisions like this. And even if you’re one to jump right into things, we’re sure there’s at least a few tips here to make your move go more smoothly. Let’s dive in.

how to move to another country - step 1 - research

Step 1: Research, research, research

Ah, yes, the dreaded “R” word. It’s like as soon as we hear it, our mind automatically hits the “procrastinate” button. Well, stop that. Because researching can be fun. Think about it—you’re going to be headed to a brand new place.

To get started, think about what is important to you. What are the top 5 criteria that the place you’re moving to needs to meet? Some things to put on the list: weather, proximity to nature, days of sunshine per year, access to public transportation, quality of living, quality of nightlife, amount of young people, etc. The list goes on.

So, how to begin? You could always post a quick Facebook status to see which of your friends currently live there or have traveled there before—just to get a preliminary inside scoop. Then, start googling away. Keep in mind that certain websites are better for different people. For example, Nomadic Matt is great for those traveling on a budget. If you’re interested in familiarizing yourself with the creative scene of a place, check out On the Grid guides.

Not sure about where to go but you know you want to jet the !@#$ out of here? Here’s a little bit of inspiration.

how to move to another country - step 2 - visa situation

Step 2: Assess the Visa Situation

Basically: Some countries are better friends than other countries. Unfortunately, it’s the hard reality of the complicated world of international relations. Luckily, if you hold American citizenship, it does open up a whole lot of doors to other countries—at least to visit them for a period of time.

Some rapid fire quick ones here: with an American passport, you are able to stay within the countries of the EU for 3 months, Mexico for 6 months, Australia for 1 year, Hong Kong for 3 months, and Thailand for 1 year—just for tourist or business purposes, without having to apply for an additional visa. So, that’s easy peasy.

But if you want to stay in a country for a longer period of time, chances are, you’re going to have to apply for a different type of visa. To learn more about a specific country, you should go directly to that country’s government website.

Depending on the country, there are several different options. Some countries, like Germany, allow you to be in the country first to apply for a visa. But other countries prohibit this and if you are planning on staying longer than the appropriate amount of time, you’ll have to show proof. Also—be aware that some countries will not let you enter the country at all if you do not know how long you will be staying or if you do not have proof of a return flight.

how to move to another country - step 3 - language

Step 3: Learn the Language

When in Rome…do as the Romans do. But how are you going to do that without knowing the language? Think about all the doors that will open when you finally learn the native language (broken English will only get you so far). You’ll be able to make friends, expand your community, and maybe even get a job. Although a bit of cultural research is important before going anywhere, learning the language also means that you’ll be able to understand more about the host culture on a deeper, more personal level.

I mean, how else are you going to find the best local dumpling joint or most delicious late night spot for kebabs? The only way to live like a local is by knowing how to really communicate with people.

how to move to another country - step 4 - make friends

Step 4: Make Some (Digital) Friends

Find your people. It’s always good to make a few friends before you go—even if they are just online for now. As always, a good starting point is to ask anyone you know who has been to the place already and if they have any resources or connections.

On Facebook, there are a ton of groups dedicated to travel that act as huge public forums and support communities in which you can pose questions—no matter how silly. Some good ones to start with are NOMADS and Girls LOVE Travel. In these groups, you’ll find tons of other travelers like yourself and many people who have moved abroad.

There’s also a great online community on Slack called NomadList. It does cost a certain amount to join, depending on how long you’re joining for. But it’s a great resource, especially if you’re looking for work abroad, whether it’s in the actual country or if you’re hoping to work remotely to sustain your lifestyle elsewhere.

Additionally, many countries or cities that are expat hubs tend to have their own groups as well. So do a little search on Facebook and see what comes up. Though, of course, always use a bit of caution when chatting with people online—but you know the drill 😉

how to move to another country - step 5 - logistics

Step 5: Get Into Logistics

As in…how the hell are you going to be able to get around? Will you need a car? How are you going to purchase said car? Do you need to show proof of residency to do so? Rules depend on the place you’ll be—but it doesn’t hurt to research how you’ll be able to get around. Mobility is important in any new place and access to public transportation could be high on your priority list—so check out the metro and bus systems of where you’ll be going.

In addition to transportation, what will you do if you get sick? Check your current healthcare plan to see if it has international coverage. Or look into traveler’s insurance. This is important! Don’t forget to do it.

Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t be! If you’re looking for support, refer back to Step 4 for some of the places you’ll be able to ask your questions. Chances are, someone will know the answer or at least lead you in the right direction.

how to move to another country - step 6 - flights and lodging

Step 6: Flights + Lodging

Wait, but for real—how are you getting there? And more importantly, where will you stay once you are there? For cheap flights,  you can always cross compare via Google Flights and SkyScanner. You can also set mobile alerts for cheap flights via apps like HitList and Hopper.

If you’re only staying for a few months and you have a bit of money to spend, Airbnb will let you rent places by the month. It’s an easy way to go without having to look too hard. The downside is that it’s quite expensive though.

If you’re looking for a more long-term apartment, you’ll again have to defer to the country’s rules. Some countries will require a large down payment for rent on an apartment; some will require proof of work and income. And each country will have its own process—some will require a broker and some will not. The best way to begin this process is by doing a quick Google search of “the best way to get  an apartment in X country” and also posing it as a question to one of these new groups that you joined on Facebook or Slack.

how to move to another country - step 7 - go

Step 7: GO!

You’re ready. It’s time 🙂 And when you do, please share your story with us! We’d love to hear all about it.