How to Move Abroad

Stages to Moving Abroad

Stage 1

Stage 2

Stage 3

Stage 4

Stage 5

Stage 6
Settling In

There’s no one way to move abroad, but expats all have to make some of the same choices (where, when, how) and take many of the same steps (find insurance, housing, movers). We think there are six stages to emigrating out of the U.S., and they’re not perfectly linear.

You may be getting ready for Stage 4: Paperwork and find that the available visas or your personal eligibility have changed. You may be in Stage 2: Exploration and decide that the countries you’ve scouted don’t feel like home. You may not want to wait for Stage 5: Logistics to Google new homes or Stage 6: Settling In to start learning your language.

Likewise, there’s no set timeline for making your move. Some people can complete all the steps in six months, others will need 20 years.

Read on to see what stage you’re in and find help along the way. Click the stage icons to jump to a section. (🤝 denotes an affiliate partner)

Need an at-home tool for working through the steps below? We love Amy the Expat’s Ultimate Moving Abroad Planner 🤝, which has worksheets, budget tools, checklists, and thought starters.


Dreaming of places you could go.


  • Assessing your wants and needs for a new country
  • Listing pros & cons, doing cost-benefit analysis
  • Reading articles and forums for inspiration
  • Brainstorming
  • Getting buy-in from family, friends, your therapist, your priest


Seeing the world and meeting other expats.


  • Taking scouting trips to your top destinations
  • Comparing regions and cities of your choice countries
  • Following social media accounts in places you’d like to move
  • Joining Reddit threads, Facebook groups, and forums to meet other immigrants



Bringing the dream into focus and taking steps to make it happen.


  • Creating a timeline for your move
  • Choosing the right path to residency: investor, skilled worker, remote worker, retirement, student, family/ancestry
  • Taking steps to meet eligibility requirements
    • Assessing your skills and assets
    • Saving/raising money
    • Finding a job (in-country or remote)
    • Applying to schools
    • Exploring your ancestry
  • Estimating a budget
    • Moving expenses
    • Rent
    • Transportation
    • Health insurance & medical expenses
    • Utilities
    • Daily expenses


Navigating the red tape is part of the process. If it were easy, everyone would do it.


  • Applying for residency/visa/citizenship
  • Applying for international banking
  • Applying for health insurance/universal health care
  • Planning for a car:
    • Driver’s license
    • Insurance
    • Regulations about buying vs. bringing your car
  • Bringing your pet:
    • Quarantining protocols
    • Shots & checkups
  • Understanding your tax liability



If you know the logic puzzle with the fox, the chicken, and the bag of grain, that’s what it’s like to move abroad.


  • If you own a home, decide whether to sell or rent it
  • Decide what else to sell, donate, or move
  • Create relocation plans for your belongings, yourself, and your pets
  • Gather important paperwork and medical records
  • Get packed!
  • Find trusted realtors, home finders, and attorneys in your new home
  • Find a place to live in the immediate term (often an Airbnb) and short term (we recommend renting before buying or building!)
  • Establish utilities
  • Find doctors and vets, make an emergency plan while you acclimate


Settling In

Doing all the things that make your new home feel like home.


  • Learn the language if you haven’t already
  • Socialize with locals and other immigrants
  • Learn your way around
  • Find shopping spots for what you need
  • Learn new cooking techniques
  • Enjoy local art, music, and sporting events


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