Last updated on September 4th, 2023
During the last 4 years, I moved abroad many times. The original plan was to travel around and see which country I like most, so I could settle down there. But eventually, I ended up living in 6 countries on 3 continents and traveling slowly while working online. Recently, with the covid and everything that’s happening in the world, I decided to make bases in two countries and live between them – Ukraine and Turkey. And then time will show what to do next.
If you don’t know that yet, I am originally from Ukraine but at some point in my life I moved out to the US and spent almost 10 years there before leaving everything behind and returning back to Europe. After multiple moves from one country to another, I learned some important nuances that I have never considered before. If I could go back in time, I’d definitely change a few things related to a move abroad.
In today’s post, I would love to share my checklist for moving to another country. Before you make this decision, take into consideration a few key moments. While moving abroad becomes easier and easier with each year, it is still a serious step to take.
Moving Abroad Checklist – Things to Consider When Moving to a New Country
1. Should I Move Abroad?
Lately, more and more people pursue a goal to move abroad and start a new life. Are you one of them? Have you asked yourself why you want to move?
Moving to a new country is not only a big step but also huge stress. Even if you have been dreaming about it for a while, remember that starting everything over through a move doesn’t automatically mean you’ll become happy. Many people want to move to a new country but they are not ready (not physically, not emotionally) for such a step.
In order not to make a mistake when asking yourself the question ‘Should I move abroad?’, it is important to do some research and analyze your desire. Think about the pros and cons of moving abroad and create your own checklist. Consider every detail realistically, not emotionally.
Be sure to keep this list and refer to it in a few months after the move. When you feel homesick, miss your family and friends, it will help you remember all the true reasons why you moved abroad in the first place. It will help you get organized. Remember, there are too many people who leave their home countries in search of a better life but then in a few months, they start regretting the decision and dream of coming back. This is not what you want to become.
When considering an opportunity to move abroad, do not forget that with the move you’ll really need to start over. It means you’ll have to network, make new friends, learn a new language, and simply adjust to everything. It will take a long time before you re-create your world and are able to truly feel at home. And most importantly, it will take a long time before you don’t feel like a stranger in foreign land anymore.
2. What Country Should I Move to?
When back in 2017 I was making a decision to leave America, I knew I wanted to see the world and live in many different countries. But, I had no clue where I wanted to go to live first.
Somehow I believed that it was easy to move to almost any country and try to settle there once I arrive. I believed that I could just travel there on a tourist visa and then change that visa to a working one or even apply for a residency. Also, I thought that being a smart intelligent individual with a lot of experience in two different fields could help me move permanently to a new place. However, it wasn’t as realistic as I thought.
Today I am meeting more and more people who remind me of myself years ago. They say they want to move abroad but have a poor idea of how many tasks and challenges they may face once that move happens.
The first thing on your checklist for moving abroad should definitely be a country where to move. Depending on the amount of money you have, the job you plan to get (or either you plan to work remotely or live off your savings), and how much time you’d like to live in one particular place will determine what is the best country for you to move to.
Many people make a mistake already at this stage, drawing for themselves a nice little house in a pretty European village or a villa in Bali or Sri Lanka. And then they are surprised to learn that moving to many countries in Europe or Asia is not always easy.
That being said, deciding on a country where to move to should be a number one to think about. When choosing this country, you must first of all consider how easily you can get official status there. Doing visa runs is one thing but living permanently and having a job is totally different.
Choose a country where you can get a long-term visa or a residence permit right away. Without it, you will be able to stay in the country only for 90-180 days until your visa expires. And this applies to all members of your family.
3. Countries Where I Can Get Permanent Residency Quickly and Easily
If you are looking to move to another country permanently, the first task is to find out which countries grant permanent residency. A few countries to tell you off the top of my head are Mexico, Turkey, Georgia, Spain, Malta, and Cyprus. Actually, my decision to make a base in Turkey was made on a quick and easy residency permit. When I say ‘residency permit’, I do not mean visa runs or visa extensions. Residency permits provide an excellent opportunity to become a citizen of one of these countries one day.
