As an expatriate coach and former trailing spouse, who has lived in Israel, USA, UK, Netherlands, I would suggest being thoroughly prepared with documentation when planning to move abroad and when living abroad e.g holidays, trips, business trips.

Travel board - destinations delay

Travel is timely

  • Have a master document wallet at home– everything that is important goes in it and is returned to it after holidays, usage etc.  Carry a smaller version when you make your trip/ travel.
  • Take photocopies of everything – insurance documents, driving licences, marriage/ divorce certificates, anything that will prove it when necessary. Keep this in your master document wallet.
  • List numbers of credit cards, passports, driving licences, policy numbers etc – things that might get stolen, destroyed or lost – start a master list and just update it regularly.  Our bank has a service it offers where we can store all such numbers and advises us when documents are due to expire – very handy.
  • If you consider moving abroad in the future have items of importance apostilled/ legalised whilst you are at home.  I did this in the UK and in Ireland – more information on
  • If you are travelling with different surnames and have a child with the surname of one parent and not the other – carry a copy of the child’s birth certificate.  Also if married and travelling under differing surnames – carry a copy of your marriage certificate – it helps in saving time at airports too! I travel with a copy of my son’s birth certificate when not travelling without his father as we have different surnames.  I also have had a letter to state I have his permission to take our son out of the country and he vice versa.

All these tips work best when you get into the habit – start doing one thing regularly and others will follow.  I suggest imagining you’ve just arrived on Mars and have to explain who you are.  No one understands what you say but they can all understand your document copies!  I assure you its better to be prepared, then sitting waiting for someone else to find the document or confirm who you are to some over zealous official!  And if this happens just stay calm and go with the flow as much as you can.

Nicola McCall MCIPD coaches expatriates to find fulfillment in work, career and life where ever they are geographically or on the expatriate life cycle.