Keep US Phone Number While Living Abroad_IMG_8862

How to Keep Your US Phone Number While Abroad (and actually use it, too)

Keep US Phone Number While Living Abroad_IMG_8862

How to Keep Your US Phone Number While Abroad (and actually use it, too)

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If you are moving abroad shortly, but want to keep your United States cell phone number for receiving calls, making calls, and sending and receiving text messages, I can show you how to keep your US phone number while abroad and actually use it!

As globalization advances, more and more Americans are moving abroad and looking for ways to keep their American phone number during their time overseas. You might want to keep it in case you decide to return to the US one day, in case you need to make and receive calls from friends and family, in case you need to verify your identity when accessing your bank accounts, and for many other reasons. 

Holding on to your US number while abroad is a smart idea for everyone. Our phone number is a part of our identity nowadays, as many financial services require us to “verify” our identities using an automated phone call or text message in order to log in. 

I’m going to share a great way to use your American number abroad without overpaying on international calling fees. You can even use it on the same phone where you have a foreign cell phone service.

I moved to France in 2019 and this was the exact process I followed!

Keep Your American Number While Abroad

You can keep your American phone number in a variety of ways. The first way is to check with your current cell phone provider if they offer a way to “suspend” your phone number temporarily. T-Mobile offers to temporarily suspend its customers lines twice a year for a maximum of 90 days during each period. You still pay a fee each month for them to hold on to your number.

That’s not really useful in our case, as most people move abroad for longer than 6 months. You’re also not able to receive texts and calls while the line is suspended. 

In order to keep a US number while abroad, I find that Google Voice has been a better choice than most national American cell phone service providers’ solutions. 

What is Google Voice?

Google Voice is a VoIP service from Google that launched about a decade ago. It allows users to sign up for a free additional phone number linked to their current one. Calls made to the secondary number are forwarded to the primary one, and users can send and receive texts through the Google Voice app.

You can also port your existing phone number Google Voice in order to replace the secondary number they give you. This is the ideal solution for Americans moving abroad. 

Porting your number to Google Voice allows you to make calls, receive calls, send texts, and receive texts just as you would normally through the Google Voice app, available for iPhone and Android. 

Google Voice is a VoIP service, which stands for Voice over IP. That means that all calls are made on the app using data (unless you elect in the settings to make them through your carrier) from your new foreign cell phone service provider, or through wifi.

Most international cell phone networks offer generous amounts of data with basic plans, so this means that as long as you only use Google Voice with data, you’ll get totally free calling and texting with the US.

The Cost to Port Your Number

There is a one-time $20 fee to port your number to Google Voice and use it just as you would normally. I think this fee is fair, especially if you plan to stay overseas for longer than one year.

There are no ongoing fees or monthly fees at all. You do not need to continue paying your old cell phone provider once your number has been ported away from them.

Does Google Voice Work With All Companies Who Require 2FA?

Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) is a relatively new security feature employed by many American companies that requires a user to verify their identity in more than one way before gaining access to the account. Banks and financial services companies are particularly stringent with requiring 2FA especially from new devices and locations. 

I have used my number as normal for 2FA and general business text messaging after porting it to Google Voice. 

It has helped me receive verification texts and calls from Capital One, Charles Schwab, TD Ameritrade, Robinhood, Uber, Doordash, Yahoo, Microsoft, AWS, Air France and many more companies. I would say it works very well with the vast majority of companies who require 2FA to log in. 

The only company I’ve encountered so far which is not compatible with 2FA using a Google Voice number is Chase Bank. Luckily, I can still log into my account from abroad and verify my identity using my email address but I cannot verify nor receive account alerts by text the way an American could with an American cell phone plan. It’s not a big deal, but I thought I’d mention it.

Important: Before You Begin

Please read these important tips to know before you begin porting your number to Google Voice!

  • You must port your number to Google Voice before moving abroad.
  • You’ll need your US cell phone plan’s account number and PIN for porting so call your current cell phone provider to get this information before initiating the port.
  • Handle any important financial transactions before beginning this process if your bank requires 2-factor authentication login using your cell phone. Your number could be stuck in limbo for up to 3 days during the porting process.

