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The decision to relocate sets in motion a number of key events. One event that can quickly raise the level of stress in a transferee’s life is trying to physically and mentally plan and adapt to living and working in a new location. While there’s the expected stress of a new job and a new location, there’s also the stress of being separated from family and friends, as well as the reality of being removed from familiar surroundings for an uncertain length of time.

Thorough and timely preparation for your relocation is the key to ensuring that the entire complex process will proceed with as few problems as possible. With that in mind, expat essentials has compiled for you a comprehensive relocation checklist that covers a wide range of relocation types. You can rest assured that by carefully considering all the points in our checklist, you will have the best advice available. Keep in mind that while we suggest timeframes for action, many points can be initiated as soon as you confirm your move. Getting ahead of things is never a bad idea.

Moving Overseas as an Expat

As Soon As You Confirm

Renew your passport

It is a good idea to consider renewing your passport for yourself and your family before relocating, as you may find it very inconvenient to do so while abroad and the possibility exists that you may be an expat for longer than you initially anticipate.

Confirm export / import documents

If you are taking care of your own relocation, confirm which documents are necessary to export your belongings from your home country and import them into your new home in order to avoid any duties or taxes. This will not be a problem if you are using a relocation company, as they will take care of this for you.

Get an international driving licence

It is also a good idea to get an international driving license for yourself and your spouse or partner, as it will often be required in order to acquire a driving licence in a new country. They are also useful as a secondary form of identification in the event of an emergency.

Educate yourself and your family

Start with the books and websites recommended by this guide and then continue your research elsewhere on the Internet. Keep in mind that the value of what you find online can be dubious unless recommended by a trusted source. Information you find may also be out of date, as cities can change dramatically and quickly.

Colleagues already on assignment, as well as colleagues who have completed overseas assignments, can be a valuable source of information. When taking advice in this fashion, keep in mind that your source may have very different priorities and lifestyle preferences.

Check compatibility of your electrical devices

You may need converters for your laptops and appliances. Though they can usually be acquired at your destination, it is not something you want to find out as you try to charge your phone or laptop upon arrival.

Research schools

If you have children, start familiarising yourself with the available options for international schooling. Read our International Education pages, conduct supplementary research and then get in touch with admissions officers as early as possible. They will tell you which documents your child’s school will need to provide you for their application process. Collect these documents for all your children as soon as possible.





Confirm health care requirements

Read our pages on health care carefully. Get checkups, vaccinations and extra prescriptions, confirm your health insurance and get supplemental travel insurance if necessary. Speak to your doctor about medical records and ask if you will need to take them with you.

Make a plan for your family vehicle

Whether you will be storing, selling or, in the rare case, shipping your vehicle abroad, make the plan early. It is better to arrange the sale of your car a few weeks prior to departure and pay for a rental rather than sell at the last minute and be forced to accept a reduced sale price. If you plan to ship your vehicle, your relocation company will help you make the arrangements.

Two Months Out

Make the list

Decide what you will be taking and start making a master list. This will change as you get closer to departure with some things being added and some cut. Be aware of your budget and consult with your relocation company if you have questions about the volume of the goods you want to take.

Confirm insurance

Contact your insurance agent and confirm any changes to your insurance policies that are necessary due to your relocation.

Deal with memberships

Contact any organizations for which you have a paid membership and arrange to end, suspend, sell or transfer your membership prior to your departure.

Collect professional papers

Obtain officially authorized copies of degrees, professional certifications and reference letters. These may not be needed but you’ll be thankful you have them if they are. There are also some good options available for storage of your valuable documents.

Pre-move survey

Refer to our pre-move survey page and ask all the questions you need to know the answers to. This will ensure that you have no unwanted surprises during the moving process. Know the requirements, allowances and the risks. Knowing what to expect will reduce your stress level dramatically during the move. Knowledge is power… and, in this case, peace of mind.

Take care of your pet

Consult our pet relocation pages and start your preparations early.
Singapore Pet Relocation
Hong Kong Pet Relocation
China Pet Relocation

Plane tickets

Your company may be taking care of this for you but if they are not, it is a good idea to book early. Keep your tickets after arrival as customs may require them.

