Moving to a new country can trigger a life-changing transformation that is extremely rewarding.
Take it from us, we sold everything in 2017 and moved from Denver, Colorado to Cuenca, Ecuador. Since then, we’ve documented our experiences exploring the country and culture of Ecuador.
Once you’ve decided to move abroad to live your expat dream, there’s a lot of planning required to making that decision a reality. It can be hard to know where to start: everything from choosing a country to arranging a visa takes a lot of work. If you don’t have a well-formulated plan, the entire process can become overwhelming.
And that’s why we created this list of 10 crucial steps to make the process of how to move abroad less mysterious and confusing.
10 Crucial Steps to Moving to a New Country
1. List your priorities
First, you need to figure out which country best accommodates your personal needs. Factors such as healthcare quality and general safety play a role in many people’s decisions.
You’ll also want to consider the cost of living so you’ll know if you can afford to live there. While many popular expat destinations have a very low cost of living, others may be higher than your home country. The quality and reliability of the internet may also a deciding factor for you, especially if you will continue working online in your new country.
In this video, we discuss why we chose Ecuador over some other countries that are great for expats.
Your deciding factors may be different, which is why finding your perfect fit requires an accurate list of your priorities and a concentrated amount of research into possible countries.
2. Choose a destination (or several)
Once you’ve listed out your priorities, begin narrowing down the countries that fit your needs until you have a handful of exciting prospects. The top 10 list from International Living may help narrow your search.
Reading blog posts, joining Facebook groups, watching YouTube videos, and researching statistics on crime and the cost of living can help you increase your knowledge about these destinations. From there, you can narrow down your list to five or six countries to seriously consider.
3. Research visa requirements
Every country has its own list of visa options and requirements, and you’ll need to figure out which one best suits your situation. Depending on your monthly income and investments, you’ll need to apply for a specific visa, such as pension, investor, work, student, etc. Many countries have maximum age, minimum income and/or net worth requirements that may prevent you from moving there. For example, New Zealand requires $500,000 for their investor visa while Ecuador requires only $40,000 (as of August 2020).
You also need to pass state and federal background checks, but your destination country might make exceptions if your history isn’t squeaky clean.
4. Join Expat Support Groups
When you’re researching how to move abroad to another country, it can be intimidating, especially if you don’t know anyone who lives in the destinations you’re considering. By joining one or more Facebook or Reddit groups, you can connect with people online to get a better idea about what life is really like for expats who already live there.
We also have a vibrant community of current and future expats in our private chat community on Patreon & Discord. Several members have become friends and some have even started dating!
Participation in these groups is a great way to set up meetings with other expats before your exploratory trip. It really helps to talk to people who’ve already taken the plunge into living abroad where you want to live.
When you book your exploratory trip, you may want to visit multiple cities throughout the country. This helps you get a real feel for the country, which is important as you move your entire life abroad.
One helpful tip is to stay in places with kitchens so you can live like a local during your stay. Shopping for groceries and cooking your own food will let you experience what your life will really be like if you decide to move there.
Culture shock is a real issue for many expats, so the more you can immerse yourself in the local culture, the better prepared you’ll be should you decide to move there. Tour the cities and restaurants, and talk to expats about their experience adjusting to the culture. At the end of your trip, you may decide the culture is just too different for you and you may choose to continue your search for a different expat destination.
At the end of your exploratory trip, if the country feels like the right fit, you can officially begin the country’s visa process. We started our visa process while on our exploratory trip, which allowed us to meet the visa agent in person before we left. Drop us a note if you would like us to send an email introduction to a visa agent in Ecuador, or a real estate agent who can help you find property for the investor visa.
First, you want to put together a reasonable timeline. Make sure to give yourself ample time and set hard deadlines for the tasks required to make the move. Here’s a short checklist we’ve put together. This is just a baseline for you to start considering the affairs you need to put in order. Your list may be substantially longer.
Things to Consider When You’re Planning How to Move Abroad
- Do you need to transition to a different income stream?
- Are you going to retire or quit your job?