Porting Your Number to Google Voice

Now that you’ve got everything ready, here is how to initiate the port. These are the basic steps to porting your number to Google Voice. It’s a relatively painless process so don’t stress too much! Once again, be sure to initiate this process before you go overseas!

Sign up

The first step is to sign up for a free Google Voice account if you do not have one already. You will need a Gmail account to sign up, so be sure to log in. Choose “for personal use” as you sign up.

You will need to select a new Google Voice number to use. Don’t worry about this, just pick any number and verify your current phone number when it prompts you. This new number will be replaced by your current number after you port it over.

Verify

In order to port your cell phone number to Google, you then need to verify that it is eligible to be ported. Go to https://google.com/voice/porting and type in your number to see.

Landlines and corporate mobile numbers are not allowed. I didn’t have any trouble porting my T-Mobile number and others have ported Verizon and AT&T numbers without issue.

Once you determine it’s eligible, Google will call you and ask you to verify a code. This should be straightforward. 

Enter Your Current Cell Phone Billing Information 

You’ll then have to enter the information associated with your current cell phone provider’s bill each month exactly as it appears. You may have to call your cell phone service provider to get that information if you don’t have it already. You’ll need things like your account number and PIN for number porting. 

Make the Payment

You’ll then be prompted to make the $20 payment through the Google Payments portal. 

Wait for the Transfer

Now you just have to wait for the transfer to complete! The porting process takes up to 24 hours to finish, and you might not be able to send or receive texts for three days.

Install the App on Your Phone

While waiting for the port to complete, you can install the Google Voice app on your iPhone or Android cell phone.

Remember, Google Voice is accessible via both web and mobile!


Once the port has been completed, you will notice in your Settings that your real number appears, not the temporary one you signed up with!

Adjust Your Google Voice Settings

Be sure to take a look at all the settings of the Voice app as soon as you can.

As I mentioned earlier, the Google Voice app typically uses data in order to facilitate calls, but you can choose for these calls to pass through your normal cell phone network if you prefer. That would make sense for an American using the app in America as they would pay the same price to have a better quality call.

For us Americans abroad, it doesn’t make sense as we would be paying extra for an incoming international call by using the network instead of a “free” call using the VoIP in combination with our cell phone data or wifi.

Immediately, you want to go into your Settings of the app, scroll down to “Make and receive calls” and select “Prefer Wi-Fi and mobile data.” 

Google Voice Carrier Settings - Make and receive calls - Prefer Wi-Fi and mobile data

Check the Settings Regularly

You have to be really careful about this particular setting in the app in order to avoid any excess charges to your foreign cell phone service bill. Check it regularly before making any phone calls using the app and especially after the app updates.

Unfortunately, a couple years ago after an update of the app, my setting was switched from “Prefer Wi-Fi” to “Use carrier” automatically by Google. When my Dad called twice, I ended up with a $50 charge on my next bill from T-Mobile because the call passed through their network while I was abroad in France. I didn’t even think to check it because I had been using Google Voice previously without any issue.

Now, I always check the settings before making a call using the Google Voice app. Sometimes I even turn off the cell network while leaving the wifi on and then make my call.

What if You Move Back?

If you decide to move back to the United States in the future, you can easily port your number to back to an American carrier. According to Mint Mobile, the porting process from Google Voice takes up to 7 days.


That’s it! I hope this post helped you learn how to keep your mobile number after moving abroad. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments!

80 comments

  1. I am considering using Google Voice to keep a US number but I’m concerned that since it needs to be initially tied to a valid US number–what happens when the number I tie it to is no longer mine? What if whomever inherits my old number signs up for GV it’s already tied to my GV?

  2. This article was wildly helpful and I am so grateful for the time you took to explain the process. Appreciate you!

  3. Hello Victoria,

    Thank you for this article. My question is in regards to whether a forwarding number is required when porting my current US phone number to Google Voice. I’m confused as I will likely have a local new number (with a local carrier) at the country I’m headed, but I won’t know that number -obviously- until I’m there. How can I do the porting then? What forwarding number do I use, if I need to use one.

    Many thanks!

