International Moving Checklist: Everything You Need to Do Before You Go

International Moving Checklist

Whether you’ll be abroad temporarily or relocating permanently, moving internationally is an exciting opportunity to begin a new chapter in life. From talking to our Remitly customers, we know that thinking about everything you need to do before a move can sometimes damper that excitement.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to.

Knowing what to do when moving internationally can allow you to create a plan of action and follow through with much less stress. To help you do just that, we put together this international moving checklist that walks you through how to move to another country permanently or temporarily.

Researching to prepare to move abroad

Although getting to know the place you live anytime you’re moving is important, international relocations require more thorough research. After all, you may not know much about your new home’s customs, laws, healthcare system, education system, and housing market, even if you’re moving to one of the most popular destinations for moving abroad.

Before we shift our moving checklist to the specific things you should research, here are some general tips:

  • Consult reputable online sources: Official government sites are the best source of information when researching laws and regulations. If the site is in a foreign language, look for an on-page translation option. If you cannot find an English option, try pasting the browser address into Google Translate.
  • Ask an embassy official: Ask an official at an embassy or consulate for your destination country for clarification on anything unclear or confusing.
  • Connect with locals: Twitter and Reddit are great places for finding people from your destination country to ask about cultural traditions, important customs, neighborhoods, and more.
  • Consider hiring a pro: An immigration lawyer from your destination country can help with research, gathering documentation for visa applications, and navigating the application process.

Now, let’s review the specific things to prepare for when moving internationally. Here is a rundown of the key things to research in checklist form for quick reference:

◻ Tax laws

◻ Immigration laws

◻ Customs laws

◻ Regulations for pets

◻ Vaccine requirements

◻ Cultural traditions

◻ Etiquette

◻ Language

◻ Miscellaneous restrictions and laws

Read on to learn more about each topic.

Tax laws

Failure to pay taxes owed could result in hefty penalties, fines, fees, and even legal problems in some cases. As a result, it’s important that you consider the tax implications of international moving.

Find out what taxes you’ll be required to pay as an immigrant or temporary resident in your destination country. Also, consult a tax expert like an accountant or attorney in your home country to learn whether you’ll need to continue paying taxes there.

Immigration laws

In most cases, you’ll need a valid passport from your home country to move abroad. Additionally, you’ll likely need some type of visa.

Each country has its own immigration laws and offers different types of visas. An embassy or consulate office for your destination country located in your home country should be a good resource for determining what kind of visa you’ll need.

As you research immigration laws for moving internationally, find out if you’ll need a separate work permit to find employment in the country. Keep in mind that some countries even place restrictions on your ability to freelance, do gig work, or work remotely as an immigrant. If you work in a professional field, research whether you’ll need a license to provide services in your new country and what you need to do to obtain one.

Also, double-check the requirements for renewing your visa. In some cases, you may need to check in regularly with an immigration office for the first few months or years that you’re in your new country. Other countries will only require you to submit a renewal application within a set time frame before your visa expires.

Customs laws

Customs and import laws will determine what you can bring when you move and whether you’ll need to pay additional fees on top of your international moving costs.

Find out if there are restrictions on what you can carry with you at a port of entry or ship to your destination country. Check out the country’s import taxes and customs duties. You may find it more affordable to purchase some items in your new country rather than moving them if they’re subject to high taxes or duties.

Regulations for pets

International Moving Checklist

No discussion of how to move abroad would be complete without mentioning pets. Whether you have a dog, a cat, a small mammal, a bird, a fish, a reptile, or a more exotic pet, they’re a family member, too, and you’ll likely want to bring them with you when you move.

Find out what the rules are for bringing animals into your destination country. Will your pet need to be quarantined? Do you need to obtain a license for them? Are there any fees you’ll need to pay?

Vaccination requirements

In your new country, there may be a threat of diseases that you haven’t come in contact with before. As a result, you may need to get vaccinated before you move abroad.

Sometimes, vaccinations are requirements for obtaining visas. Even when they’re not, they’re still a good idea, as they can protect you, your family, and your pets from illnesses.

Learn what vaccinations are mandatory and which ones are suggested. Then, talk to your healthcare provider about how to obtain them.

Cultural traditions

Many people who move abroad experience culture shock and homesickness during their first weeks and months. You can lessen the impact of finding yourself in an entirely new place by becoming familiar with the culture of the country. Some things to learn about include:

◻ Public holidays

◻ Festivals and major events

◻ Religious practices

◻ Basic history

◻ Food

◻ Gender roles

◻ Pop culture


What passes for polite behavior in one place can look very different from what does in another. As a result, learning about etiquette is an important part of what to do when you move abroad. Knowing about expected behavior beforehand can help you avoid embarrassing situations.

Some etiquette topics to research include:

◻ Dress codes

◻ Proper greetings

◻ Appropriateness of public displays of affection

◻ Gift-giving practices

◻ Non-verbal communication tips

◻ Using honorifics like “Mr.” or “Miss”


Find out what the official language or languages of your destination country are. If English is just one of them, research how many people speak it in the area you plan to move to. In some countries, English may be common in large cities but less frequently used in rural areas.

