How to prepare for a move abroad during the coronavirus pandemic

If you are reading this, chances are you are one of the hundreds of thousands of people around the world who were planning a move abroad before the coronavirus pandemic put a kibosh on your plans.

Before you sink down into a well of depression though, try not to worry about the delay moving overseas too much.

Instead, spend the time while countries’ borders are closed, planes aren’t flying and some people are still in lockdown preparing for your move abroad.

That way, once borders open and people can actually leave their homes without social distancing and having to wear masks, you will have your entire move planned out and can then start making flight reservations.

Start with these things and, once you get to your new country, you could end up being one of the most well-prepared expats to ever arrive there.

Hallstatt is one of the most beautiful places in Austria

Choose the country

While that might seem an obvious thing to do, you might be surprised to know many people do want to move abroad but have not always narrowed down the country they will move to.

Take me, for instance — someone who has lived in the United Kingdom, United States, Thailand, Malaysia and Austria.

I am probably going to leave my current country of Austria next year as it feels too small and too conservative for me but, as yet, I have not narrowed down the country I want to move to.

It could be Spain, Taiwan or Japan, or I may move back to Thailand — the country I have lived in the longest in the last 30 years.

You might be the same.

If so, spend some time researching each country you are interested in moving to once the coronavirus pandemic is over and create lists of all the pros and cons of each. You can find some hints on how to choose the best country for your specific needs on Moving Overseas here.

Once you have actually chosen a country, do the same again with cities within that country. That way, once the coronavirus pandemic is over, you can immediately book your flight and know exactly where you will be flying to.

Research required visas and work permits

Once  you know the country you want to move to after the coronavirus pandemic, your next step should be to research the process you will have to follow to get the correct visas/work permit for that specific country.

Some countries like Thailand, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Paraguay, Montenegro and Mexico all make it pretty easy for would-be expats to apply for visas and move there.

Others make it far more difficult.

Check out the website of the embassy or consulate of the country you wish to move to for its specific requirements, or head to the country’s Immigration Department site. (You’ll find Thailand’s here, for instance)

You should also be able to contact embassy/consulate staff for more information via the site as, even during the coronavirus, some consulates and embassies are still staffed.

Research and apply for jobs

While it can be difficult to apply for jobs in a new country during the coronavirus pandemic, if you are not moving to a new country to start a job, you can begin to research the type of job you would like to do, as well as find out what a typical salary for that position would be in your new country.

Look at job boards in that country, read forums targeting expats in that country, check out Reddit as that site tends to have sub-reddits for most countries and can be a huge help when looking for a job.

Then work on your international CV and cover letter (what is required does vary from country to country — All About Careers has information on that) so you are ready to apply as soon as the coronavirus lockdowns begin to end, and available job listings begin to pop up online.

You can even take photos of yourself while stuck at home, so you have an appropriate photograph ready for any employer that requests one (and yes, in many countries, it is mandatory to include a photograph along with your CV).

Some Bangkok neighborhoods would be more appropriate for your needs than others — Photo by Road Trip with Raj on Unsplash

Research neighborhoods

Once you have decided on a country and a city, check out specific neighborhoods in that city.

Every neighborhood is different as they offer varied prices for apartments and houses, have different atmospheres, tend to attract different kinds of people and even have completely different things to do. Some are also much more interesting and attractive areas to live in than others, and some are closer to shopping areas, transportation and other amenities than others.

Make a list of things that are important to you when it comes to a neighborhood to live in, and then try to find one in that city that hits most of your needs.

Check out apartments/houses

Of course, you will need somewhere to live once you arrive and having an apartment or a house in mind can be helpful.

Spend your time trapped in your home country during the coronavirus pandemic looking at apartments and houses in your new country. You should be able to find a slew of websites offering apartment and house rentals or sales.

From a couple of hours browsing them, you can learn what average rents or apartment or house prices are in your new country. You can also make a list of apartments or houses you would like to check out when you get there.

You may even be able to contact real estate agents to set up preliminary home viewing dates once the pandemic lockdowns are over, and you have finally arrived in your new city.

Moving or shipping companies

If you will be moving a house or apartment full of furniture and personal belongings, you will need to find an international moving company that can do that.

If you are just sending a couple of boxes, you will need a shipping company that can do it in the time frame you need.

Again, there probably is not much you can do as far as shipping boxes or arranging a house or apartment move during the coronavirus lockdowns.

After all, there is so much uncertainty as to when international flights will resume, you cannot feasibly arrange a move or a shipment when you do not have a firm date of arrival yourself.

That being the case, however, you can still research companies and ask for free quotes for the things you need to move or ship. Then, when lockdowns are over and international flights have commenced again, you can make the final arrangements and finally kickoff your move abroad.

Research schools

If you have children that will be moving with you, and you have not yet made arrangements for their new school, you will discover many schools nowadays have a strong Internet presence.

If they do, they also have a huge amount of information about their school online. Spending a few hours looking at several sites while you are in coronavirus lockdown will allow you to put some schools on a short list and eliminate some others. (This is Thailand’s best international school, for instance).

If you plan on moving to Japan, Taiwan, Denmark, Sweden or several other countries that are not now in a coronavirus lockdown, you should also be able to contact each school for even more information.

Travel insurance

You will also need travel insurance for the journey and the first couple of months living there.

Most travel insurance companies have websites with different types of policies listed. Compare various policies before making a decision, and make sure any policy you choose would cover you for lost or stolen luggage, and for both medical expenses and emergency repatriation if injured or ill.

After all, while you may be desperate to settle down in your new country, if you were to become seriously ill or injured, it is not likely you would want to remain there during the first few months as you would not have the type of support system you probably have in your home country.

Just be aware, many travel insurance companies are not covering trip cancellations or medical problems due to the coronavirus.

If your trip could be canceled if a second wave of coronavirus hits, or if other things could occur that would cause you to lose money, make sure you take out travel insurance with a company covering coronavirus-related problems.

Batu Caves is just one of the awesome places you can visit from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Plan trips

Once you have all the basic things researched for your move abroad during the coronavirus, spend some time researching and planning trips in and around the city you will be moving to.

Every country has amazing and unique things to see, and it would be nice to already know what is in your new city and what are the top 10 places you would enjoy visiting first.

Here are 20 awesome things you can do in Tokyo, Japan for instance, or 15 cool things to do in Barcelona, Spain.

Keep up-to-date on lockdowns

Finally, keep an eye on lockdowns in the country you will be moving to along with what restrictions are likely to be in place when you get there.

This could be the mandatory wearing of masks when entering shops and public transportation (Austria), strict social distancing (Thailand) or even restrictions on how often you can walk your dog or do daily exercise yourself (Spain).

Lockdowns and restrictions are fluid and changing often, so check every day.

By keeping up with the latest governmental mandates, you will know both when is the right time to move to your new country and how you will be required to behave when you get there.

Michelle Topham