  4. I already moved to Japan. I got a new Japanese iPhone and Japanese number. I want to get rid of my US iPhone. I need have a US number if my parents in US need to call me or I them and a few things that need send 2fa. What can I do? I don’t understand the dual e-sim iPhones have. When I go to Japan store and ask how get a second sim with US # that can get 2fa they don’t know what it is. There are virtual phone numbers but banks don’t allow 2fa form them.

    1. Great info! My question is do you need to continue paying the existing US-based cellphone contract once you ported over the number or can you simply cancel that contract once porting done?

          1. You call the American provider and ask them what happens when you port your number away. Most times it is canceled automatically, but if it is not, then you ask them how to cancel the plan.

  5. Hello! This information is great and very helpful! I have a few questions before I move to Europe (leaving the US on June 10th)
    1). I am moving for approximately 7 months, possibly longer. If I use Google Voice, will I be able to resume my normal plan/same phone number when I return to the US? — pending in Verizon allows me to suspend my plan/save my number
    2). When you say you must initiate the porting process, what does that exactly mean? What step must I reach to be considered “initiated”?
    3). If I start initiating the process, can I still use my US number until I complete the process? Or once I start initiating, does that mean I cannot use my US number anymore?
    4). If I fly out of the US on June 10th, when do you recommend initiating the process? I would like to have full access to my US number/plan until I arrive in Spain, so I have a working phone number in case of emergencies.
    Thanks for your help!
    Cora

    1. 1. Yes, you can port your number back to your old carrier when returning to the US. It may take up to 7 days to do so.
      2/3. Did you read the article?
      “Now you just have to wait for the transfer to complete! The porting process takes up to 24 hours to finish, and you might not be able to send or receive texts for three days.”
      4. Unfortunately that won’t be possible if you start the porting process before leaving.

  6. Great article! Very thorough explanations without feeling too bogged down.

    We are moving abroad very soon (also use T-Mobile) and wondering about the ideal timing for porting. We would want to use our cell service until the very last moment, or after we’ve moved abroad would be even more ideal. I missed the reasoning for why it is important to do it before leaving the US. What is the rationale? And would it be different since we have T-Mobile’s Magenta plan that includes free US calling and texting from abroad?

    Thanks!!

  7. Hi Victoria,
    Thank you so much for providing the GV info and responding to all the questions from your readers.
    I have been successfully using GV on my iPhone since my recent move to France (thanks to your helpful information). So far, I have only used GV on WiFi. Now that I’m getting ready to purchase a French carrier sim card, I have a couple of questions for you.
    1. After getting a French sim card, do I need to “Set my Device Number” under the GV Settings/Account tab by adding my new assigned French number? Currently without a French sim card, GV shows “currently no number.” I was thinking I would need to update my GV settings so GV knows to use my French carrier mobile data when I’m not on WiFi.
    – If so, what format does my French phone number need to be in? Does it need to include the 33 (country code)?
    2. After getting a French sim card, is there any reason to “Link” my French phone number under the GV Settings/Account tab? (I’m thinking no, since I don’t want to be charged for a US (international) call linking from GV to my French carrier rate plan.)
    I hope my questions make sense and you can provide me your thoughts/advice.
    Thank you, Victoria!

    1. Hey Shawn,
      1. No this is not necessary.
      2. No this is not necessary.
      Think of GV as an app that functions entirely separately from your French cell phone!

  8. You say that I must port my number before moving abroad. – I already moved to France last Summer, permanently. Why this requirement to port before leaving US? Can I not do the porting from France by logging into Google Voice via a VPN pretending to be in the USA?
    (I want to get rid of my T-mobile account, and have Bouygues account here).
    Thanks for your great article.

    1. The reason you can’t do it after you move to another country is because you don’t have access to the US phone number. To do the porting Google Voice is going to text a code that you need to complete the porting. You can’t get the code and you can’t complete the porting. A real bummer!

  9. There’s another, newer, way that works if you don’t need to get rid of your old cell phone plan in the US and it’s called an eSIM. Basically, it allows two phone numbers (and signals) to be used simultaneously on your phone — one using the physical SIM socket in your phone and the other via an eSIM, which is just a QR code of a subscription read by your phone’s camera.

    If you Google it, you will see how it works. The only catch is that it works on newer phones from 2020 and beyond. I have an iPhone SE 2020 but it works on Android phones too. It allows the faster and cheaper 4G European eSIM, Bouygues in my case, to power the cell data on the phone and allows me to make and receive calls on both numbers and you can choose which one you want to use as the default.