If you want to move abroad with no money, in this case, you need to look for a cheap country where you can easily live with a few hundred dollars per month. Some of those countries are in SE Asia for example (my partner and I lived in Vietnam as a couple for less than $1000 per month), Balkan countries in Europe, Eastern Europe (cost of living in Ukraine and Belarus is very low), many parts of Mexico, Central American countries, some spots in South America, or Georgia in the Caucasus (we were also based in Tbilisi for many months).
In a number of European countries, there are official government programs that allow you to obtain residency based on investments in the economy (and many times that investment is very reasonable) or education. In other countries (again, like Turkey, Spain, or Portugal), it is enough to prove your financial solvency and get into quotas for a residence permit.
If you are not interested in residency, there are quite a few countries where you can settle for at least a year as a digital nomad or independent worker.
In Europe, such countries are Germany, France, Czech Republic, Spain, Portugal, and Estonia. Other countries I know are Barbados, Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, United Arab Emirates, Georgia, Mexico, and soon-to-be Croatia. Some of them require to show proof of a rather high income but others have an opportunity for people who make less.
Below I would like to share details about temporary resident visas in those countries where a remote worker with an average (and sometimes low) salary can easily apply:
- One year long residency in Turkey. I am writing a guide about it, so more details are soon to come. No requirement to show any income, just an apartment lease for one year.
- Residency in Mexico – here are all the details about what you need to apply.
- Applying for a remote work visa in Bermuda. It is one of the easiest countries to get into since there is no minimum income requirement.
- Digital Nomad Visa for remote workers in Estonia – pretty easy to get this visa if you can prove you have a solid income.
- Self-employment visa in Portugal – this source answers questions on required documents and how anyone can apply.
- Non-lucrative visa for Spain – excellent explanation of what is needed.
4. Moving & Living in a New Country Is Very Different From Being a Tourist There
Deciding on a country where to move to based on the ease of obtaining a residence permit/digital nomad visa, how cheap this destination is, or how much you like it is not enough. Even if you’ve visited this country before as a tourist, it does not mean you will enjoy living there as a resident.
It is one thing to be in one place for a short time, and another to live there permanently. The country may not be as ideal as you thought about it as a tourist. And not so friendly. For example, Iceland is practically closed to foreigners other than tourists. The indigenous population makes up 98.99% of the country’s inhabitants, and it is extremely difficult to obtain residency there.
Not to make a mistake and spend money on something you may regret about later, it is better at first to come for a short period of time to live in this country a bit and see how you like it.
This is how Mark and I figured out that Turkey is a fantastic place for us to live. At first, we came for almost two weeks to rent an apartment in Istanbul and do our routine instead of being tourists. In between work, we walked and explored around but it was not a goal. We were spending our time as if we were living in the city.
If you can, do the following:
– Try to come to spend several weeks in a country of your interest. And better do in the worst for this destination season. If it is a tropical destination, come during the shower season. For a Mediterranean climate, come during July and August. If somewhere in the north, come in winter. This trip will help you understand how much you are ready to accept bad (for you) weather conditions.
– Rent an apartment/house in the area of residence where you intend to be based. Don’t stay in the city center thinking how much you love it and then return to live long-term in a totally different part of the city. Oh my gosh, it’s going to ruin it all.
– Check out the infrastructure, including all types of transportation. How are you going to move around and get places?
– Meet people, talk to them, join local Facebook groups, attend meetups, and observe how friendly locals are. Are they the people you want to be around? We cannot be comfortable around everyone and that’s normal. Through my travels and life overseas, I learned that I don’t feel comfortable in all countries I go to. Although some of them are developed and countries of the western world, I don’t like the culture and local attitude. There definitely will be a place where you won’t feel comfortable too. Before moving, go test the waters.
