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

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

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.


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!

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  1. Do you have ability to maintain a Venmo account? Since Venmo is for U.S. only and is established by a U.S. phone number, would this be a problem or have you not had experience with this?

    1. I would create the Venmo account using your US number BEFORE porting it over to Google Voice. Maintaining it is not a problem.

  2. Thank you so much for this informative article! One question. I use whatsapp with quite a few contacts based on my US ph #. Once ported to Google Voice, will I still be able to send/receive in whatsapp to the contacts who know me by that ph#? Thank you!

  3. Hello,
    In your article you stated you received a $50 charge from T-Mobile. Did your account not get closed after you Ported the number?

    1. Hi, No the charge was from before I ported my number. I was using Google Voice with the number they originally provide you when you first sign up. So I had 2 American numbers on the phone and the call passed through my T-Mobile service number instead of my Google Voice number.

  4. Hi there… to your important point re experience receiving 2FA texts (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.) … are there any updates on that experience?

    Second … on the google voice forum, I just received a note “However, due the the nature of the Google Voice app, there are frequently mandatory app updates. Since Google Voice is a USA-only service, and you will be outside of the USA, you will be unable to update the app. When this happens, you’ll lose all functionality and will no longer be able to place or receive phone calls, or send and receive text messages.”

    Have you had any issues with GV updates?

    Thanks again for a great article!

    1. It’s not that you are unable to update the app – it’s that you may have to switch the Country associated with your Apple account in order to update it (assuming you are on iPhone). I switch between the France App Store and the US App store as needed to do this. An alternative idea is to use an old phone with the US App store, and a new phone with the Foreign App store (or vise versa).

  5. Thanks for posting this comprehensive guide.
    I’d already gone through this process successfully with my spouse’s number after we’d moved to Europe (T-Mobile account only rarely used) but couldn’t quite recall the steps.

  6. Just to make sure I understand this fully, is this how it works:

    – While in US, port my number from Verizon to Google Voice
    – By doing this, Verizon closes my account with them, Google charges me $20
    – Arrive in New Zealand, get new cell provider and insert their sim with new NZ phone number
    – Using data plan or wifi, continue to receive my US calls/texts through the GV app
    – Giving me 2 numbers that work, but only paying for 1 plan

    Moving there for a few years and really want to make sure I understand this correctly. If this is correct, it will be amazing.

    Thanks for writing this post!

  7. When do you cancel your plan or service with your US provider? Do I need to port the numbers first then call AT&T and cancel?

    We suspended one of the numbers for the last year and had to pay for service as if we still used it. My husband is military and was out of country.

    Now we’ll all be leaving country for 3 years and want to keep our US numbers (3 of them) but not pay the almost $250 for suspension plus new service aboard.

    1. Hi! Your plan *should* be automatically cancelled by AT&T once your number is ported away. I would still call them to verify that’s the case!
      Thanks to your husband for his service!

  8. This may not work any more.

    At least in Ireland, when you launch Android Google Voice, it tells you it doesn’t work in this country. Looking more closely, GV was officially launched in Ireland in 2019 for use with Workspace. Other unofficial reports say it’s not available for free (gmail) accounts.

    There’s a whole big rigamarole you need to go through in order to set up Workspace, add the GV app, license GV for the users in the Workspace that are going to use it, and then port and activate your numbers. I haven’t finished but I’m guessing it’s going to even out to about $20/mo per user, which seems competitive with Ooma and other similar VOIP services.

    Google is a big rich company but, generally, services need to be paid for by ads or subscriptions… or they’re at risk of being canceled. It’s very likely that free international VOIP service from google is a loophole that may be closed.

    I’m very happy to hear that I’m wrong, btw.

      1. I don’t think so. I should say that the web app comes up fine on a laptop. And it comes up on my mobile when I’m on a vpn directed to the US. But, even using local wifi-only the mobile app still refuses to come up. It knows I’m in Ireland and declines to play ball.

        The thing that starting in the US gives me is the ability to receive the sms with the code for binding my phone number to GV. So, I may be in trouble with respect to that since I’ve started the porting process from Ireland.

        I can run in a browser under a VPN. But, what I’d really like to do is receive inbound calls, which requires the app running with the new number using wifi or mobile IP data service I get from a local SIM.

        So, I don’t have a smoking gun but I don’t see how this all works if the app refuses to start when it detects that I’m connected via an Irish ISP.

        1. Receiving the SMS is just one aspect. I’m guessing your Google Account is flagged as belonging to an Irish national since that’s where you log in from. I’m guessing the program is not available to non-US persons and since your account is flagged as such, Google is attempting to restrict the program from you.

          After you log in to Google from another country for several months, Google switches your account association to that country behind the scenes. That’s also why the process must begin before departing the US.