Start learning as soon as possible if you don’t speak the local language. Language-learning apps can be a good starting point. You can also take online courses or in-person courses, hire a tutor, or find a language exchange partner who is a native speaker to assist you.

Miscellaneous restrictions and laws

The final thing on this part of our checklist of things to do when moving involves learning about laws and restrictions that will affect your daily life. Find out if the country has banned items or practices, such as drinking alcohol or smoking in public places.

If you take any prescription medications, make sure they are legal in your destination country. In some cases, your healthcare provider may need to switch you to a different type of drug to treat a chronic condition.

International moving checklist

Obtaining legal travel documents

In this section, we’ll cover how to prepare for a move abroad by getting the documents that you need to travel to and live in a foreign country. There are two main things to do:

◻ Obtain a U.S. Passport or a passport from your home country if you live outside the U.S.

◻ Apply for a visa from your destination country

U.S. passports

If you don’t have a passport, you can obtain the form to apply for one online. Fill it out ahead of time and print it. However, don’t sign it.

You’ll need to add your signature when you submit your passport at a passport application acceptance facility. Most facilities require you to make an appointment, but some will allow walk-ins. Double-check the rules for your closest location.

When you visit a passport acceptance facility, you’ll need to bring the following:

◻ Original proof of citizenship, such as a U.S. birth certificate

Valid photo IDs like a driver’s license or state-issued identification card

◻ A passport photo

You should also be prepared to pay passport fees. The U.S. State Department website has the current fee schedule for you to peruse.

Keep in mind that standard processing for U.S. passports takes 10 to 13 weeks. You can expedite the process to 7 to 9 weeks by paying an additional fee. Either way, apply for a passport as soon as you can, as you may only be able to complete an application for a visa once you have one.

If you already have a valid U.S. passport, you can renew it by mail. In most cases, your passport will need to remain valid throughout the duration of your initial visa in your destination country.


The procedures for applying for international visas differ from country to country. Some allow you to apply completely online, while others require you to visit an embassy or consulate office to complete the process.

Although specifics vary, you’ll typically be expected to provide various documents when applying for a visa. Here is a checklist of some of the items to gather before you begin the application process:

Valid U.S. passports for all family members

◻ Birth certificates and/or adoption papers for all family members

◻ Child custody and/or divorce papers

◻ Marriage certificate

◻ Driver’s license

◻ Medical and dental records for all family members

◻ Bank statements for the last six months

◻ Proof of education, such as diplomas or degrees

◻ Proof of employment, such as a letter from an employer or employment contract

Be sure to consult an embassy or consulate office for your destination country to determine if you’ll need to bring or submit copies of anything else when you apply for a visa.

Finding a place to live

The next step in the process of how to move to another country is to determine where you’ll live. If you’re crunched for time, it may make sense to book a long-term stay at a hotel or rent an Airbnb initially and then look for a place to live once you arrive. Otherwise, complete these items to find your new home:

◻ Choose a housing option

◻ Look for locations

◻ Secure a property

◻ Set up utilities and services

◻ Sell your current home or notify your landlord

Choose a housing option

You have three main options for housing when moving internationally:

  • Purchasing a home: If you plan to relocate permanently, purchasing a home can help you build equity and, in some countries, allow you to qualify for a permanent residence visa or citizenship more quickly. Keep in mind that if you don’t have an established credit history in your new country, you may find it hard to secure financing. As a result, you may need to have all or most of the money for purchasing already saved.
  • Renting a house or apartment: Many people choose to rent initially when moving abroad. Not only is renting often more accessible, but it provides more flexibility to relocate if you decide to move to another city in your new country or find that you like a different neighborhood better.
  • Living with someone else: If you have friends or family in your destination country, consider moving in with them at least temporarily. Single people may prefer to rent an apartment or house with a roommate.

Look for locations

No matter which housing option is right for you, much of the research for your move can be done online. Look for sites that aggregate real estate or rental listings to compare properties. There are also roommate finder websites available for many countries.

Although you can conduct searches yourself, working with a professional real estate agent in your destination country can make the process simpler. A knowledgeable real estate agent can match your needs to available listings and guide you through purchasing or securing a tenant agreement.

Secure a property

Once you find the place you want to purchase or rent, make an offer or complete a rental application. If you’re renting, be prepared to provide information about your rental history and a list of character references.

When purchasing, you may need proof that you have the funds available. For example, you may be asked to provide an investment account or bank account statement.

During this stage, it’s a good idea to have a backup plan in case you cannot buy or rent your first choice.

Set up utilities and services

Once you know for certain where you’re going to live, you can notify utility companies and service providers so everything is ready when you arrive. You may need to set up:

  • Electricity
  • Water
  • Sewage or wastewater services
  • Gas
  • Internet
  • Cable television
  • Telephone, both mobile and landline
  • Trash collection
  • Public school enrollment for children

In addition to setting up a new service, contact your existing providers to notify them of your international move.

Deal with your existing residence

If you currently own a home, get it on the market as soon as possible. Since time may be of the essence, it’s wise to work with a real estate agent to expedite and simplify the process.