Car reservations

If you think you would like more flexibility during your look-see visit, then you might want to hire a driver. Our listings are a good place to start looking if your company is not providing you with the service.

Hotel reservations

During your Look-See Visit, choosing the right hotel in the right location will help you get the most out of your trip. If you have a period to wait while your belongings arrive, then a good hotel will also ease your transition.

Change your address

Our change of address checklist contains a list of organisations and companies that you should notify of your departure.

  • Post office
  • Financial institutions
  • Tax office
  • Insurance companies
  • Credit card companies
  • Motor vehicle office
  • Schools
  • Social security
Lodge documents for ease of access/safekeeping

Documents such as deeds, titles, policies, guarantees, receipts, wills, powers of attorney, marriage/birth certificates and original copies of degrees and professional certifications should be securely stored prior to departure. Keep in mind that while a safe deposit box will ensure security, you will not have access to it while abroad.

  • Medical
  • Dental
  • School
  • Birth
  • Marriage
  • Bank
  • Insurance
  • Passport
  • Visas
  • Driving licence
  • International driving licence
  • Diploma and CV
  • Shipping inventory
  • Extra passport photos
Open an offshore bank account

Many expatriates consider an offshore bank account an absolute must. Refer to our pages on financial preparations for advice.

One Month Out

Start cleaning

It’s a good idea to have your carpets, curtains and linens cleaned before you leave. There are numerous modern storage solutions that will ensure your bedding remains fresh for your return home.


A move is a good opportunity to get rid of all the stuff that you don’t need. Your local charity will be more than happy to stop by and pick up the unused items in your house.

One Week Out

Continue cleaning

Cleaning and oiling bicycles and garden tools will ensure that they work well when you return. All lawn mowers and other engine-driven machines should have their gasoline removed as it will congeal over time and cause damage.

Contact details

Deliver intermediate contact details to your friends and relatives for the hotel you are staying at during your move.

Make your valued inventory list

All those items that would cause a serious problem if lost need to be confirmed and packaged appropriately.

Confirm all reservations

Confirm all airline and hotel (etc.) reservations at least one week in advance to ensure adequate time to make alternate arrangements if necessary.

Reserve a parking spot for the moving crew

If you live on a busy street, reserve a parking spot for the moving crew to ensure that the move proceeds on schedule and without interruption.

Arrange care for children and pets on moving day

Moving day will be chaotic enough without having to make sure that kids and pets are safe and not under the feet of the movers. If you arrange a caregiver to take the children overnight and on a fun outing on moving day, it will alleviate some of the stress they may be feeling and help make the process smoother.

Discontinue any regular deliveries

Regular deliveries of newspapers, magazines, groceries, etc. should be cancelled. If there are magazines that you wish to continue subscribing to, you can inquire as to whether they ship abroad to your new location.

Give away plants and perishable/non-perishable foods

In the case of non-perishable foods, your local food bank would be a good place to donate.

Identify airfreight items

Depending on the arrangement you have with your relocation company, your shipment may arrive some time after you do. If this is the case, shipping some essential items that will not be travelling with you might be in order. Make sure to identify those items and make a list.

Two Days Out

Prepare your luggage

Take into account the weather in your new location for the time of year when you will arrive.

Dry out kitchen appliances and clean fridge

If you are shipping kitchen appliances, start drying them out to avoid mildew that will accumulate during the shipping process.

Food for the crew

Prepare some drinks and snacks for the moving crew as it will make the process go smoother.

Moving Day

Store critical items

Make sure all important documents and items such as passports, plane tickets, keys, computers, etc., are all in a safe location on moving day to ensure that the movers don’t accidentally take them as well.

Brief foreman

Take the moving crew foreman around your house and explain to them what needs to be moved and any special requests that you have. Do this again once they are finished to make sure nothing was left behind.

Sign and get a copy of the packing inventory

This will prevent any confusion when you take delivery of your shipment.

Record all utility meter readings

Pack the readings with your important documents.

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