          1. OK, I’m merrily eating crow.

            SMS to my phone didn’t work to get the GV verification code but I put my wife’s phone on wifi-only and used the”get a call” option, pointed to my phone. I was told the code on my phone. I completed her binding her “ported” number to GV.

            Presto, once it was ported to her number I was able to launch GV without vpn, and send a text to her from my phone (my phone, still roaming native, her phone wifi-only plus GV). And, I called my phone from hers. And, I called her phone from mine.

            Evidently, the “can’t use GV in this country” only comes up if you don’t have a number bound to your phone.

            So, to repeat: it worked. Personal gmail works with GV. You *can* activate it out of the US (I had to use phone delivery of the activation code not SMS.)

  9. This is all very helpful, but I get lost when trying to forward. I have my US number ported in Voice and I have my new EU provider phone number, but when I try to enter the new number as the number to forward calls to, it says it has to be an American number only. What am I missing? I am in Europe when writing this.

    1. There is no need to enter a number to have calls forwarded to. You simply respond to calls to your US number as normal (they will be handled within the Voice app automatically)

      1. how about the internet data? let say we ported our current US number to google voice app. can we have internet data, and use the google map or all other apps on our cellphone?

        1. No Google voice does not include data. You have to pay for a local sim card to get data on your phone in the foreign country.

  10. Hi Victoria! Apologies if this has already been asked and answered, but I think there’s one part of this that I could use some clarity on. I will be moving soon, in a few weeks, and like everyone else I still need to be able to use my US number during that time. I also do not yet have a cellular contract or a sim in my destination country. This is the critical part I’m struggling with, how to do the hand off while in the US and still have cellular service.

    I’m assuming once I transfer my number from AT&T to Google Voice, I will effectively have no cellular coverage, and the only way to make or receive calls/texts is if I were on WiFi. And it’s imperative that I have service until I get on the plane to leave.

    If I were to try to set this up today, do I need to setup a US “pay as you go” number that I can use for the next 3 weeks? With that, would I have google redirect my old phone number to the new “pay as you go” line, then once I reach my destination, swap it over to the international line?

    1. Hi Matt, I would just do the transfer the day of your trip or the day before. Why bother with a pay as you go plan? The transfer is typically done within 24 hours, during which you’d be on a plane!

      1. My worry there was that I wouldn’t have access to cellular service while at my origin airport or destination airport while the transfer was happening. I’d hate to arrive in another country and not have the ability to use the internet or call if I needed to. I figured if I set it all up beforehand with a prepaid account, I could deal with that interruption while still in the US and rest assured I have a working phone when I land. Is that too paranoid? I’m just worried about being entirely cut off when I’m in a foreign land :) From reading about this, it sounds like it can take anywhere from 24-96 hours to process, but I wasnt sure when during that time I would have no access

        1. The thing is that most “pay as you go” plans don’t offer foreign service. Did you find one that does? If so, then yes that could be a good idea to do the transfer ahead of time.

          I personally just research what I need to know ahead of time so I don’t mind not having service right away in a foreign country.

          Others have said that it IS possible to do the transfer AFTER leaving the US. I think the worry was that if you don’t have roaming service to receive American phone calls abroad, you can’t verify the code from Google to set the account up.

          1. So, I ended up just adding an extra line to my existing account, which is pretty cheap for me because I have a family plan. I’m dedicating the new number to mobile use between now and when I decide to turn off service with my US provider, and switching my original number over to Google Voice. Once I move my original number over to Google Voice, my mobile provider will no longer be charging me for my original line, so there aren’t too many extra costs in here (aside from activation charges, etc).

            Since my cell phone allows me to add multiple eSIMs this was pretty easy. For me this allows me to test out Google Voice with my original number while still in the US and gives me one less thing to worry about at the airport. ;)

  11. Unfortunately, this isn’t a solution for people with Hawaii numbers (and maybe Alaska too)…and this really sucks :/

  12. Hey there, bumped into this article while doing my research. Thanks for the elaborate notes, excellent notes and information – Thank you!

  13. My wife and I are hoping to move permanently to Spain in the near future and will try porting our US numbers to GV before we go. One snag may be that both numbers are under the same Verizon plan and therefore the same bill and PIN info. I am the plan owner with my wife as a secondary account manager. Do you have any idea if we could both port? Thanks!

  14. Hi Victoria I just came across your article. I’m already in Europe, have been for awhile. I have an iPhone with a dual sim card. I have two plans and two phone numbers, one US and one Dutch. I’m paying an arm and a leg for my US plan so want to give it up but I don’t want to give up my US number. I read that you have to start the process of Porting before you leave. Since I’m already here can I still do it because I still have my US plan and I won’t give it up until I know the Google voice is working properly. Thanks for your help.

