If you are planning on moving abroad rather than simply buying a holiday home abroad, there are a number of practical issues to consider. On this page you will find an ultimate "Moving abroad checklist" that you can use as a guide.
Table of Contents
- 1 Residence and tax liability
- 2 Transferring money outside the euro zone
- 3 Pensions
- 4 Social security (including health insurance) | Moving abroad (within the EEA or Switzerland)
- 4.1 Moving abroad to a country outside the EEA and Switzerland
- 4.2 Moving to and working in an EEA Member State or Switzerland
- 4.3 Moving from one EEA Member State to another as a pensioner/invalid person
- 5 Health care - Moving abroad checklist
- 6 The logistics of moving abroad
- 7 Schools (for people with children) - Moving abroad checklist
- 8 Registering and driving a car
- 9 Estate planning | Moving abroad checklist
- 10 (De)registration | Moving abroad
- 11 Additional information on foreign real estate
Residence and tax liability
If you move permanently to another country, you will become a resident and taxpayer of this country.
The rules on residence and tax liability are complicated, and even within a European Union there is no harmony at all between the Member States.
Countries have different criteria for determining whether a person is a resident and a taxpayer... And so it is possible to be considered a taxpayer by two countries at the same time.
So the advice is very simple:
Get professional tax advice before you move!
In this way, you will be armed with tips and advice and can avoid misery in the future! Moreover, you can also immediately experience a tangible benefit from taking advice from a tax expert... Tax optimisation and a lower tax bill!
For example, the timing of the effective move can play a role in tax optimisation. In other words, a good timing of moving can reduce the bill of taxes to be paid!
In any case, it is best to contact a company that specialises in providing international tax advice to expats and companies.
Transferring money outside the euro zone
If you move to a country outside the euro zone, you should certainly not underestimate the impact of the exchange rate.
You will have to convert your euros into the currency of your new country. This is in order to be able to buy (or rent) real estate, to make day-to-day payments, to use your pension benefits, and so on.
Depending on the size of the amount, the frequency of transfers and the state of the exchange rate, this can cost or yield many thousands of euros.
We made a comprehensive report about it, including tips and advice on how to get the best exchange rate!
Be sure to read this comprehensive exchange report if you do not feel like being squeezed like a lemon! Without a doubt, a valuable reference in addition to this ultimate moving abroad checklist!
If you are already retired, you are currently receiving pension benefits. This is the case, for example, when you have built up your pension rights in your home country during your active career.
But it may also be that the end of your active career is near and that you are already planning for the future. Maybe you already have a plan to enjoy the sun somewhere in the south as a pensioner...
For example, as a citizen of the European Union, you have the right to live in another country of the European Union.
Types of pension rights | Moving abroad
It is possible that your pension rights consist of several components:
The statutory pension is calculated on the basis of the professional career. Everyone who has worked in the European Economic Area (abbreviated to EEA: all Member States of the European Union, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) and in Switzerland is entitled to such a pension.
So your statutory pension may be paid by different countries (from the EEA and Switzerland). This is the case when you have been professionally active in each of these countries for at least one year. You will have paid social security contributions and consequently have acquired pension rights.
Depending on your specific professional activity, one or more statutory pension schemes apply to you:
- The statutory pension system for employees (private sector). This system applies to you if you have worked in the private sector.
- The statutory pension system for government employees (public sector employees). This system applies to you if you have worked as a civil servant for the government.
- The statutory pension system for the self-employed. This scheme is applicable if you have been self-employed during your professional career.
Of course, you can also fall into several systems at once!
This is possible if you have been an employee in the private sector and/or a civil servant in the public sector and/or self-employed during your professional career.
This is a pension to supplement the statutory pension. Such a supplementary pension is built up in connection with your professional activity.
For example, you can build up capital with a financial institution through your employer (group insurance through the employer).
Once you reach retirement age, the financial institution pays out this capital and you can reinvest it or simply use it to live off.
Individual pension savings plan
An individual pension savings plan is also a supplementary pension to the statutory pension. This is a voluntary scheme whereby, during (part of) your active career, you annually deposit part of your income in an individual pension savings plan at a financial institution.
Thus, you build up an additional pension independently and individually. It is a kind of personal life insurance.
Cross-border pension issues
Here are the types of accrued pension rights. But what about pension rights you have accumulated in one or more countries during your active career?
There is simply no simple answer to this question. Contact a tax expert to find out everything... Make no mistake: Cross-border pension issues are no laughing matter.
Let an expert assist you in finding answers to important questions such as:
- "How much is the statutory pension to which I am entitled and how much is the statutory pension from each country in the EEA and Switzerland where I have worked for at least one year?"
- "What costs will be deducted when my supplementary and individual pension savings are released? Exactly how much will the insurance company pay me, and how much tax will I owe on these capital sums, both in my home country and in my new country?"