    Before, I was exclusively using a T-Mobile/Sprint global roaming plan which allows unlimited roaming, texts and $.25/minute calls but data is capped at 2G speeds. This just wasn’t fast enough to be able to day to day with most apps but it was perfect for Whatsapp calls and receiving texts from the US.

    I still use this plan but I just added the Bougues eSIM, which makes it perfect because I don’t have to carry two phones with me anymore. Btw, all the major cell carriers in Europe offer eSIMs, not just Bouygues. This may not be the right approach for everyone but it may be another option if you have a global plan and still want to keep it.

  10. Hi Victoria. I’ve read through some of the comments and just want to confirm I’m on the right track. I currently have Google Fi because I thought I could use it while abroad. I just found out that their terms state that you can only use it abroad for 5 months (you have to go back to the states in order to keep the service). I’ll be abroad longer than that or indefinitely. So I’ve started the process of porting my number from Fi to Voice and Fi will assign me a new US number. Once I’m abroad, can I cancel Fi and still be able to receive / make calls and texts abroad or do I have to have some service with a carrier? I am hoping to get a local sim card and service at some point but it may take a while and I might have no service at all but want to ensure I’ll still have my US number to use (especially for my accounts that require verification). I’m assuming that while I have no carrier I would only be able to use my phone for calls and texts via wifi.

    Additionally, I do not see the setting in Google Voice to change to Wifi & Data. This may be because it is still trying to port my number so is this setting available once that’s set? Thanks so much!

  11. Hi Victoria,
    Great article, just need your help if you can assist. I have ported my US cell number to Google Voice, I was able to receive and make phone calls and texts in the US before leaving. Now, that I am overseas, I don’t get any calls/texts to the US cellphone number that I ported. Is there an issue with my settings?
    Hoping you can help

    1. olinda, does your phone, at overseas have overseas service or wifi connection?
      sorry for the obvious question, just trying to help.

  12. Hi Victoria!
    Super article. Thank you for authoring such an article. I have 3 questions…
    1. In another article you wrote, you mentioned that the phone you buy in the USA may not be compatible in France due to frequency bands “baked” into your actual phone. If I get over to France and discover that my phone is not compatible (due to frequency bands), I will buy a new phone in France which will, obviously, guarantee that my (new) phone frequency bands will work in France. When I buy that new phone, can I just install the GV app on my new phone and things will work exactly as if I was still using my original phone?
    2. When a friend in the USA calls my old USA number, do I answer the call within the GV app (I don’t even know if you can that) or does that call made to my old number automatically get routed to my new number and I just answer the call as I did back in the USA before I ever put the GV app on my phone?
    3. I don’t think I even care about this last question, but am just asking for education purposes. While in France, and I want to make a call to the USA, do I call via the GV app? Is that even possible? I am thinking the GV strategy you describe is for incoming calls only. What am I am not understanding here?
    Finally, thank you a thousand times for your article. I sincerely will appreciate any time you use to reply to my questions.
    May you be happy; may you be healthy; may you be at peace,
    Jon

    1. Hi Jon!
      1. Yes, you can install the GV app and things will work normally. You just need to log into your Google account.
      2. Your phone rings the GV app automatically if a friend calls your new number. You can’t get it wrong, it happens automatically as long as your Settings are good. It looks something like this on the phone.
      3. Yes, you would make the call to the US from the GV app.
      I think you are making this more complicated than it is. Google Voice works for incoming and outgoing calls. I’m not sure how else to say it :)
      You’re welcome!
      Best,
      Victoria

      1. Thank you for everything, Victoria! I am now living in France. New (Orange) cell plan and new +33 French phone number. American number ported into google voice where American friends and business continue to communicate with me.

  13. Hi Victoria! Great article, very helpful. Question, Do you know if the port MUST be completed before leaving the US ? OR as long as it is initiated before leaving the country ( but not completed )should be ok? I’m trying to figure out when should I start the porting process since I want to keep the TMOBILE service for as long possible before departure time. Thanks so much!

