Tips to Moving Back to the US After Living Abroad

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Theo
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Explore this guide to learn how to move back to the US after living abroad. Find a checklist, along with a bunch of tips.

I repatriated back to the US a couple of times and have learned what to consider when doing so. I want to help you with repatriation, which is why I made this guide.


Summary

  • Before leaving, you’ll need to organize your finances & organize documents.
  • When landing in the states, you must secure housing & find a job.
  • You’ll also need to deal with foreign taxes before leaving.

Checklist for Moving Back to the United States

Returning to the US after living abroad is a significant transition; proper planning will make the process smoother.

Here’s a handy checklist to help you prepare for your big move:


Before Leaving Your Current Country:

  1. Research US destinations: Consider factors like the cost of living, job prospects, climate, & lifestyle to choose the right city.
  2. Organize your finances: Close bank accounts, settle outstanding debts, & notify tax authorities in your current country.
  3. Gather important documents: Collect your passport, visa, birth certificate, marriage certificate (if applicable), & medical records.

Upon Arrival in the United States:

  1. Secure housing: Rent or buy a home in your chosen city.
  2. Register with Social Security: If you still need a Social Security number, visit a local Social Security office to apply.
  3. Get a US driver’s license: If you plan to drive, visit your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to apply for a driver’s license.
  4. Open a US bank account: Find a local bank that fits your needs & open an account.
  5. Find a job: Update your resume, & start networking with potential employers.

Preparing for Your Return

The following sections will provide information on what to consider when preparing for your return.


1. Moving out of Your Residence Abroad

Follow these steps when moving out of your residence abroad:

  • Schedule a moving company: Secure a reputable mover at least eight weeks in advance.
  • Notify utility companies: Disconnect utilities & cancel subscriptions in your current residence.
  • Forward your mail: Set up mail forwarding with your local post office.
  • Manage finances: Close bank accounts or make necessary arrangements for international banking.

Give your landlord proper notice. In most countries, a 30-day notice is standard. Some countries might require a 60-day notice. Check your lease agreement to avoid any surprises.

Next:

Declutter your home. The average American household contains 300,000 items [1]. Reducing your belongings will make packing easier and help avoid excess baggage fees. Consider donating or selling things you don’t need anymore.

When it comes to packing, invest in sturdy boxes and packing materials. That way, you’ll avoid breakage. Label your boxes clearly and create an inventory list to track your items during the move.


2. Update & Organize Your Documents

To keep your document organization streamlined, consider these essential steps:

  • Obtain a police report: A document certifying a clean criminal record in your host country might be required for future job applications.
  • Update your resume: Reflect on your international experience & newly-acquired skills.
  • Retrieve medical records: Request copies of medical & dental records, & secure necessary vaccinations.
  • Collect school transcripts: If applicable, obtain transcripts from educational institutions attended while abroad.

Prioritize having your paperwork in order.

Begin by reviewing your passport’s expiration date. To avoid delays, ensure your passport is valid for at least 6 months after your planned return date.

Next, gather any visa or residency documents related to your time abroad. You may need these for future reference or potential tax implications.


3. Send Your Belongings to the US

To ensure a smooth shipping experience, keep these points in mind:

  • Choose a reputable shipping company: Look for positive reviews & a history of successful international moves.
  • Pack items securely: Use high-quality packing materials to prevent damage during transit.
  • Label boxes: Clearly label each box with its contents & destination.
  • Purchase insurance: Protect your belongings by investing in shipping insurance.

To make this process stress-free, consider the following tips and guidelines.

Decide which items you’ll bring home and leave behind, sell, or donate. The average weight of an international move is 7,400 pounds [2]. Downsizing your possessions could save you a substantial amount of money.

Next, research shipping options and compare prices. The shipping cost varies depending on distance, the shipping method, and the weight of your items.


4. Travel Arrangements

Here’s a checklist to help you prepare for your trip:

  • Research flight options: Compare prices & layovers to find the best deal.
  • Reserve accommodations: Book temporary housing in the US, if needed, while you secure a permanent residence.
  • Pack essential items: Bring important documents, medication, & a few personal belongings in your carry-on luggage.
  • Arrange transportation: Plan how you’ll get to & from the airports.

Book your flights early to secure the best deals. According to a study by CheapAir, the optimal time to buy an international ticket is 171 days before departure [3]. Also, consider the timing of your move.

Avoid peak travel seasons, like summer and holidays, when prices are higher.