- "How will my statutory pension be taxed in my new country of residence? Is my civil service pension taxed differently from my employee and/or self-employed pension?" You may have had a mixed career as a civil servant and an employee. The tax treatment differs depending on the applicable double tax treaty!
- "Am I still entitled to my widow's or widower's pension after I move?"
- "I am about to retire abroad. In which country should I apply for my pension now that I am about to retire?"
- "What is the ideal age to retire? The different countries of the EEA and Switzerland have different retirement ages. I want to know how I can receive the highest possible pension!"
- "As a beneficiary of a pension from my home country, am I exempt from payroll withholding tax in my home country?" Again, it depends on the double tax treaty in question!
Your health care rights may change as a result of you moving abroad. You should therefore find out what rights you will have in your new country of residence.
Health is priceless, so it is particularly important to find out what your rights and obligations are!
The rights you will have and possibly retain depend on two things:
- Your situation (professional activity or no professional activity), and
- The country where you are going to live (whether or not you are moving to a country of the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland.
Indeed, this means that your nationality has no influence whatsoever!
Concretely, we can distinguish three relocation scenarios with different consequences for your social rights:
- Moving to a country that is not a member of the EEA or Switzerland
- Moving to and working in an EEA Member State or Switzerland
- Moving to an EEA Member State or Switzerland as pensioner/invalid person
Moving abroad to a country outside the EEA and Switzerland
Are you moving to a country that is not part of the EEA and is also not Switzerland?
In this scenario, it does not matter whether you are going to be professionally active there or living as a pensioner/invalid.
You are automatically considered as a socially insured person of your new country of residence. You pay social security contributions if you work there professionally and you build up pension rights.
Find out what you are entitled to on the social security website of the country concerned. Certain gaps in rights and coverage can be filled with
- Local or international hospitalisation insurance
- The construction of a supplementary pension through an employer or privately
Moving to and working in an EEA Member State or Switzerland
Are you moving to and working as an employee, civil servant or self-employed person in an EEA Member State or in Switzerland?
In this case, you automatically become a socially insured person in your new country of residence.
You pay social contributions there, you build up pension rights and this country will be the only country competent for your health insurance.
Moving from one EEA Member State to another as a pensioner/invalid person
When you move as a pensioner or disabled person to a country of the EEA or to Switzerland, two scenarios are possible.
Scenario 1 - You do not receive a pension/disability benefit from your new country of residence
You move as a pensioner/invalid to another Member State of the EEA or to Switzerland where you have never been professionally active.
In other words, you have not acquired any social rights (such as pension rights) in the past in your new country of residence. Consequently, you are not entitled to a pension or any other income such as disability benefits.
In such a case, you will only enjoy pension rights in other countries, most probably in your home country (because you have worked here in the past).
As a result, as a foreign pensioner, you will continue to enjoy all your rights to the health care system of your home country!
In other words, as a foreign pensioner you can live in another member state of the EEA or in Switzerland and still keep your health care coverage at the expense of your home country!
You can then decide at any time to return to your home country and be cared for there! You have that right.
In this scenario, you always have the choice between two countries to take care of you! Either you return to your home country where you have built up your social rights in the past, or you allow yourself to be treated in the country where you live.
It is not the case that you have to return to your home country every time to be cared for! You can do that but it is not an obligation.
In practice, you request a document from your foreign health insurance institution that you can give to your health insurance institution in your new country of residence.
This document ensures that your new country of residence grants you the right to all care under the same conditions as those applicable to your own insured persons.
Attention! If you are planning to receive care in a country other than your home country, you must request permission from your health insurance institution in your home country (or from your health insurance institution in your country of residence) beforehand.
In any case, contact your health insurance institutions in such cases!
If you are travelling abroad (to an EEA country or to Switzerland), ask for a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
This card gives you the right to medical care within the public health system of the country you are visiting. You can apply for this card at the health insurance institution of which you are a member.
Scenario 2 - You do get a pension/disability benefit from your new country of residence
You move as a pensioner/invalid to another member state of the EEA where you were professionally active for at least one year during your professional career.
You have therefore built up social rights (such as pension rights) and you receive (part of) your pension from this country's treasury.
In such a case, you are considered as socially insured in your new country. Your original insurability in your home country is discontinued. This also applies to cases where your new country of residence pays out only part of your total pension/disability benefits.
When travelling within the EEA or Switzerland, you are entitled to medically necessary assistance within the public health system via a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). You can apply for this card at the health insurance agency of your new country of residence.
Attention! Such a European Health Insurance Card is not an alternative to international hospitalisation insurance. This card does not guarantee that you will be helped free of charge.
The only guarantee you have is that you will receive care under the same conditions and at the same cost (free in some countries) as people insured in that country.
Health care - Moving abroad checklist
Regardless of the previous topic (social security and social rights) and the exact scenario that applies to you, you should always investigate carefully what exactly your rights are in the area of healthcare.
