Moving overseas? Here’s how to find a new home

Many of us dream of moving overseas, but taking the big leap can seem daunting. Even if you have money in the bank and a job lined up, as a foreigner, you still face the big task of finding somewhere to live. When you are new to a country and the local lay of the land, finding and landing that perfect home can be a challenge.

Give yourself the best possible chance of getting a lease while overseas. For starters, impress the rental agencies with a stand-out application. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A credit check. When you move overseas you’ll have no local credit history, so some places will ask for other documents instead. In France, it’s a proof of income letter and your latest tax return; in Panama, it’s a letter of recommendation from a local. Check what you’ll need for the country you’re about to call home.
  • Proof of income. Pay slips from your job, or a letter from your new employer to prove that you will have a source of income to pay the rent.
  • Proof of funds. Bank statements to show you have ample funds in your account if you haven’t found a gig in your new hometown just yet.
  • Copies of important documents. Your birth certificate, passport and visa.
  • A completed application form. Answer all questions clearly, and enlist the help of a translator if necessary.
  • A cover letter. Explain what drew you to the property, tell them about yourself and outline why you would be an exceptional tenant.
  • A rental ledger. This is a summary of your payment history for a rental property. You can get this from your previous landlords.
  • Reference letters. From past landlords, agents or employers. Make sure references are on company letterhead and include contact details where needed. Overseas landlords may consider it too hard to dial international and double check references. So, make it easy for them by giving them references already certified by a 3rd party verification company.

In addition, some countries ask for further paperwork and tenancy references with your rental application. Here’s some of the world’s most popular expat spots and what they’ll ask you for.

United Kingdom

One of the most popular destinations in the world, competition for rentals in the UK is fierce. You have to move quickly and be prepared to apply at the first viewing, so ensure your paperwork is ready to go. You’ll usually need six weeks’ rent as a deposit, and reference letters from your employer and previous landlords.


According to HSBC, Singapore is the world’s number-one expat spot. Rental agencies know how transient expat life in Singapore is, so they’re picky about who they lease to. Finding a good agent, often through word-of-mouth, is important. You’ll need very thorough documentation (see above list) and a stellar cover letter.

United States

The USA welcomes more than a million new residents each year. Landlords use background checks, like a credit check and tenancy history, to screen tenants. An American landlord is unable to request police or criminal check on an Australians. So, when you’re from overseas, any verified information you can provide up front will help. You’ll likely need the first month’s rent up front and another month as deposit.


Increasingly popular with expats due to opportunities and good expat packages, Qatar welcomes about 500 overseas new arrivals every day. Good homes are snapped up quickly. Your options, according to the Commercial Bank of Qatar, are to look for a private rental in the local papers, or use an agent for the cost of one to two weeks rent in commission.

You’ll need a copy of your passport, a salary certificate from your employer and your Qatar residence ID. Many landlords in Qatar ask for a year’s rent paid upfront. If your rental agreement is in Arabic only, spend the money getting it translated and review it carefully before signing – it will contain all the nitty gritty of your agreement including terms of deposits and the landlords (and your) obligations.


Known for being safe, progressive and beautiful, many expats choose Canada to live and work. Canadian landlords are choosy about who they lease to. Landlords are likely to request references, proof of employment and income details. They will also run a credit check and verify your tenancy history. Expect to pay a deposit of up to two months’ rent. For more information about your rights when renting in Canada, check out the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

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