After a long distance relationship ends, it usually ends with one person in the couple moving to be with the other. (Or, both people moving to a completely new place altogether!)
There are a lot of things to consider when you’re moving to another country for love. In 2018, I did just that, moving from Australia to the U.S. It was a long, grueling process, but I’m living proof that it can be done!
This article is a big guide on all the things you’ll need to consider before, during, and after you move to a new country. You’ll be in for a long journey, depending on which country you’re coming from and moving to. So put your game face on, because you’re on the home stretch!
How long will it take me to move to a new country?
In 2016, C and I got married in Australia. After spending some time figuring out where we should settle, we came to the conclusion that I would need to move to the U.S. so she could support her mom.
From start to finish, our entire process took almost 2 years. We opted to get a U.S. spousal visa, which at the time had a processing time of approximately 16 months.
Note that your own situation may differ from ours. The length of time is mainly dependent on the type of visa you’re planning to get, and how fast each country’s immigration department can process a visa application.
Part 1: Before You Move
Before you start on this whole journey, there are a few things you’ll need to consider before jumping on a plane with a one-way ticket. I’ll break this section down into the steps I went through when my wife and I made the decision for me to move.
Be certain that you’re moving for the right reasons
It’s a big conversation for long distance couples—who moves? This post talks about who should be the one to pull up stakes and start a new life in a foreign country.
It’s a huge decision to make. Moving to a completely new environment with a new culture, starting afresh away from your family and friends, and—in some cases—grappling with a new language are challenges that are not for the faint of heart.
It’s a very good idea to try living in the country for at least a few weeks, and try to see life beyond that of a tourist. Experience the day to day life there. Ride in rush hour traffic, eat the local food, and observe the attitude of the people. Can you accept everything? Can you do this for years to come?
If you’re moving, be comfortable with the decision. Have an idea of what your future life is going to be like, and be honest with how you feel about it. There is an element of sacrifice with long distance relationships, but this is a big one. Have a long, thorough talk with your partner about how this future looks, and how you’re both going to live in it.
Figure out what you need to do to enter the country
Unfortunately, with many countries you can’t just hop on a flight, walk up to the immigration officer, and say, “Hey, I really want to end my long distance relationship and be with my partner for good now. Can you let me through?”
You’ll need a valid, legal reason for entering a country. If you enter a country for a purpose other than what your visa allows, you may find yourself being deported. At best, you’ll find yourself living under the radar and constantly looking over your shoulder if you overstay. In the United States, visa fraud is treated as a federal crime.
Check out your destination country’s immigration website and look at the visa options they have. Some common options they may offer include:
- Study visas, which allow entry under the condition that you engage in studies at an educational institution
- Work/sponsorship visas, which can be issued when you have a job offer in your destination country and the company is willing to sponsor you
- Working holiday visas, which allow you to live and travel for a longer period of time than a tourist visa, but allow you to work some small jobs to supplement your income
- Fiancee visas, which give you a short period of time to marry your partner and then file a change of visa status after you marry
- Spousal visas, if you’re already married and want to gain residency
Explore each available option and consider which visa best meets your goals.
Visa applications for anything more than a tourist visa can be a lengthy and overwhelming process. You’ll likely be asked to pull up all sorts of records and reports to confirm that you won’t pose any sort of risk when you enter the country.
Some items you may be asked to provide as part of the application can include:
- ID photographs (double-check the size of the photos they want!)
- Birth certificate
- Other identification, such as a driver’s license
- Proof of employment or job offer
- Marriage certificate
- Proof of assets, or proof that your spouse has the means to support you in their household
- Documentation that states you’ve dissolved any previous marriages
- Proof of a bona fide relationship, like shared bills or postal addresses, bank accounts, letters, text messages, photos, Facebook updates, and so on
- Your future residential address in the destination country
This list is based on what I had to provide as a part of my spousal visa application. Read through the country’s immigration website, and make sure you understand their requirements clearly.
Make sure you can afford the move
Moving houses in general can be a costly process in itself. Moving to another country? You’ll want to make sure you have a good budget in place.
Be prepared to pay to move, and it’s not just paying for your plane ticket. You’ll also need to consider other costs, such as:
- Your visa costs—depending on the type of visa you get, you can easily be spending several thousand dollars just for the privilege of going through all the bureaucracy and red tape.
- Legal support, if you feel that you need an immigration lawyer to help your case. Hourly rates can easily reach hundreds of dollars.
- You may need to pay fees to break rental leases, service contracts, and so on.
- If you need to move money internationally, you will need to pay fees for that too.
- If you choose to ship any items to the new country, that will definitely cost.
- And after you’ve moved to the new country, you and your partner will need to spend money to start up your new life together!
Any future vacations or big purchases may need to go on hold until you’re financially ready to pay for everything.
Plan your future life
While it’s tempting to just leave your old life behind and dive head first into this new adventure with your SO in a different country, you’ll want to make sure that you’ll land feet first.