5. Deal With Foreign Taxes

To make handling foreign taxes a breeze, consider these steps:

  • Consult with a tax professional: Seek advice from an expert familiar with international tax laws.
  • File your taxes on time: Pay attention to deadlines for both your host country & the US.
  • Claim tax credits: Look into foreign tax credits or exclusions to avoid double taxation.
  • Keep thorough records: Maintain organized documentation of your income, expenses, & tax payments.

Understand your tax obligations in your host country. Each country has its own tax laws and filing deadlines, so it’s important to research these specifics. The US is one of the few countries that taxes its citizens on worldwide income, so you must be prepared for filing in both countries.


6. Provide a Forwarding Address

To guarantee a smooth transition, consider these tips:

  • Inform friends & family: Share your new address with loved ones so they know where to send mail.
  • Update subscriptions: Modify your address for magazines, newspapers, & other subscription services.
  • Notify financial institutions: Inform your bank, credit card companies, & other financial institutions about your move.

Contact your local post office in your host country and request a mail-forwarding service.

Each country has its mail forwarding process, so research the specific requirements. In the US, the United States Postal Service (USPS) offers mail-forwarding services for domestic and international addresses.


Adjusting to Life in the US

These sections will talk about what you must consider when re-adjusting to life in the States.


1. Coping With Reverse Culture Shock

Reverse culture shock affects approximately 25% of returning expats [4]. Thus, prepare yourself for this possibility. 

To cope with reverse culture shock and ease your transition, consider the following tips:

  • Stay connected: Maintain relationships with friends you made abroad, & share your experiences with them.
  • Be patient: Give yourself time to adapt to the changes & remember that it’s normal to feel overwhelmed.
  • Seek support: Connect with others who have experienced reverse culture shock, such as expat communities or online forums.
  • Embrace your experience: Find ways to incorporate elements of your life abroad into your new routine, like cooking international dishes or continuing language studies.

2. Finding a Job

To streamline your job search, consider these strategies:

  • Network: Reach out to friends, family, & former colleagues for potential job leads.
  • Use job search websites: Explore popular job boards & industry-specific websites for job listings.
  • Attend job fairs: Participate in local job fairs to meet potential employers in person.
  • Engage with recruiters: Connect with recruitment agencies to help match you with suitable positions.

Update your resume to highlight your international experience, which could be a valuable asset in today’s globalized job market.


3. Get Car Insurance

To find the best car insurance for you, consider these steps:

  • Compare quotes: Obtain quotes from multiple insurance providers to find the best rates & coverage.
  • Check for discounts: Look for discounts that may apply to you, like good driver or multi-policy discounts.
  • Choose the right coverage: Determine the coverage levels that suit your needs & budget.
  • Review the policy: Read the fine print to understand what’s covered & what’s not.

Familiarize yourself with the car insurance requirements in your state. As they vary across the country.

You’ll need at least liability coverage, which pays for damages you cause to others in an accident. Some states require personal injury protection (PIP) and uninsured motorist coverage.


4. Find a School for Your Kids

To choose the perfect school, consider these factors:

  • Public vs. private: Weigh the pros & cons of public schools.
  • Curriculum: Investigate the school’s curriculum & teaching philosophy to ensure it aligns with your child’s learning style.
  • Extracurricular activities: Look for schools that offer clubs & activities your child enjoys, such as sports or music programs.
  • School ratings: Review online resources & local parent groups for insights on the school’s performance & reputation.

Research the school district in your new neighborhood, as the quality of education may vary between districts.


Planning for Your Future

These sections will help you prepare for your future. Whether you stay in the US.


1. Open a US Bank Account & Transfer Foreign Funds

When moving back to the US, opening a bank account and transferring your foreign funds is essential for a smooth financial transition.

To accomplish this, follow these steps:

  • Choose a US bank: Research & select a bank that offers the services & features that best suit your needs, like online banking & low fees.
  • Open an account: Visit a local branch or apply online to open a checking and/or savings account. You’ll need identification, proof of address, & your Social Security number.
  • Transfer funds: To transfer money from overseas to the US, consider these options:
  • Bank wire transfer: Reliable but may come with high fees.
  • Online money transfer service: Typically offer lower fees & competitive exchange rates.
  • Foreign exchange brokers: Suitable for large transfers, with better rates than banks.

Transferring money internationally might be subject to taxes and fees. Double-check the regulations before initiating a transfer.