What exactly can you count on for an emergency, a chronic illness, a lung condition, a whiplash, a hernia or a broken leg?
- How does public service work in public hospitals?
- How does it work with visits to a family doctor? Do you pay these in order to claim them back (partly) afterwards through the health insurance fund? Or do you pay nothing because the system covers everything?
- To what extent can public services meet your needs and desires (waiting lists are a big problem, even in some EU countries)?
Find out what you are entitled to, for example through the website of the social security office of the country concerned.
Certain gaps in rights and coverage can always be filled with local or international hospitalisation insurance.
Through such coverage, you can always turn to the private sector where you will usually be helped more quickly.
Be careful, such hospitalisation insurance can be taken out in all kinds of forms and packages. Get good advice on this as well. The coverage and costs vary enormously, even between companies.
The logistics of moving abroad
Planning your move starts months before you actually move in. A good tip in this area:
Good preparation is half the battle!
The best strategy is to ask for quotes from different removal companies. This way you can compare, not only on price but also on differences in service.
Don't forget to check that your international passport is still valid. A passport that is valid for less than six months is actually worthless if you want to travel outside the EU.
If necessary, you should apply for a new passport before actually moving. By the way, always keep a copy of your passport in a safe place.
You should also contact insurance companies to report that you are moving abroad. In many cases, you will be able to cancel all your current insurance policies because they are worthless in your new destination.
You will then simply have to subscribe to a local equivalent (examples are car, fire and family insurance).
Also contact your bank, your family doctor, your dentist, etc. to inform them that you are moving.
Don't feel like doing it yourself? No problem! You can also outsource the entire process of changing your address! You can choose a removal service that arranges your change of address for you!
Such a moving service ensures that you have time for other things during the move. As a customer, you can then choose from numerous categories of companies. You only need to indicate which companies should be informed about your move and the removal service will do the rest.
Do you have a pet you would like to bring along? Then find out what the procedure and the cost is for taking the apple of your eye to your new country of residence! This can be complex and expensive.
There are also specialised companies that can assist you with the removal of your pets.
Schools (for people with children) - Moving abroad checklist
Do you have children who still go to school? Then investigate what the options are in your new country of residence. In many cases, you have two to three options:
- State schools (public)
- Public schools
- Possibly religious schools (public)
Choosing from these is purely personal and a matter of desire and conviction.
What we can recommend in this moving abroad checklist is to keep an eye on the enrolment procedure of your preferred school.
In some cases, the enrolment deadline is as early as January before school starts at the end of the summer or in the autumn of that year.
Registering and driving a car
Are you going to sell your current car before you move or do you want to take the car with you to your new country of residence?
In the second case, you should carefully examine the costs and procedures of importing a car.
Even within the European Union, you can be amazed at what some Member States charge for the import and registration of certain types of cars from another Member State!
In some cases, it is simply more financially interesting to sell your current car and buy and insure a car locally.
Each country has different rules so it all depends on the specific rules of your new country of residence!
Estate planning | Moving abroad checklist
Moving abroad also has consequences for your estate. It would take us too far to go into this, but there is good news!
We made a very detailed overview page about planning for the future! Learn about the rules and pitfalls of international estate and inheritance planning. A valuable addition to this comprehensive moving abroad checklist!
Are you still looking for ways to diversify your assets? And are you interested in foreign investment property?
Then take a look at the following offers to see if there is anything to please you:
- Invest in recreational real estate for tourists - Up to 9% return per year, participation is possible from EUR 15,750
- Leuven student rooms with guaranteed rental income [AVAILABLE SOON] from the promoter as a top investment
- Buy a second home in France in a luxury resort - Minimum 7% return per year + 6 weeks free personal use as a bonus return (luxury studios, flats and tree house for sale in the Limousin region)
- Buy a flat in Germany with rental guarantee and without worries
- Rented properties in Sweden as an investment [AVAILABLE SOON] - Renovated single family houses on a nice plot of land
(De)registration | Moving abroad
You have to de-register from the population register of your home country. For this, you should contact the town hall or city hall of the village or city where you currently still live.
You must also register in your new country of residence. The specific procedures differ from country to country and also from situation to situation (as an employee, your employer can guide you, as a businessman you have to figure it out yourself or you have to call in a specialised company).
You must register with the following services when moving abroad:
- Social security
- Tax administration
To do this, you first need a (temporary) local address.
Do not forget to open a bank account locally and to apply for an identity card.
Depending on your new destination, you may need to obtain a work permit and possibly a residence permit.
Only after obtaining such things can you then stay in the country legally for longer periods of time without having to go in and out of the country to get a new visa.
Tip: Be patient, especially if you are moving south! You may be confronted with cultural differences. Losing one's self-control because of amateurism or laxity on the part of the public services in question does not help, on the contrary.