Take some time to plan out and envision how your new life is going to look after you move. Look at the lifestyle you have now, and do an honest comparison of the differences between that and a day in the life of your destination city. Chances are there will be something that is different.
Things that you may need to consider
- Where will you live? How do you feel about that city or town? Can you afford it?
- How will you earn a living? Will your visa allow you to work? Will your certifications or degrees be recognized in your destination country?
- If you have savings, are you going to move that money to your new home? What are the exchange rates like? Will you need to set up an international bank account?
- Are you bringing children and pets? Will they adjust?
- How does healthcare work? Banking? Insurance?
- Are you going to maintain your citizenship with your home country? Are there pros/cons of becoming a citizen in your new home? If not, what do you need to do to maintain your residency status?
- Do you know anyone in your partner’s home (aside from your partner)? Can you easily make friends or meet others like you, such as an expat network?
- Will there be a language barrier? Are you willing to learn a new language and deal with communication struggles for now?
Talk with your partner about the differences between your home and theirs. Try and figure out any issues you might have to deal with. Your partner should put in a lot of work here and help smooth your transition.
Part 2: In Progress
Once you’ve figured out who moves, chosen the visa, and are comfortable with how you’re both going to live once you arrive, you can move on to actually getting everything moving along.
Go through the visa process
Go to the country’s immigration website, and look for the lodgment instructions for the visa you want to get. Read the instructions thoroughly, and fill out the forms. Some immigration websites allow you to compile everything electronically, whereas others require a paper submission.
Make a list of all the items that you’ll need for the application. This will depend on the immigration department’s requirements. See the list above for an example.
Make sure you make copies of everything you send in!
Prepare to take some time off to get documents, visit consulates, and go to clinics for health checkups and vaccinations. In my case, I had to go to the Japanese consulate to request a police report, and also go to a number of clinics for blood tests, vaccinations, and a chest x-ray.
Consider legal help if needed
If you’re moving internationally, it might be a good idea to consult an immigration lawyer, just to make sure that you’re submitting everything correctly.
You can absolutely do all the paperwork yourself if you feel you can—that’s what we did! But if you have a unique situation, or you’re worried about a particular record that might affect your application, or you’re just worried that you’re going to make a mistake, you can consider hiring a lawyer to lodge it on your behalf.
In any case, make sure you’re meticulous with your application! Triple check everything and make sure there’s no room for ambiguity or doubt in your answers.
After you submit the application, there’s not much to do except wait. Different visas will have different wait times. Our spousal visa took almost 16 months for a response.
This was definitely the hardest part of the whole process for us. Months and months would pass, with only occasional updates on the immigration website. U.S. politics and changes in immigration policies also made us nervous.
But this is one thing that you have no control over. The main thing you can control is how you feel about the situation.
So distract yourselves—keep up your ongoing day to day routine, and continue enjoying each other’s company online. And hope for the best!
Follow the steps until you receive your visa decision
Depending on your visa type and your destination country, there may be additional steps you need to go through before the immigration department accepts or rejects your visa application.
For instance, my spousal visa required me to attend an in-person interview at the U.S. consulate. On the day, I brought a massive packet of documents and forms, went through several security checkpoints, exchanged paperwork several times, and waited for hours.
When I was called to my interview, it was at a service window. It felt like I was talking to a bank teller. We had a brief chat about my relationship and my history with my wife, and I pulled out all the evidence I had. I showed plane stubs, the photos over the years, the postcards she sent me, the letters, the phone chats, the Facebook updates…everything.
After the interview, he made a decision on the spot, and I received my passport and visa in the mail after a few days.
If your application gets rejected, see if the rejection letter contains any additional information. Go through your application in detail, line by line, and figure out what went wrong. If you’re unsure, consider seeking an immigration lawyer’s help to pinpoint why the decision went that way.
Once you receive your visa in hand, you’ve just cleared a huge hurdle! Choose a reunification date with your partner, and purchase your tickets.
Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to settle everything in your home city before taking your one-way flight.
Make your announcements
While receiving your visa to be with your partner is an exciting time, telling your friends and family that you’re leaving them behind can be incredibly hard.
Do whatever makes you feel comfortable, whether it’s a big dinner announcement, a one-on-one talk, or a group text message.
Your LDR support network should be very interested in your progress, and they should be happy for you once you share the news!
Give yourself time to celebrate and have your farewells. Allow yourself to feel and process any emotions you have about leaving. It’s hard to say goodbye to your way of life and your social network, but remember the reasons why you’re moving and how important your relationship is to you.
And be sure to keep in touch with your family and friends after you leave!
Wind down your old life
It can be overwhelming trying to think of all the things you need to take care of before you leave for another country! Here’s a list to start off:
|Resign from your job||Let your boss know of your plans, and give your required notice. |
If you have a good relationship with your boss, connect with them
over a social network like LinkedIn or exchange email addresses.
It’s always a good idea to maintain your professional network.