  14. Hello Victoria —

    Excellently written article. I ported my number over to Google Voice but can’t launch the app in iPhone in India. I am getting an error saying “Google Voice isn’t supported in your country yet”. Any ideas how to fix it?

  15. Great article Victoria, thanks for taking the time to write this. I’ve just arrived in Paris less than a week ago, and unfortunately had no plan for how I would manage my phone. I’d really like to keep my U.S. number but am obviously too late for Google Voice. Are you or is anyone on the thread aware of other VOIP services that can be initiated from France?
    Thanks!

    1. Hello, I am not. I have heard of some people porting their number to GV while using a VPN to ‘fake it’ that they are still in the US.

  16. Victoria, i forgot to add this on my previous post.
    So, this happened to you: “”Unfortunately, a couple years ago after an update of the app, my setting was switched from “Prefer Wi-Fi” to “Use carrier” automatically by Google. When my Dad called twice, I ended up with a $50 charge on my next bill from T-Mobile because the call passed through their network while I was abroad in France.””

    My question are: this MUST be done in order to not be charged a fee by the US carrier (T-Mobile for me)? Can I set it up to use the local carrier (foreign country carrier) for this o you just recommend “prefer wi-fi”?
    What if I want to make a phone call to the US? Do I call through the GV app? How do I know the foreign carrier is not charging me for an international call?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi! That happened when I was still using T-Mobile as my main phone service provider BEFORE I ported my number to Google Voice. I was receiving an American call while in France so T-Mobile charged me for having an international phone call from abroad.

      Yes, you must choose “Prefer W-Fi and mobile data” no matter what cell phone service provider you use because if not, you’ll have to pay the extra costs for making an international call through your cell phone service provider. It’s not a matter of the US carrier charging you, it’s a matter of the FOREIGN carrier charging you for making an American call. (I am not sure where you are planning to move)

      If you want to call the US, you call through the Google Voice app, yes to avoid any international charges by your new foreign cell phone carrier. You won’t be charged thanks to the setting in the app: “Prefer W-Fi and mobile data”.

      1. Great, I understand now. I’ll be moving back to Argentina for a while. Thank you so much for taking the time to reply :)

  17. Hi Victoria! I wanted to thank you for your article! I’m from Argentina but I’ve been living in the states for over 10 years and I’m might need to go home for a year and don’t want to lose my US phone # but also don’t want to pay a monthly plan since I am trying to eliminate all the US bills while abroad, but like you mentioned in your article, a phone number is needed since most banks require a US phone for a 2FA for communication,. This article saved my life hahah.!

    Now, I see you mention Iphone, does this work for android? i want to think is does since is a google service.
    Thank you again for this great article!

  18. Thank you for this very helpful article! I just have one question. Do we continue to pay our Verizon carrier or is this not necessary? Google voice is always saying it’s free, yet ….? Thank you so much. I know this post is months old now, but hoping you still get this question.

    1. Hey Andrea,
      No, you do not continue paying your American carrier bill. Your Verizon contract is normally cancelled when you port out your number, but you should call them to be sure that’s the case.
      Victoria

  19. Your posts and information to others in the comments is truly a blessing to those of us in the US headed abroad. I’m headed to Cyprus for a year and will be going through this process to port our verizon numbers to Google Voice. My only question is whether we have to be in the US at the end of the 24-96 hour period when we cannot receive text messages. We leave next Wednesday. Can I initiate the port Wednesday morning or should we do it on Monday or Tuesday? Pros/Cons for this options?

    THANK YOU!

  20. Hi Victoria
    Great info. Clear and concise. I mainly need this option for 2fa for bank and PayPal. Also your reply about wats app is helpful.
    You don’t mention it but from what I understand I can have GV on my laptop and tablet as well.
    One question , at the beginning I think you said you ported your t mobile number to GV, but at the end you say you got a 50 US bill from t mobile .
    Did I read that correctly
    Great oh feed too
    Thank you
    Tony

    1. Yes, I got the $50 fee before I ported my number to Google Voice (that’s why it’s better to do it)

  21. Hello! Great article, appreciated the detailed steps. I have a few concerns
    (1) I decided not to port my current USA mobile#. I will accept the initial Google phone # the GV provides me and use that new#. Any problems saving myself the $20 and GV not working?
    (2) Can I set up a Google Voice account 6 weeks before I leave USA for a full year. I’m currently on T-mobile, will I lose my cell carrier service if I switch to Google Voice now? I still need an active cellphone for communication with my pharmacy, car repair, family before I leave the USA. Or do I have to start a new plan with T-mobile for the next 6 weeks? Thx.