- Are you bringing children who will need to go to school?
- Does the country require your pets to receive special vaccinations?
- When will you break the news to your family and friends?
- Will you need a short-term place to live after your house sells and before you move abroad?
- Are you going to bring everything with you or sell it all?
- Do you need to get copies of your health and vet records?
- Do you need to start learning the language with apps like LingoPie, Duolingo, Rosetta Stone or Babbel?
You also need to get your home ready to sell. Home sales are unpredictable, but most homes take at least three months to sell. Getting on top of selling your home means you can move to your new home more quickly. If your home sells faster than you planned, you might need to make short-term housing arrangements back home before your move abroad.
As you’re working to sell your home, getting rid of excess belongings is another chore to complete. Estate sales can take 2 to 3 months to plan on average so you’ll want to get an early start on this process. Also, you’ll need a place to stay for the estate sale weekend, and you can often find deals near your home on AirBnB.
7. Decide What You Can Do & What To Outsource
Instead of moving our furniture and other belongings to Ecuador, we hired an estate sale company. It took a couple of months for them to setup the sale, but that process was a lot more convenient for us.
Anything that didn’t sell during that estate sale, we listed on Craigslist, donated or threw away. In the end, we moved to Ecuador with four suitcases between the two of us.
If you’re not fluent in the local language, we recommend hiring a visa agent. They’ll help you secure the necessary visas and immigration documents.
There are pet transport companies you can look into, but we opted against that because of the price and logistics.
8. Decide what to keep, what to store and what to get rid of
If you want to take everything to your new home abroad, you’ll need to work with a shipping company. For more information on shipping your household items to Ecuador, we interviewed Paul Wilches from Relocation Services of Ecuador. He discussed the logistics, process, import regulations, timeframes, and costs with us. He’s a wealth of information and is happy to answer your questions if you’re planning to move to Ecuador.
You’ll need to document EVERYTHING in case you have any issues with customs. Some countries like Ecuador require detailed shipping manifests that list every single item in every single box. We know one couple who had to unpack their entire shipping container and re-label every box because their manifest wasn’t detailed enough. Planning ahead will help you avoid their fate!
You may also want to store your household items back home while you get settled into your new home abroad. Then, once you’ve found a permanent place to live, you can have your container shipped directly to your long-term housing. Keep in mind that some countries have a time limit on how long you can wait to bring your household items before you must pay import taxes on them.
Some countries, such as Ecuador, don’t allow you to ship an automobile, so you may need to sell yours before you leave. You’ll get more money if you sell them outright, but that can take time and be an inconvenience. We sold my car through Cars.com several months before our move and got $8,000 more than the dealer purchase value. We didn’t have time to sell Amelia’s car, so we sold it to the dealer for several thousand dollars less than we could have sold it for outright. As a result, we were $5,000 upside down and had to take out a LendingClub.com loan to pay it off.
9. Moving to the New Country of Your Dreams
After buying your plane tickets, you might want to reserve a private driver to pick you up from the airport. If you haven’t finalized your long-term housing situation, make sure you have a place to stay when you arrive, such as a hotel or AirBnB.
Planning for Your Pets
If you have larger dogs, check with the airline for the details of flying with your pet. Some airlines don’t allow large dog crates anymore, so it’s important to check the company policies well in advance.
You’ll need to work with a USDA certified vet to document your pet’s vaccinations. Some people choose to find new homes for their pets, but that’s a really tough decision to make. Check out our Pet Travel video for more information.
With everything in order, and as your move date approaches, it’s time to say goodbye to your family and friends. You might want to help them install WhatsApp on their mobile phones since that’s a free way to stay in touch regardless of your expat destination.
Once you board the plane, sit back and get ready for the beginning of your new life abroad!
Moving to a New Country is an Incredible Experience
We’ve met people from every corner of the Earth here in Ecuador, and that has helped us gain a more holistic understanding of the world.
Once you live in a different country, with different customs and cultures, you gain a different perspective of your home country and the global community. It truly is a life-changing experience!
Watch Our Video About How to Move Abroad
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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!