Alternatively, you can look into doing remote work
if your current job allows you to do that.
|Cancel recurring payments||You’ll want to end any recurring expenses you have. This can include:|
– Streaming subscriptions
– Delivery services
– Other subscriptions, like Amazon Prime
– Insurance payments
|Disconnect services||If you have a mobile phone plan, internet plan, or other utilities that |
you’re paying for, look into cancelling those services so you’re not
paying for something you’re not using.
If you want to keep your current mobile number, see if your mobile
service provider allows you to keep your number but suspend your
This might be a good idea in case you have any websites or apps that
use your current phone number.
|Settle your debts||If you have any outstanding debts or credit cards that need to be settled, |
it’s a good idea to try and settle them now, or ask for a payment deal
with your bank or creditor. Otherwise, prepare to keep paying it off
while you’re in another country.
|Notify your landlord||If you’re renting, let your landlord know that you’re going to be |
|Think about what to do with your possessions and assets||Chances are you’re not going to take everything with you to your |
Hold a yard sale or sell online any items you don’t want to keep. If you
want to move larger items overseas, be prepared to pay for them to be
moved…and also be prepared to wait!
If you want to move your car overseas, look into any import taxes
or other hurdles.
If you have retirement funds, think about what to do with them. Keep
in mind that if you want to withdraw them, you may incur heavy
fees, depending on the retirement account laws in your home.
|Look into your Tax obligations||Ugh, super boring. But it’s important to think about this, because |
avoiding your tax payments can be a huge problem in the future.
Do some research into whether or not you may need to pay
taxes in your new home, and also in your country of origin.
Some countries have an international tax treaty in place, so you
don’t have to pay your taxes twice.
International taxes are hard, so don’t be afraid to get help!
You should be able to find some accountants that
specialize in international tax law.
|Update your voter registration||Do you still want to vote while you’re living in a new country?|
If so, you’ll need to figure out how to do so. You’ll likely need
to go to your country’s consulate or embassy to vote, or send a
If you don’t want to vote, and you live in a country where voting
is mandatory, you’ll want to cancel your voter registration
so you can avoid a fine.
The day is finally here. Say your farewells for now, and get ready to make your move.
If you’re particularly close to some family members or friends, you may want to leave them a little memento or keepsake to remember you by. For example, I wrote letters to my sister and my mum, thanking them for their support and letting them know that I’m only a plane flight away.
On the day you fly, remember to bring everything you need. This can include:
- Your one-way ticket
- Your passport with your immigrant visa
- All the necessary visa documentation, and anything the immigration department has ordered you to bring. Don’t forget it! You don’t want to be turned away at the immigration desk. The officers there have the final say!
Part 3: Arrival
Hooray! You’re finally together!
By now, you both should already have an idea of your living situation, what you’re going to do for work, and how you’re going to settle into your new life. As mentioned earlier, your partner should be doing their best to ease your transition and make your new home as comfortable as possible.
Here are some other tips to keep in mind after moving to your partner’s country:
- Enjoy the moment! You’ve both been waiting a long time for this and it’s a huge success. Celebrate with some much needed personal time together. Go on dates, check out a nice restaurant, and do all the things you’ve talked about.
- Set some expectations for being in the same city. No matter what living situation you’ve decided upon, whether you’re living together or separately for now, be patient with getting reacquainted. After all, you’ve spent a fair bit of time apart, and now you’re going to be face to face a lot.
- Spend the first couple of weeks focused on just getting everything you need so you don’t have to worry about it later on. Some examples include:
- A bank account
- A debit or credit card
- A phone and data plan, and a new phone if you need one
- A local driver’s license or other form of acceptable ID
- A means of transportation
- Make sure your work situation is sorted out, whether you’re going into a new job or working remotely. And if you don’t have a job yet, start looking as soon as your visa allows you to do so.
A quick word on culture shock
I wanted to talk about this briefly before closing off the guide.
After you successfully move, be prepared for the honeymoon period to end, and for culture shock to hit.
The first couple of months will seem wonderful, with new sights and experiences. Eventually you will find the quirks to be grating, and if you’re having a bad day you may struggle to understand why people in your new home act the way they do. It’s a normal thing to go through.
Being constantly exposed to unfamiliar things, or having to listen to a foreign language and not understand the world around you can be extremely fatiguing.
I have lived and worked in a handful of different countries in the world, and no matter what the native language or culture is, I always have a moment where I really struggle to relate.
How can you get over it?
- Have your partner help you navigate these feelings. Talk about your concerns and they may have answers for you, or offer you sympathy and support.
- Don’t be afraid to lean on your family and friends back home to help process your thoughts. It can be good to just get your thoughts out and acknowledge that you don’t like what you’re seeing or hearing.
- Make sure you have some time to yourself where you can enjoy familiar things. Watching a show in your own language can help. You can also try continuing a hobby you used to do back home, or finding a new one.
Don’t feel ashamed for not liking everything about your new home! In time, you’ll come to accept all those differences, and perhaps even embrace them.
Congratulations—you made it! You are both now part of the majority that reunite successfully after a long distance relationship.
I wish you many happy years together, and I hope all your promises and wishes are fulfilled!