    1. Hi,
      1. You may have issues receiving shortcodes using a VOIP number.
      2. You will not lose your T-Mobile service unless you port your number to GV.

  22. Hi Victoria,
    Thank you for your very detailed Google Voice tutorial. I am moving to Spain in 3 weeks and have a few questions on Google Voice for iPhones.
    – After porting your number, when you arrive in your new country did you get a local sim card to start off using your phone? If so does this sim change your number to something else?
    – Do you sign up with a local carrier once you have google voice w. your american number? Does that change your number or does that just give you 2 numbers? And does this new sim card/carrier change your american whatsapp number?
    So confused on sims, plans and google voice and could really use some help.
    Thanks in advance

    1. Hi!

      Yes, I got a local sim card in France after arriving. That’s correct, a local sim card will give you a local number and that will be your cell phone’s new assigned number. The cell phone provider will tell you your number when you purchase the service!

      Correct, you need to port your American number to Google Voice before leaving the States. Your physical cell phone won’t have any number attached to it after the port is complete. Your American number will be associated with your Google Voice account which you can access on the web or via the mobile app (when your phone is connected to either a cell network or wifi) to make calls and send texts.

      Once you sign up for a local cell phone service in Spain, yes, that number will be associated with your cell phone and you can make calls and texts using the normal “Phone” and “Messages” iPhone apps. Your American number still ‘lives’ in the Google Voice app on your phone. So you basically have two numbers on one phone.

      As for WhatsApp, nothing changes there. Your American number will still be associated with your account in the app. You could change the number in the Settings within the app if want to, but it doesn’t happen automatically!

  23. Hi! Victoria,
    Thank you very much for writing about GV. I would like to know your point of view about “what’s app”or “GV”? Maybe have both! We are retiring next month in France. We have an account with Robinwood and would like to know which one will work best with. Thanks

    1. Hi! Whatsapp still works even after migrating to GV, so you can continue to use Whatsapp as normal!

  24. Hi Victoria,

    Thank you for this clear and well written article. I followed your instructions and now my number is being ported. Now just waiting for the transfer to complete.

    After I have completed everything, I got the below email from Google Voice:

    Hello,

    We have begun the process of moving your phone number (porting) 402——- to Google Voice.

    To ensure that the porting process is as smooth as possible, please read through the following notes:
    1. Your number should be ported within 24 hours. You may not receive text messages for up to 3 business days after porting is complete.
    2. You will receive an email confirmation when your number has been successfully ported.
    3. Your mobile phone service plan will be terminated and your carrier may charge you an early termination fee if you are still under contract.
    4. Google Voice is not a mobile phone service provider, so you must set up a new mobile phone service plan (with your existing carrier or a new carrier) and request a new number.
    5. You will need to add this new number to your Google Voice account as a forwarding phone in order to receive calls on your mobile phone.

    Regarding items 4 and 5 above, since am leaving the U.S. next week, could you please clarify the following for me?
    a. As long as I have access to wifi (for instance airport or office wifi), I don’t need to get another plan or sim card in the country I am going to?
    b. When I get a foreign sim card, how does it work with GV/ported number? Is the point of the foreign sim card/plan just for the purpose of the mobile data and local phone calls/texts?

    1. Hi Kay!
      That’s correct. In theory, you don’t need another plan for Google Voice to work. As long as you are connected to wifi, the app will work. In practice, most of us find ourselves outside of a wifi zone at some point during the day, and that’s where a local SIM card with data can come in handy.
      Yes, the foreign SIM is just for the purpose of mobile data and local communications when you’re outside a wifi zone. You aren’t obligated to buy one at all.
      Good luck!

  25. Hi Victoria,
    I really appreciate your info because I will be moving to Paris in September so this is extremely helpful. In the past during my extended trips to Europe (3-6months), I have just turned my American phone into airplane mode and used a portable pocket wifi device to receive iMessages from home plus turned Wifi calling on for my phone to receive “some” calls and VMs. So my question is more about texting than calling…

    When porting my number to GV, does the text messages I receive/send immediately change and forward through the GV app? So now my number no longer has access to iMessaging?

