While moving abroad for a new life is certainly exciting, the sheer amount of organisation, admin and logistics you’ll need to do first is not always so much fun.
Once you start listing the things to do, you keep adding more chores as they pop into your mind. To help you make sense of it all, here’s a handy countdown guide to tick off items from the moment you decide to go, to moving day itself.
The list is by no means exhaustive (exhausting, yes!), because everyone is different. But it covers all the key processes you need to undertake.
If you’re fretting or pulling your hair out at any stage, sit back for a moment, close your eyes, and imagine just how relaxed you’re going to be in your new home in France, Spain, Portugal or further afield.
One year from moving abroad
Although you’ve likely talked about it many times before, this time it’s for real: you’re buying property overseas and starting a new life.
If you plan on moving in a year, now is the time to start thinking about which country to move to. Think about the number of British expats locally who can help you, the cultural differences, the cost of property and the cost of living, local tax and legislation, and importantly how easy it is to get to from the UK.
Once you’ve settled on a country, start property hunting. Search online, then make arrangements to visit your preferred area to look at some dreamy new homes.
It’s wise not to buy on your first trip – you don’t want to make hasty decisions you could regret for a long time.
Six months from moving
Schedule a second visit to your preferred destination. You’ll see it in a different season and look at it as a resident, rather than as a holidaymaker. You’ve got to be happy in your new home all year round.
If you’ve found your ideal spot, and you know you have the financial backing to do so, put in an offer. First, though, check the formalities that you have the right to live and work in the country.
With a good following wind, the offer on your dream home will be accepted. Well done! Now the hard work starts. Find a local lawyer (your estate agent should be able to put you in touch with an English-speaking lawyer), who will, in turn, advise you of the deposit and banking requirements.
If you have property to sell in the UK, get the ball rolling now.
Three months before the big day
Assuming there have been no hitches, you should by now have got an agreed day of purchase, when you’ll be the legal owner of your new home.
Now the date is written in the diary; you can start putting your plans into action. These are just some of the big-ticket items at this stage:
Confirm your moving day with your estate agent, so arrangements can be made for your UK house sale, if applicable.
- Book an international removals company. Options will be limited, so ensure you give your preferred company as much notice as possible.
- If you plan to store many possessions, start making storage arrangements.
- Get yourself a local bank account in your new country. Research local and international banks to ensure you get the services you need. Some of the big banks even have specific accounts suitable for expats.
- Inform HMRC about your impending move to check what your taxation situation will be. You may still have property or other investments in the UK, in which case you’ll still need to pay tax here, together with your tax obligations abroad.
- You’ll still be entitled to your UK state pension, paid into your bank account abroad (presuming you have paid your National Insurance contributions). Inform the International Pension Centre and follow their guidelines. Your private pension should not be affected; you need to inform them about your new circumstances
- Give notice on your long-term contracts now, such as gym memberships, mobile phone contracts etc.
One month from lift off
If you’re taking your four-legged friends with you when moving abroad, then ensure they have the correct pet passport and vaccinations in place. Requirements for pets may vary from country to country.
Also, so long as you have been registered to vote in the UK at some point in the last 15 years, you should be able to register as an overseas voter.
With time running short, now is the time to make arrangements for farewell parties with your friends and relatives who are staying behind.
If you take medications, check now about having a supply to take with you, enough to tide you over while you register with a local doctor.
Two weeks until the move
Moving day is approaching rapidly. Check with your utility companies when you can supply meter readings for gas, electricity and water. The sooner you can do so, the quicker you can tick the items off the list. Because between now and waving goodbye, the less stress you have, the better.
Speak with the Royal Mail about forwarding your post, either to a trusted relative in the UK who can “sift it” for important mail and send bulk packages on to you. Or get everything sent on, but do you want to pay for all the junk mail to be forwarded abroad? Cancel your newspaper and milk deliveries.
Do you need to sell a car? Perhaps you have only one, and you’re driving it abroad (check insurance and license requirements). But if you have one to sell, do so now, so you make the deal and get the money in the bank, where it will come in useful with so many things needing sorting.
If you have a lease car, you should check the lead-in time required before handing the keys back.
One week to go. It’s getting real!
Start packing! Doing so calmly over several days ensures you have time to sift through your clothes and belongings, dumping, giving away or selling anything that you don’t want to take. Be realistic – you might not want to take three overcoats with you to the South of Spain, for example.
Get some local currency in cash. You’ll need it once you get to your new home, and this will be one less thing you have to worry about when you get there.
Enjoy your last few days in the UK, creating treasured memories of the life you’re leaving behind. So, go to your favourite restaurant one night, or spend an hour or two in your local pub, soaking up the atmosphere.
The night before moving abroad
Load up the car with everything you’ll be taking with you. Gather all your travel documents, including passports, in one file. Take a laptop or tablet with you, and keep it in a bag with a charger, as well as your mobile phone chargers, together with plug adaptors to use once you’re abroad.
Congratulations on making it this far. By reading this article, you’ve shown a desire to be organised, and all that hard work will pay off. Yes, moving day will be emotional, but you will have made things as stress-free as possible.
All that remains is to close your front door for the last time, lock up, and head off to the airport/ferry terminal/Channel Tunnel.
Now you can sit back, breathe out, and look forward to settling into your new home.
Download our Moving abroad checklist to help you manage the crucial elements of planning and keep your move stress free!