Relocating? Essential documents that every expat should keep, copy and/or carry

We are in the process of applying for our Green Card, and it’s nothing like the film. For a start, we are legitimately married, and have been for so long that our vacation family photos usually just feature the Other Half and the kids, because having planned, packed and catered for a weeklong sojourn, there is no way I want my exhausted, disheveled state recorded for posterity. Anyone who wishes to verify that we are married just needs to spend half an hour in the same room and listen to a disjointed conversation that involves car pool commitments, emergency meal planning and a reminder of outstanding (not in the good way) household tasks..

However, back to the Green Card bit. So far, we have fallen foul of a lack of vaccination records for myself and the OH (resulting in a fresh round of childhood vaccines and a very sore arm), the inability to recall exact dates of employment from back when work meant I was actually paid, and an inadequate birth certificate. As our original posting was a year long temporary assignment, all our official documentation, wedding and baby photos, etc. etc. are safely in storage and completely inaccessible from sunny San Francisco. My latest interruption has been attempting to obtain a certified copy of my birth certificate from 4000 miles away – pausing only to pray to whatever God might be listening that my online order a) is not an elaborate scam, and b) gets here before next Christmas.

For those of you who like myself, had no idea what documentation might be needed over the course of your expat relocation adventures, I’ve prepared a checklist.

Essential Docs Checklist

It doesn’t just apply to relocating expats – it’s a good idea for everyone to have immediate access and back-up copies of the documents listed, so please feel free to share. Buy a scanner to make electronic copies of documents and store securely – you’ll be surprised how you need copies, and how useful it is to be able to email them ┬áimmediately. If nothing else, you will look and feel supremely organized. Unlike me..


2 thoughts on “Relocating? Essential documents that every expat should keep, copy and/or carry”

  1. Sound advice – particularly your point about scanning documents. We had a break in while we were away over Christmas and one of the items stolen was our fireproof document safe (note to self – make sure next safe is bolted to the floor) We had scanned copies of of some but not all docs. Replacing documents for 4 people who were born in 4 different countries (plus 3 have citizenship in a 5th country) is not going to be fun…..

    Good luck with the green card!

    1. Oh yuck – I don’t envy you! Have you noticed how we always learn the hard way? Thank goodness for the internet – I have lost count of the number of times it has saved me, from online document storage to government websites..
      If it’s any help, my favorite thing is a Scansnap scanner which is the about 1″x 1″x 12″ (i.e. very portable), USB powered, and just fantastic for automatic scanning to Evernote or your computer. It makes scanning documents on the move really easy, and doesn’t require complicated set-up. Sadly, I don’t get commission.. ­čÖé

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