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documents - Moving Abroad Tip #3

Documents – Moving Abroad Tip #3

Moving Abroad Tip #3: Don’t forget your important papers

So, you’ve made the decision and you’re ready to move abroad. Have you thought about what documents you will need to obtain residency in your country of choice?

We have and we were surprised at what we found. First, of course you’ll need your standard list of papers (have originals available), like:

  • Passport
  • Driver license
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate
  • Drug prescriptions
  • Health records

Moving Abroad Tip #3 - DocumentsThat’s all common and you need those most places when you move, even back home. But did you know that many countries require criminal background checks for residency? Or that your documents have to be apostilled before they can be used abroad? If you don’t know what that means, simply put it is a certification for legal documents for international use. See more info at: http://www.state.gov/m/a/auth/c16921.htm

I recently learned that in order to get residency in some of the countries we’re considering, we’ll need some or all the following additional documentation:

  1. FBI criminal background checks
  2. Apostilled FBI reports
  3. All official documents – apostilled
  4. Wills and other official U.S. documents – notarized in our future country (in order to be recognized and legal).
  5. Proof of a “lifetime pension” or perpetual regular income.
  6. If you don’t have a pension, you will likely have to opt for another type of residency. Many of them require investment or/or purchase of real estate, for example see my post on Panama’s visa requirements.
  7. Medical health check – usually for folks over a certain age but also to obtain medical insurance.

So, it is good to plan ahead and find out what the requirements are in your new country. You don’t want to have to spend money on airline tickets to fly back home just to get a few documents you need. For example, to get an FBI criminal background check, you’ll have to be fingerprinted by U.S. law enforcement – can’t do that long distance.

Another thing to consider is wills and advanced directives. In case of an emergency, will your living will be recognized in your new country? Don’t forget that the laws will be different. It’s best to take care of this before you actually have an emergency event. I’m guessing you wouldn’t want the government of your new country making medical decisions on your behalf.

Have you asked yourself why many countries require a lifetime pension or monetary investment for residency? It’s really quite simple: they don’t want you to become a drain on their social security system and they don’t want you to take jobs away from the local population. It makes sense to me. Costa Rica, for example, already has a problem with illegal migration from Nicaragua; it is putting a heavy strain on their social security infrastructure.

I know that many say that you can be a “perpetual tourist” and simply leave the country and come back to reset your tourist visa time. Even though many people already do this, some countries are becoming wise to this trick and if you get caught they may deport you and bar you from reentering for a period of five years or more. That would really suck if you’ve already moved all of your stuff into an apartment (with a lease you still have to pay) that you can no longer visit.

So, moral of the story and my moving abroad tip #3: do your research. Find out what documents you will need to legally remain in your new country. And collect them BEFORE you move.

You may also like our posts on Moving Abroad Checklist and Six Lies About Moving Abroad.


Photo credit to Graeme Weatherston at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

About Joanna

is a Polish American living in Arizona with her husband Tim. She is a founding partner of JTR Tech and she is proud to be a professional geek. She had dreamt of living abroad for many years. So, she and Tim created AbroadDreams.com to document the process of making their dream of moving abroad come true. They spent 2 years in Puerto Rico and several months in Spain and Poland. Now they are exploring the American Southwest.

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  1. What a great post. My wife, Kate and I are planning a similar retirement to you guys. We are looking forward to our first scouting trip to Mexico next month. I thought we knew most of what there was to know about the paperwork aspect of moving overseas. We already went through a move from our native UK to the States over 14 years ago. This obviously involved a ton of paperwork we had to gather to gain permanent residency. However, the FBI apostilled FBI reports you discovered is a really good tip.

    Good luck with your continued research and your scouting trip to Panama. Kate and I will be following your adventures with interest.