    Also, what is your advice for cell service in France? I’ve looked into SFR, Orange, and Free. Free has been my initial thought process because of the ease of use when I return back stateside for holidays.

    Thanks in advance!!

    1. Hi Kris! Happy to help.

      The texts go through the GV app so that’s correct, they will be traditional SMS messages, not iMessages. You can still send photos too through GV. You will still have access to iMessage, but messages will likely come from your iCloud account email address attached to your iPhone, and once you sign up for a French cell phone service, they will be sent from that number.

      For French cell phone service, I recommend the Free “FORFAIT FREE 5G” plan. It uses the AT&T network in the States which has been so convenient for trips back home!

      Good luck!
      Victoria

      1. Hi there, thanks so much for all this great information! If I already have an orange cell number (because it links to all the other orange services I have in my French home; we have not quite completed our
        Full move to France) is there something similar to the FREE plan you mentioned through Orange? Or would it be worth switching to FREE ?

  26. Hey Victoria – thanks so much for this informative piece. I’m planning on going to GV route to keep my US number as I’m moving to London next week. Because I have to do this before I leave the country, my only worry is that once the phone number is ported I’ll be without cell service for about a week until I get my UK phone. I’m a bit worried since, if there isn’t wifi available, I’ll be unable to contact anyone during my travels. Am I understanding this correctly / do you have a recommendation?

    1. Hi! Yes, that’s correct. I believe most airports have wifi nowadays though so you should be fine! I would look up where you’re going ahead of time and figure out what cell phone service provider you want in the UK so you can go straight there after you arrive to your destination.

  27. So I am trying to save my existing US cell number, but I already have a UK based cell phone (and I am already in the UK). I think I have been able to get to the point of porting (waiting to get clarification that I am good to proceed from family back home as I am on a family plan and don’t want to mess anything up with them) by using a VPN but I was hoping to find a way to receive calls to my UK phone. It doesn’t seem that would be possible. I am thinking porting would still work, I could just maybe set my old US phone up to work only on WIFI to utilize the Google Voice app? Or I could at very least have a voicemail when people try to call my US number that directs them how to be reach me now.

    Hoping someone reading has had a similar issue… haha

    1. Hi! You can receive calls to your US cell phone number on your cell phone while in the UK. They will pass through the Google Voice app after you’ve ported your US number to them. You’ll need either a wifi connection in the UK or a UK cell phone service provider.

  28. Victoria, After porting my number to google voice, Will I still need another (real) phone number on my my profile, that is linked to my google voice number?

    1. Nope, your current phone number replaces the Google Voice number assigned to you when you sign up after porting!

  29. This post was super helpful! I’m moving to Germany in July and was hoping to keep my same phone number. I think the Google Voice process sounds relatively simple, but I’m curious about using the phone for international calls (like if I have to call a coworker in Germany). Do you need to get a different SIM card in your phone, compatible with an international plan? Or sign up for an international plan with an in-country provider? Thank you!!

    1. Hi Allison, I’d recommend getting a German cell phone provider once you’re in Germany! It doesn’t need to have international service. This will make it much easier for German people to reach you and integrate into daily life there. Your American number will receive calls and texts through the Google Voice app.

  30. Great article. I do have few questions: 1. Can you clarify if Person A who is in the USA dials my original USA number that was ported to GV I will still receive the phone call say in Mexico? 2. Are there any ongoing costs for the service? 3. Are you still able to send and receive calls during the porting process and timeframe delays? I understand texts are not available during that time. Thank you for your consideration of my questions.

    1. Hi Andrew!
      1. Yes, absolutely. You just need to be connected to wifi or any cell phone network in Mexico. The call will not pass through your normal iphone/android calling app. It will come through the Google Voice app. I receive and make calls with no problem here in France.
      2. Nope, there are no ongoing costs, just the $20 upfront fee.
      3. I don’t have firsthand experience, but according to this Google post, there is no downtime for calls during the porting process.

  31. Bonjour Victoria – Very well written article and most insightful. I am considering porting my US number to Google Voice, but not sure if that would be necessary. I plan to travel back and forth between US and Costa Rica and the most important feature I need is for people in the US to be able to call my US number and get a hold of me – no delays and no international calling cost to them or me. And, if they call me on my US number while I am in CR, I would want my mobile phone to ring as if I were in the states. What makes most sense for my situation?

    Merci!

    1. Hi Gijs!
      Thank you so much.

      Doing what I wrote in the article would definitely work if you want to be reached in Costa Rica! You would just need to be on wifi, or get a local service in Costa Rica.

      I am in your exact position (but living in France) and the cell phone service was much cheaper in France ($22/month versus the $50 I was paying to t-mobile at the time) AND the French company included service internationally, meaning when I go back home to the US, I can still use my phone like normal. There are even French expats living in the US who kept their French service and just use their phone in the US!

      I receive calls and texts very easily from people in the US no matter where I am – the only difference is they all pass through the Google Voice app – not the native iphone/android messaging and calling apps. No big deal at all.

      Plus, Google Voice doesn’t require a cell phone network to function. It only needs wifi or a network. Obviously most people prefer to have a cell phone network so they are reachable after they leave their house or a wifi zone. But just so you know.

      Anyway, I’m not sure if a cell phone service like this is available for you in Costa Rica. It’s hard to advise without knowing if you will spend more time in Costa Rica or the US. Do you need a local Costa Rica number, too?

      The ideal situation is to find a company that works in both countries but if you can’t, then perhaps get a Costa Rica service and just pay for a cheap Tracfone or Mint Mobile card when you’re back in the states. That is what I did before signing up with the French cell phone network I have today. Good luck!

  32. Heads up – the link to verify portability does not work http://google.com/voice/porting

    I am planning to go to Colombia. Want to make sure I do each step right.

    Before leaving Colombia port my number to Google voice
    Then I will be cancelling my Consumer Cellular account
    In Colombia will sign up with a local carrier using my iphone from the US.

    How do I then connect my ported number to my phone in Colombia?

    1. Hi Adriana! The link works but you must have a Google Voice account to access it. I added in a note to sign up for an account first.

      Yes, that’s correct. Once your number has been ported, your cell phone company should automatically cancel your contract, but you should call them to be sure.

      You can download the Google Voice app from the App store to use your phone number on your iPhone. All communications with your American number will pass through the Google Voice app, NOT the native iPhone Messages/Calling apps, based on my recommendations for avoiding international texting/calling fees by your international carrier.

  33. Hello very informative article thanks a ton, question- when i try to link my international number under devices it says only us numbers are allowed and no international numbers are supported. i dont know what to do

    1. Hi! This post is meant for Americans moving abroad wishing to keep their US (+1) number, so they wouldn’t have an international number. I am not sure what to do in your case.

  34. This all sounds very nice but what’s with your US prepaid plan ? Do you still have to pay monthly payment ? And how do you keep your prepaid plan while abroad ! And especially now with covid-19 I believe I just lost my prepaid plan because I haven’t been in the usa for over a year .

    1. Hi Frank! Your plan is typically automatically canceled by the American carrier once a phone number is no longer associated with it. If not, you can manually cancel your American phone plan after porting your number to Google Voice so you do not continue paying a monthly fee.

  35. Hello Victoria

    I read you article about Google voice. I have a bank account in TD Bank. I don’t have a US number. Can I get a new number through Google voice so I can receive confirmation texts from my bank?

      1. Does Mint mobile forward SMS to g-voice?
        I tried Tello — but was told that it would not work overseas. They could not active the SIM once I was no longer in the US & had to cancel the service. I have a google account and a g-voice number, but the g-voice instructions say I still have to have a US carrier to accept SMS.

        BTW: Cap One 360 has told me they are NOT AN INTERNATIONAL BANK they require a US SMS number for TFA and will not use email.

        1. Hi Paulie,
          That’s correct, you unfortunately cannot activate Google Voice once you have already left the US. Perhaps during your next trip back you can open a temporary line!
          Mint Mobile doesn’t “forward” SMS to google voice. You would open a Mint account, join google voice, then port your Mint number over to google voice and begin receiving texts directly to the Google voice app.
          Hope that helps!

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