– How safe is the area/city where you want to live? That’s another important point to take into consideration. Many people get fascinated so much by the beauty of local sights that they forget about the safety and comfort of a new destination.
5. What About Starting Your Business & Finding a Job as an Expat Abroad
If you are looking to move abroad and settle in a new country through a resident visa (like in Portugal, Spain, Turkey, and other countries mentioned above) or a digital nomad visa, please note that none of these options gives the right to work in the country or conduct business there. Applying for a digital nomad visa implies you are working online and having a source of income.
Residency also does not give you any rights to work. But if a person applies for it, it means he has proof of income from property, business ownership, or proof of any financial means.
Therefore, think in advance about the money.
In today’s world, more and more people can work remotely from their laptops. Others who retire or have savings can easily go and live for a year or more in a foreign country. Of course, everything depends on your specific occupation and the degree of attachment to the workplace.
However, if you are considering moving to a new country with no money and no job, think twice before taking this step. Let’s be honest and face the reality. Finding a job on the spot nowadays is more challenging than it was before covid. Not having savings and enough financial support can lead to a visa denial.
6. Education For Your Kids (or Yourself)
On the stage of getting to know the city and country where you want to live, determine in advance where your children will study. Of course, if you are moving with a family.
Are there good kindergartens that your kids can attend? If yes, what are the requirements to get in? Sometimes, children of foreigners cannot attend public kindergartens or schools even if they speak a language. In that case, you’d need to enroll them in a private school which costs money.
Do you plan to attend language courses or start a course at the university? Find out in advance which schools are located in the city you are moving to, how good their education is and how much does it cost to study. Don’t assume that the most popular city among remote workers automatically has good schools. If you are moving abroad to study, do thorough research on schools. Many times, the best universities and colleges are located in smaller lesser-known towns.
7. Paying Taxes as an Expat
If you decide to move abroad and live in a foreign country based on permanent residence, then you automatically become a taxpayer in that country. Obligation to pay taxes occurs if staying for more than 183 days a year.
Therefore, you will have to pay taxes in the new country even if you don’t work there and have income from outside. This is one of the most important moments of the move. Find out in advance which taxes and how much you’ll have to pay not to be taken by surprise later. In some countries, there is one flat rate for all foreigners while in other countries the amount usually depends on the country you are from.
For example, in Turkey my annual tax (based on residency) is around $250 a year which by the way is pretty low (many other European countries charge more). Mark pays almost twice less because he holds a passport from a different country. So depending on the country you are moving to, the amount you’ll need to pay will be based on where you are from.
You can always take advantage of tax incentives (they are in a number of countries for people who have recently received a residence permit). Yet overall, remember about the tax.
Americans who are planning to work abroad will need to pay taxes in the US and in the country where they hold a job.
8. Documents Needed For Living & Moving Abroad
When you made a choice about the move and have chosen the country where to move, it is time to take care of the documents. Start by organizing all of your documents in advance. It is better to take all of them with you even if you won’t need some of them later.
In some countries, like Cambodia for example, by law you are not allowed to mail any documentation in or out of the country. There, a person can go to jail for sending or receiving via Post Office any passports, certificates, or background checks. So if you plan to work abroad, it is better not to forget any documents of yours.
Please note that you will need most personal documents to obtain residence permits or apply for a long-stay visa once in a new country. Better take everything.
Also, if you will be applying for a job or a change of status in a foreign country within the year after leaving your home country, it is advisable to take care of a criminal background check in advance and take it with you. Many countries require it as well. Usually, a criminal background check is valid for 6-12 months after the date of issue. So you can use it overseas during this time.
So here it is, my moving to another country checklist with some important things to know before moving abroad. Do you have anything to add of your own? Do you have any questions? Drop them in the comments, so I could answer for others to see my answers too.
More Things to Consider When Relocating
I hope you found my moving to a new country checklist helpful. But here are a few more articles that I recommend you to read. I have lived in more than 10 countries and covered some of my experiences here on this blog. Give them a read and see if some of these places would be good for you: