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The Ultimate Guide to Moving Abroad

Martha Lott

Written by

2nd Aug 2017 (Last updated on 9th Jun 2023) 9 minute read

Moving abroad requires a lot of planning, consideration and budgeting to ensure a smooth and efficient process. There can be a lot to do including finding a job, choosing an international removal company and understanding new laws.

Whether you’re upheaving the entire family or moving abroad alone, we’ve got everything you need to know in our ultimate guide to moving abroad.

  1. Which Country Should You Move To?
  2. Costs of Moving Abroad
  3. Buying a Home Abroad
  4. Jobs and Visas
  5. Moving Your Items Abroad
  6. Currency Transfers
  7. Taxes
  8. Money and Banking
  9. Healthcare
  10. Moving Children Abroad
  11. Moving Pets Abroad
  12. Driving Abroad
  13. Voting From Overseas
  14. Will Brexit Affect Your International Move?
  15. Compare International Removal Companies

Which Country Should You Move To?

According to our research, the most popular locations for British expats are Spain, the USA, France and Australia.

It’s recommended that you visit the country a few times before deciding. You’ll need to assess whether the area you’ve selected will meet your needs and budget. Look at the local amenities such as schools, stores and healthcare facilities, as well as the local laws and entry requirements.

Read blogs and articles, such as our best places to live in Spain and Moving to Spain After Brexit. You can also visit expat forums to speak to people that have already made the move.

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Costs of Moving Abroad

Planning a long-distance move abroad will inevitably cost you. There are the flights, visas and, of course, the price of your new property. As a baseline, know that the average cost of buying a house in the UK is £35,570. This is without the additional fees and costs that you’ll have to factor in when moving abroad.

Here are just some of the additional costs you must budget for:

  • Shipping furniture overseas costs
  • Removal costs
  • Packing materials
  • Import taxes
  • Flight or train tickets
  • International bank transfer fees
  • Annual property tax
  • Income tax
  • Education costs

According to our research, the average international removals cost is £2,997 for a 40ft shipping container, £260 for air freight per 100kg, and £265 for road freight per pallet.

Buying a Home Abroad

The process of buying a house can vary depending on which country you’re moving to.

It’s advised that you visit the home you’re planning on buying before committing. If this isn’t possible, you could think about renting first, just so you can be sure it’s what you want.

You shouldn’t just rely on pictures as you may be disappointed if there are hidden problems such as the home being smaller than it appears. You’ll also want to see if the area suits you and your needs too.

It’s also imperative that you find a reputable estate agent and experienced conveyancer. Preferably those who are English Speaking should you require it.

Jobs and Visas

Applying for a visa can be one of the most stressful tasks when moving abroad. However, if you research the process thoroughly and stay organised, you’ll ensure a much smoother experience.

Check with the country’s official government website to see what supporting documents you will need for your application. It can take up to 2 years to complete the process and receive your visa so make sure you’re efficient with your time.

According to HSBC’s latest Expat Explorer report, 74% of expats increase their income in their chosen country. If you want to work abroad, you need to be sponsored by your workplace or have a skill which is needed in the specific country. You must consider the language barriers and ensure you have the relevant experience. Also, make sure your qualifications are recognised.

The working visa requirements will vary depending on the country’s regulations. To fill in the visa applications, visit the embassy or website of the nation you intend on moving to. Once your application has been processed, your visa will be mailed to you within 2 weeks to 2 months and can be attached to your passport.

For more information, read all you need to know about visas.

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Moving Your Items Abroad

When thinking about international removals, here are some of the shipping options you have to choose from:

  • Shipping freight
  • Part-load
  • Road freight
  • Air freight

Sea freight is the most common and cost-effective way to transport your items abroad. You can opt for 20ft or 40ft containers, or instead, share a container with others - this is called Part-load. However, the average 2-3 bedroom home will need a 20ft shipping container. Whilst sea freight is an eco-friendly option, it does typically take longer.

Road freight will not always be an option when moving abroad. However, if you’re moving to a European country, you will often have this opportunity due to the many road connections.

Air freight is useful if you need to move your stuff quickly, although this comes at a higher price. The final cost will be determined by weight, which is why sea freight is usually seen as cheaper.

You'll want to choose a reliable and trustworthy international removals company. If they're a member of FIDI or BAR Overseas Moving Group, this can help.

Currency Transfers

You will likely have to exchange a large sum into a new currency and you may also have to regularly transfer money to the UK.

Look out for an experienced foreign currency broker to make your transfer abroad easier. They can often charge lower fees and offer better exchange rates than your British bank.

When you do eventually move overseas, don’t assume that the exchange rates will stay the same. You can protect yourself against currency fluctuations by fixing the rate with a forward contract for up to 24 months.


The tax you’re required to pay varies from place to place. Some countries tax as family units and some have up to 6 tax brackets.

You might think that the tax seems low in some places but always keep in mind that when something seems too good to be true, it’s usually because it is. Low tax often means that you also need to pay for health insurance which all adds up. It’s advised that you get expert advice ahead of moving abroad.

Don’t forget to notify HMRC that you are leaving the UK or you could end up paying extra. Get a P85 from Revenue and Customs, fill it out and return it before your moving date.

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Money and Banking

It’s advised that you apply for your new bank account 3 months before you move. You can also get your pension paid into an overseas account.

It’s a good idea to keep your bank account in the UK open, especially if you’re still paying out for things in the UK such as a mortgage or university fees.


Depending on where you’re moving, you might be expected to pay into some other national healthcare scheme other than the NHS.

However, it’s likely you’ll need to register with local authorities before being entitled to healthcare. This will need to be well researched before you decide where you’re moving to.

Moving Children Abroad

There are a lot more factors to consider when moving abroad with children. You need to be sure that your child will get a decent standard of education and that they’ll be comfortable in the new location. Most schools will be free to attend but there can be fees involved in putting your children into an international school.

There will also be a lot of paperwork to complete before the move. When securing a place at a new school, you will need:

  • Your child’s birth certificate
  • Passports
  • Visa
  • References
  • Proof of vaccinations
  • Data from the previous school in the UK

When moving abroad, it’s also important that you help your children to stay in touch with family and friends back in the UK. Skype and other video messaging apps will be essential when they feel homesick.

For more information, read moving house with children.

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Moving Pets Abroad

Prior to your travels, pets will need to be microchipped and have rabies vaccinations at least 30 days before arriving in the country. You should also obtain a ‘Fit to Fly’ certificate from your vet as near as possible to the day of departure.

Some countries such as the USA will require a Pet Passport and for your cat or dog to be microchipped before entering. If you’re moving to the UAE, it’s recommended that you consult with a pet transportation service or customs broker in the UAE. These professionals will arrange the import permit from the Ministry of Agriculture UAE.

Lufthansa, KLM and Iberia are the primary airlines that carry pets as ‘excess baggage’, where they will be placed in the livestock hold. This area is specifically for animals and will be pressurised and heated.

Other airlines may require you to check in pets as cargo. Whilst this has a different process, they will ultimately be stowed away in the same heated and pressurised conditions.

For more information, read moving abroad with pets.

Driving Abroad

If you’re a driver, you’re going to want to think about what it will take for you to legally drive in the country you’re moving to. You will need to consider the local driving laws and regulations as well as the driving licence requirements.

It can sometimes be as simple as getting an international driving permit from the post office. Having this permit as well as your UK driving licence is often enough but some countries will require you to apply for a local driving licence as well.

Voting From Overseas

If you’re still a UK citizen, you can vote in UK Elections for up to 15 years after you leave. However, you will need to register to vote from overseas.

You can follow the UK government’s advice on their website to complete this process.

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Will Brexit Affect Your International Move?

If you’re moving to a country within Europe, you will now be required to apply for a visa even as a British expat. British citizens can still move around the EU, but they are now restricted to a total of 90 days period without a visa.

To access state-funded healthcare in Europe, you will also need to register as a resident in the country. If you’re not living in the country permanently, you will instead need a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). If you cannot apply for state-funded healthcare, consider purchasing international healthcare insurance.

Due to the impact of Brexit and the pandemic, you may find it more difficult to apply for jobs abroad. Most companies are now looking locally rather than internationally. However, with the introduction of working remotely, employers may now be more flexible.

Compare International Removal Companies

Before choosing a removals company, don’t forget to compare international removal quotes to ensure you’re connected with the best in the business. Compare My Move will match you with up to 6 verified removal companies, helping you save up to 70% on your moving costs.

Our UK’s 10 Best International Movers and Packers article features our top partners that can help you with your move, narrowing down your options immediately.

Martha Lott

Written by Martha Lott

Having guest authored for many property websites, Martha now researches and writes articles for everything moving house related, from remortgages to conveyancing costs.

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