Renters should notify their landlords. If your lease isn’t up yet, find out if you can terminate it. In some cases, you may be able to sublet to someone else or simply exit the lease, but fees may be involved.

Booking international movers & transportation

Moving company

Getting yourself and your belongings to your destination is an important part of the process of how to move to a different country. Steps to take in this area include:

◻ Hire an international moving company

◻ Book flights or make other travel arrangements

◻ Determine how pets will travel

◻ Weigh transportation options in your new country

Hire an international moving company

To control your international moving costs and ensure that your items arrive safely, talk to a few international movers before choosing one. Some questions to ask include:

  • Have you handled a move to [DESTINATION COUNTRY NAME] before?
  • Do you offer door-to-door service, or am I responsible for getting items to you and then picking them up in my destination country?
  • Are you insured? Can I get transit insurance for my belongings through you?
  • What are your fees, and what are they based on?
  • Do you offer packing services? If so, what do they include, and is there an additional fee?
  • Do you belong to any professional movers associations?
  • How long will it take for my belongings to arrive?
  • How will you ship my belongings?

In addition to asking the above questions, read reviews for the companies you’re considering. Check third-party websites like Yelp and Google Reviews for unbiased opinions.

Make travel arrangements for you and your pets

Determine how you and your pets will get to your new country. If you plan to fly, check out our article on getting deals on international flights to find out how to book airfare as cheaply as possible. If another mode of transportation is better for your situation, book it as soon as possible.

Weigh transportation options

Think about how you’ll get around in your destination country. Is there a robust transportation system that you can rely on, or will you need to drive to get from place to place?

If you wish to drive, research the rules for international driver’s licenses in your destination country. Determine whether you want to rent a car temporarily or purchase one when you arrive.

Packing for your move

Once you know how you’ll move your belongings, it’s time to pack what you’ll be bringing and determine what to do with the rest of your items. Follow the steps on this how to pack for a move checklist to make the process simple:

◻ Categorize everything

◻ Sell, discard, and donate what you don’t need

◻ Pack your goods

◻ Create an inventory

Categorize everything

Divide your belongings into what you need, what would be nice to bring, and what you don’t want. Some things that are best not to take with you when moving internationally include:

  • Pots, pans, and small kitchen appliances
  • Televisions and home electronics
  • Home decor items that don’t have special meaning
  • Live plants
  • Anything that could be hazardous when shipped, like aerosol cans

Donate, sell, and discard

Once you know what items you need to get rid of, divide them into donate, sell, and discard piles. Tackle each category one by one to downsize without getting overwhelmed.

Pack your goods

International Moving Checklist

When moving internationally, take extra care when packing your items. Your belongings will have a long journey ahead of them, and proper packaging will help to ensure that they arrive safely. Here are some packing tips for international moves:

  • Purchase brand-new, heavy-duty corrugated cardboard boxes
  • Reinforce the bottoms of boxes with packing tape
  • Wrap fragile items in packing paper or bubble wrap individually
  • Label the box on the side with your last name and a rough idea of the contents, such as “books” or “clothing,” numbering the boxes to keep an inventory
  • Fill in empty spaces in boxes with packing peanuts, newspaper, or air pouches
  • Use plenty of packing tape when sealing boxes

Create an inventory

Compile a list of everything that you’re bringing with you. List all your box numbers and detail what’s in each of them. Your moving company will likely need a copy of this list, and you can use it to simplify the unpacking process when you arrive at your new home.

Putting your finances and healthcare in order

The last step in the process of how to move internationally is to make financial and healthcare arrangements. Some things to take care of include:

◻ Budgeting

◻ Bank accounts

◻ Credit cards and loans

◻ Health insurance

◻ Other insurance


Once you know how much you’ll need to pay for rent or a mortgage in your new country, create a monthly budget. Include food, utilities, gas or public transportation costs, medical expenses, debts, insurance, child care, and entertainment. Also, set a savings goal, so you can begin to set aside money for an emergency fund or large purchases.

Bank accounts

Open a bank account in your new country ahead of time if possible. Notify your current bank that you’ll be moving internationally, and close your accounts if you desire.

Credit cards and loans

Let your creditors know you’re moving and provide your new contact information. If you plan to use your debit or credit card in your new country, ask about international transaction fees and currency conversion charges.

Health insurance

If your destination country has a public health system, find out if you’ll be eligible to enroll. Explore health insurance options in your destination country and cancel any existing policies that you have.

Other insurance

Notify all of your current insurers about your intentions to move abroad. For life insurance, find out if your policy will remain in effect after moving internationally. Replace existing insurance policies as needed.

Some types of insurance you may need to cancel in your current country and/or acquire in your new one include:

  • Auto insurance and other vehicle insurance like boat or motorcycle insurance
  • Homeowners’ insurance
  • Renters’ insurance
  • Professional liability insurance
  • Pet insurance

Start planning your international move

Use this international moving checklist as a starting point to guide you through preparing for a move abroad. Moving through the checklist step by step will help you get ready to begin your new life in a foreign country as smoothly as possible.

As you make your preparations, be sure to download the Remitly app, so you can easily send money back home as needed. And don’t forget to let family and friends know your new contact information so that they can keep in touch.