Generally, the reasons for moving can be either because you are studying or starting a new career. No matter what, moving to a different country is an enormous step for anyone. It’s one thing to fantasize about the idea, but it takes some guts to go all the way with it.
Moving abroad involves some practicalities which need to be taken care of in order to embrace the brand new resident status that you are aiming for. Having only just arrived, it can be overwhelming to deal with all the stuff that is required of you - especially if you don’t know the repose of the new place yet. So, we have put together a practical checklist to keep under your pillow for a good night's sleep.
1. Visa requirements
The first thing you need to do when moving to a different country is to make sure that you can legally be there. This step involves contacting the immigration office and ask if you need to apply for a visa and most important, what type of visa. There are multiple differences between the types of visa you can obtain depending on the country and your reason for moving.
For example, a tourist visa will allow you to reside for a short period time without the possibility to access a doctor unless you have a traveling insurance, while a student or a work visa allows you to stay for a longer period of time and includes a certain number of facilities that you can access, like housing and doctors. On the other hand, there are situations when you won’t need a visa, a good example being EU citizens who keep their residency within the European Union.
2. Social security number
Once you have the legal right to settle down in your new country you must obtain a social security number. Registering for a social security number is normally how you let the system of that country know “Hello, I am here”. Moreover, in some states, the social security number gives you access to all kinds of facilities like doctors or libraries.
Depending on the country, getting a social security number usually requires a visit to the immigration office where you have to fill in some papers and hand in id-photos of yourself, however, people working there should be able to guide you through the steps.
Along with getting a social security number you also have to take care of finding a roof over your head to stack your things and start a new chapter of your life. Depending on the place, the housing hunt may be a bit of a rough awakening.
Every country has a different system of renting accommodation and sometimes it requires signing up for waiting lists, and it can take forever to find an apartment. However, every problem has an alternative solution so don’t lose faith if this step takes longer than you expected.
Remember to stick to specialized websites which verify the landlords and avoid as much as possible Facebook where a lot of the rental ads are sadly just scams.
Once you have a legal status in your new country and a place to live, regardless if it’s temporary or not, the next step is to find yourself a doctor. Keep in mind that moving away from home may affect your health, it may be the different climate, a different diet or simply stress induced by homesickness, so don’t put off signing up for a doctor.
Again, depending on the country’s healthcare system, social security numbers may include the benefit of having a doctor. If not, check your alternatives with the immigration office. They should give you information on whether you need a new insurance or just an upgrade to the one you currently have.
5. Local language
Even though English is a global language to work your way around with, for some of the countries you may have to learn the local language. If you are not familiar with that, then sign up for language classes. Although in the beginning, the chances of locals understanding what you’re saying are pretty low, being together with people that are in the same situation as you will make it easier to practice. And you might make some new friends too!
Even before leaving your home country you can already start practicing with the help of language apps like Duolingo or Babbel. Another great tool for practicing the language is to read local newspapers or magazines. They are nothing fancy but it’s a useful manner to find out what’s going on around town, see what the horoscope has prepared for you or play a sudoku if you are bored. If you don’t want to pay for this at first then you can always pick freebies up at big supermarkets or around the train stations.
6. Bank accounts
In order to be able to receive salary and pay taxes, it is advised to open a bank account at a national bank even if you still have one in your home country. Before going to the first bank you see do a bit of research and ask around which bank offers the best deals and accounts. Some of them have special offers for students, others have profitable packages for salaries. Usually, locals or other expatriates are very helpful with this information
Make sure you are reachable on a phone number that doesn’t require you to pay extra roaming fees. Take a tour around the telecommunication shops around town and ask for offers. It is common in most countries to own a mobile phone these days, therefore companies have really good deals for subscriptions that allow you to make calls and use the Internet at the same time. Remember that subscriptions require you to sign a contract which usually is created based on your social security number and post address. Until everything settles down you can always buy a prepaid card with a temporary number.
If you don’t have a car the moment you move, knowing your way around public transport is a must. This mostly includes buses and trains. Visit the websites of the local traffic companies and take a look at the prices so you can have an idea how much traveling around will cost you. In case you will have to commute, this information is crucial for you.
Some of the countries are bike friendly so signing up for Facebook groups will help you to find out where to buy second-hand bikes if you don’t want to invest too much.
9. Cultural and social events
Last but not least, you should attend cultural and social events as much as you can. This way you get to meet new people and learn about their customs and traditions. Of course, you don’t want to be lonely and the more you put yourself out there, the higher are the chances of finding new friends. To find such events or people, who share your interests, you can look on local Facebook groups or on networking websites such as Meetup or InterNations.
Going out helps with getting accustomed to the new environment - which at the beginning can be harder than it looks. Universities are also good spots to find out about events around town. Even if you are not studying, paying a visit to the local student watering holes might be a good idea to get in touch with people.