How To Leave The United States (or Canada)

Are you looking to pack up your life and make a fresh start in another country? It’s a common dream, and we totally get it!

We ditched the US in 2017, and honestly, our only regret is that we didn’t leave sooner.

The thought of moving abroad was at first quite daunting for us. It seemed like a logistical nightmare, but after we broke it down into small chunks, it was much more manageable.

So, if you’re ready to start planning your move abroad, we’re here to help! We’ve broken down the process into a 7-step guide to help you get focused and avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Watch Our Video About How To Leave the United States (or Canada)

Step 1: Choose Your Destination

First, take some time to get clear on your priorities. What’s non-negotiable for you? Healthcare? Cost of living? Weather? The local language?

Once you have a list of what matters most, dive deep into researching potential countries. YouTube, International Living, and World Population Review are good starting points.

To help you out, we’ve created an Expat Country Selector! It’s a cool tool that suggests potential countries based on your personal preferences. You can get access to it by signing up for our free newsletter.

Also, don’t forget to look into residency visa options for your chosen countries. You wouldn’t want to fall head over heels for a place only to realize you can’t qualify for a visa.

See Also: Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas


Get the Expat Country Selector!

Enter your email address to receive helpful and timely information about living abroad, slow travel, having more freedom, and living life on YOUR terms!

You'll also get immediate access to our Expat Country Selector, which will help you decide where to live based on what's important to you.

PLUS, there are several other free perks in the FREE Live Abroad Toolkit that we created to help jumpstart your dream of living in another country.

Step 2: Get Prepared

Now it’s time to crunch the numbers. How much will it cost to ship a container, buy or rent a home, travel, and process visas? Get those figures and start budgeting.

See Also: REAL Cost of Living in Ecuador for 2023: A Guide for Expat Budgeting

Next, brush up on the local language. Duolingo and LingoPie can help you with that. Start with basic vocabulary and common phrases. We recommend focusing on restaurants, transportation, and shopping (especially food).

Also, get your financials in order. Apply for or renew your passport if it expires in less than 2 years, open a bank account that refunds ATM fees (Charles Schwab, for example), and grab a credit card with no international fees. We recommend Chase Sapphire Preferred, Capital One, or Discover.

Make sure your phone is travel-ready. Install WhatsApp, activate WiFi calling, and keep your home country mobile phone number for two-factor verification (a lot of financial institutions require that).

Step 3: Take an Exploratory Trip

It’s time to put your dream destination to the test!

Visit your top 1-3 cities and live like a local. Stay somewhere with a kitchen, explore neighborhoods, meet expats, and consult local experts like visa agents or realtors. If you have children, visit the schools.

And, of course, schedule some time for fun!

See Also: How To Get the Most Out of Your Exploratory Trip to Ecuador

Step 4: Get a Residency Visa

There can be a lot of steps and paperwork needed for the visa process. We recommend hiring an agent to help you gather the required documents, order background checks, and deal with the bureaucracy.

Make sure your documents are translated and have the apostilles (or they’re legalized if you’re from Canada). 

You’ll also need to determine where you’ll pick up your visa. In some cases, this will be in the USA and in others, your new home country.

See Also: Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas

Step 5: Prepare To Move

It might be a good idea to move your US address to a tax-friendly state so you can minimize your tax burden. (Remember, you still have to pay federal taxes but you can avoid state taxes.)

Check your credit card expiration dates and order new ones if they expire soon. Hire a tax accountant (we use TFX/Taxes For Expats), and set up a virtual mailbox (we love Traveling Mailbox). 

You should still keep a US address for voting, banking, taxes, etc. Update your accounts to be paperless and ask a family/friend if you can use their address for sensitive documents, new credit cards, etc.

If you own a home you’ll need to put it on the market. If you’re renting you’ll want notify your landlord. It’s also time to let go of your possessions. Consider having an estate sale and donating or selling whatever you have left.

If you are shipping a container you’ll need to work closely with a shipping agent. There are a lot of moving parts to shipping your belongings. The process is very detailed and time consuming.

See Also: 

We’ve talked to several people who shipped a container to Ecuador and nearly every one of them said they wish they had NOT done it. They tell us it was such a hassle and so expensive that it would have been cheaper and easier to sell everything and repurchase what they really needed in Ecuador.

When the leave date gets close, start packing for the plane ride to your new home country. Remember to take enough medications for your first few months. 

You’ll also want to prepare your loved ones for your big move (you probably should have started this already!). Have them watch YouTube videos so they know more about the area. Remind them you can talk regularly and encourage them to come visit.

See Also: 

Step 6: Before You Leave Home

Time for final checks!

Gather all important documents (visa, medical, marriage certificate, etc.), secure health insurance, finalize your travel plans, and check the Aphis website if you’re bringing pets.

Then, pack up, tie up any loose ends, and bid adieu to your old life.

See Also: Bringing Pets to Ecuador from the USA 

Step 7: Getting Settled In Your New Home

Welcome to your new home!

It’s time to find a long-term place to rent or buy, secure your government ID (cédule in Ecuador), open a local bank account, and get a local phone number.

Start mingling with the locals by joining events. Expect to experience some culture shock but remember, it is short term.

See Also:

Final Thoughts…

And that’s how you leave the United States in seven simple steps!

We’ve compiled all these tasks in our new Move Abroad Checklist and Expat Country Selector.

Just sign up for our FREE newsletter, and you’ll get immediate access to these tools, plus a bunch of other perks we’ve got lined up for you. Good luck on your new journey!



Get the FREE Live Abroad Checklist

Enter your email address to receive helpful and timely information about living abroad, slow travel, having more freedom, and living life on YOUR terms!

You'll also get immediate access to our FREE Live Abroad Toolkit, which we created to help jumpstart your dream of living in another country.

JP Stonestreet
 >> See More

Hola todos! Welcome to my author bio page! Let's see. Where to begin... I grew up in the country on a lake outside a small Kansas farm town. As soon as I could, I got the hell outta there! Since then, I've lived and/or worked in Kansas City, Washington D.C., Denver, San Francisco, and Ecuador. I started and sold a dotcom, wrote a book about it, started a YouTube channel, and now I write a lot. Amelia and I have embraced the Unconventional Life and we want to help you do it, too!

2 replies
  1. Michael Witt
    Michael Witt says:

    Hi Amelia & JP, this is really good stuff. I found you on Youtube in 2019 before we traveled to Ecuador. In the meantime we have been looking at retiring in Mexico and were certain that Guanajuato was ideal for us but after watching some current Tangerine Travel videos I think Mexico has become too expensive for us. Whoever thought that would be a thing. My husband and I are going to Cuenca and Loja in a few weeks and also spending a few days in Vilca. Ecuador seems to be the better move nowadays despite some “social unrest”. We don’t plan to get involved with the cartels so I’m not going to freak out about it. I have always trusted your advice and usually your opinions. Thank you for your thoughtful and measured and up to date advice. Admirers from Denver


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *