As an expat, you never know what random document you’ll be asked to produce when you least expect it. Especially true for the expat family. Solution: Scan and store critical files to your cloud drive for on the go preparedness.
Last year, I was asked to show my marriage certificate and my children’s birth certificates at the post office. Yes, the post office. No, I didn’t happen to have those documents on me.
Consequence: 45 minutes of my precious time wasted to walk all the way home, and all the way back, while tracking down another parent to get my kid from soccer because this unexpected request was going to make me late.
From unforeseen emergencies to the mundane errand, here is my list of the ten essential files every expat should be able to access from their mobile device anytime, anywhere.
Your digital copy won’t suffice at the rental car counter, but I’ve needed this a few times, usually for online identity verification. Don’t forget the back.
Bonus Tip: Will your license expire while you’re out of the country? Verify you’re eligible to renew online or by mail before you go.
Passport ID Page
I’ve long lost count of the number of times I’ve needed either a copy of the Passport ID page or the information found there. A scan of each family member’s passport ID page on your cloud drive will save you the hassle of digging up your physical passport every time you need it.
Bonus Tip: Create a text document of the data exactly as it appears on the ID page — full name, passport number, date of issue, date of expiration — to facilitate filling out online forms.
Bonus Tip: As with your passport data, a text document with full name, ID number and expiration date will make filling out online forms a breeze.
This will be more relevant for your kids than for you. Your child’s school will want their picture, as will any sport team they join or camp you send them to. A cloud copy has saved me several trips to club offices to hand this over in person.
Foreigner’s Identity Card
In Spain, this is the TIE (also know as NIE card). I’ve been asked for a copy of the card or the number in the oddest of situations. A doctor’s office or my kids’ school? Of course. Buy tickets to the local fútbol match through the club’s website? Really? Don’t forget the back.
Birth and Marriage Certificates
Outside of immigration matters, this will likely only come up occasionally, but as my post office story would illustrate, better to be prepared.
Bonus Tip: Store digital copies of the certificate’s certified translations along with originals.
Health Insurance Cards
You never know when you might need to supply your health insurance information. Kid takes a overnight field trip? Spaced on bringing the physical card to some last minute dentist appointment? Whip out your mobile and you should be all set.
Has anyone in your family been diagnosed with a medical condition, even one you consider resolved?
I didn’t think this applied to us, until an ER visit forced me to dig up some years old medical records. Fortunately, I’m a good file keeper in the physical world as well as the virtual one. One panicked email to my assistant in the States and I had a scan in my inbox as soon as she woke up.
Bonus Tip: If the condition is active or chronic, translate the records before you. You don’t want to be hunting down a translator in an emergency.
Double Bonus Tip: Store a scan of your kids’ vaccine records as well.
Education and School Records
Besides transcripts, if your child’s new school even requires them, have any of your children been evaluated for learning differences such as ADHD, dyslexia, or anything that might effect their education?
No matter how resolved you think the issue might be, better to have those reports available — in the local language — rather than needing to track them down from afar should issues resurface.
Running an online business while you’re living overseas? If so, you’re probably already well set up in your virtual world. Think W9 forms already filled out, EIN number, banking info, online tax payment info, and any other must have information related to your daily business operations.
It didn’t hit me until the winter of our first year in Spain that I’d be preparing our US tax returns from afar.
Store two previous years tax returns (personal and business) along with any docs you might need to prepare your return. Think ahead to information possibly being mailed to a US address: mortgage interest statements, W2 forms, 1099s, etc., and make arrangements accordingly.
That’s all that’s ever cropped up in our family expat life. What about you? Got any weird post office or other cloud drive to the rescue stories?