2. Build an Emergency Fund

When returning to the US, building an emergency fund should be a top priority. An emergency fund is a financial safety net for unexpected expenses, like job loss or medical emergencies.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to start building your emergency fund:

  1. Determine your goal: Financial experts recommend saving 3-6 months’ living expenses as an ideal emergency fund.
  2. Choose a savings account: Open a separate high-yield account for your emergency fund, so it’s not mixed with your everyday spending.
  3. Set a monthly savings goal: Break down your total emergency fund goal into smaller, manageable monthly targets.
  4. Automate your savings: Schedule automatic monthly transfers from your checking account to your emergency savings.
  5. Adjust as needed: Reevaluate & adjust your savings goal if your financial situation or expenses change.

By building an emergency fund, you’ll have peace of mind knowing you’re prepared for any unexpected financial hurdles that may arise, allowing you to focus on settling back into life in the US.


3. Rebuild Your Credit Score

Rebuilding your credit score is crucial in regaining financial stability after moving back to the US. Your credit score affects various aspects of your life, including loan approvals, interest rates, and rental applications.

Follow these steps to rebuild your credit score:

  • Check your credit report: Obtain a free copy of your credit report from the three major bureaus (Equifax, Experian, & TransUnion) to identify any errors or discrepancies.
  • Pay bills on time: Timely payments account for 35% of your credit score, making it the most important factor [5].
  • Lower credit utilization: Use less than 30% of your available credit to impact your score positively [6].
  • Apply for a secured credit card: These cards require a security deposit & offer a low credit limit, making them ideal for rebuilding credit.
  • Diversify your credit mix: A mix of credit types, like installment loans & revolving credit, shows lenders you’re responsible with various forms of credit.

Rebuilding credit takes time and patience, but following these steps will put you on the right path toward a healthier financial future in America.

I’m not a financial expert. Don’t take my financial advice too seriously. Only use it as a recommendation.


4. Get Health Insurance

Securing health insurance is a vital step when returning to the US. It ensures you and your family have access to affordable healthcare services in case of illness or injury.

Here are some tips to help you get health insurance:

  • Explore your options: Compare plans offered by private insurers, the Health Insurance Marketplace, or Medicaid (if you qualify).
  • Review coverage: Understand the services covered by each plan, including doctor visits, hospital stays, & prescription medications.
  • Consider your needs: Assess your family’s health requirements, such as pre-existing conditions, & choose a plan that caters to those needs.
  • Be aware of deadlines: Open enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace usually runs from November 1st to December 15th.
    • Missing the deadline could result in a lack of coverage for the following year.
  • Check for tax credits: Depending on your income, you might qualify for tax credits to help lower your monthly insurance premiums.

By following these steps, you’ll be well on your way to obtaining health insurance that suits your needs and budget.


Choosing Your Next Destination

Selecting the perfect destination for your next move is a thrilling task. If you’re considering moving abroad again, it’s essential to research and compare various destinations to make an informed decision.

Here are a few key factors to contemplate:

  • Job opportunities: Look for countries with a strong job market in your field.
  • Cost of living: Determine if the cost of living matches your budget.
  • Quality of life: Research the overall living conditions, including safety, education, & healthcare.
  • Climate & lifestyle: Choose a destination that aligns with your preferences for weather & leisure activities.

To help you further in your search, we’ve compiled a list of blog posts that detail top expat-friendly, English-speaking destinations:

By exploring these posts, you’ll gain valuable insights into the pros and cons of each country, assisting you in making the best choice for your next adventure. 


Exploring Criteria for Your Next Destination

Moving back to the US after living abroad? Choosing the right destination suits your lifestyle, preferences, and needs is essential. Here’s how to narrow down your options:

Consider the cost of living.

While the US generally has a higher cost of living than many other countries, finding affordable cities is still possible. According to the Council for Community and Economic Research, Harlingen, Texas, holds the title of the least expensive city in the US [7]. San Francisco, California, sits at the other end of the spectrum.

To help you further, here’s a quick list of criteria for selecting your next destination:

  • Climate: Choose a location with an environment you’re comfortable in.
  • Amenities: Look for cities with good schools, healthcare, & public transportation.
  • Social scene: Consider the local culture, activities, & expat communities.
  • Expat visas: Research the visa options available for your unique situation.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but carefully considering these factors will make your transition smoother and your new life in the US more enjoyable.


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Theodore began first experienced the wonders of traveling when visiting Vietnam. Afterward, he went crazy and ventured to at least… More about Theo