      1. I’m and in the same exact situation. It seems one can “trick” Google Voice by using Virtual private network to “pretend” you’re located within the USA. I wish someone can confirm this.

  15. Dear Victoria,

    My name is Steve from Cleveland, Ohio in the US. I just finished reading your great article on “Using Google Voice Overseas Abroad” and I have two confusions…

    1) A competitor company called OpenPhone wrote an online article recently slamming Google Voice stating if you use it while living abroad overseas, yes you can make calls back to the US however you absolutely cannot text back to the US but I’ve read several articles from many places like your site and nobody else anywhere is also claiming this. Do you know is this actually true? I am moving to South Korea in 4 months and texting back to the US is a major need. Do you know the true correct answer on this?

    2) Several sites are also claiming you absolutely need a VPN paid service to use Google Voice while living abroad overseas but I currently live in the US and do have a current US phone number to use for the verification process and will eventually be porting it over…I don’t need a VPN to fool or trick Google verification process in the beginning setup. I live in the US and have a US Cellphone number all ready to do this yet several sites are forcefully claiming you must have a paid service VPN. Do I actually need one after the initial beginning phone verification process on a regular daily basis so Google never detects I’m using it in South Korea on a regular ongoing basis? Do you know the correct answer as well?

    3) Worst of all, I read another article on this same subject from a different site that says when US Callers call you overseas on your Google Voice App cellphone, it never actually rings in real time…you just get a notification of a call and you have to then call them back. It will be a missed call every time. It’s never ever going to be real time. Then it claims you actually have to use Hangouts to call them back and cannot with Google Voice. That’s a massive mess for me. It’s that actually true?

    4) Finally, what’s the best solution in instances living overseas when you’re out running errands or such and you are not able to be connected to a WiFi connection. Do I purchase a portable WiFi stick and keep it in my pocket everywhere so Google Voice can always connect? Or I don’t know much at all about foreign SIM cards…Do I purchase one and does that give me a secondary South Korean new cellphone number, cellphone monthly minutes and Data usage to play on my cellphone Internet browser and as a default option for Google Voice to connect to as a second choice?
    Can you even have a cellphone overseas that essentially runs and functionally operates two different numbers being your ported American Google Voice number as well as the newly acquired foreign cellphone number just generated?

    Thank you,


    1. 2) activation to the Google Voice requires that you are on US or VPN to US. AT least for me it works without vpn when the voice is activated before you move oversees.

      3) The delay most likely depends on your web connection delay (ping in the speedtest.net) and googles processing between phone networks and the internet witch I guess is pretty good.

      4) If you are months in overseas and plan to text/call with locals it is best to get a local calling plan / sim for internet. Also, that depends on the country.

      Hope this helps,

  16. This works OK if you just need to keep hold of the phone# and only text friends and family.
    It doesn’t work at all if you need to do any form of business at all. Banks, cards, etc. will not accept a google voice number for authentication.
    Back to the drawing board.

    1. if it’s the same number you’ve always used (under your current cell phone provider) in the US, I don’t see banks, cards, companies, etc. fussing about it. I’d imagine you’d still be able to recieve 2FA notifications, etc..if the author or anyone who has done this and knows for sure can verify, that’d be helpful.

  17. As a nomad, I was a big advocate for Google Voice and porting your phone number over to them before going off on years of travel. That was until two days ago. My husband’s account was suspended. He does not make many calls, and uses it mainly to keep in contact with family and friends back home. Never abused it, and have read through their T&S multiple times. The only thing we can figure is that since we had poor cell service when attempting to send a text, that it attempted to send multiple times and came across as spam.
    Google does not have a dedicated support team for GV, and tells you to go onto the volunteer threads. We have tried appealing it, but just the same response back that we violated their T&S with no specifics. He’s had his number for 20+ years and it looks like it’s gone forever.
    I’m now looking for an alternative, even if it’s something paid for.

    1. Maybe your husband can port his number out of google voice before it’s gone forever, and then port it back in under the guise of a new account…

  18. Hi Victoria,

    I found your website and advice for GV while searching for a way to keep my US cell phone number. I see are in France and most of the people who wrote you questions are in Europe. I will be moving to Mexico. Do you know if Google Voice will work the same in Mexico?
    I did see one person who asked questions for moving back to Argentina.

    Thank you much!

    1. Hi! Yes, it will work anywhere in the world. You just need to get a local SIM card to use your phone with, or connect to Wifi.

  19. Very dangerous to recommend using goolge voice for 2-factor authentication. Someone hacked my husbands google account and easily transfered his number to their account. Now they not only have access to all the store account passwords in his google account, but also have control of his goolge voice number for 2-factor authentication. Google is a free service and provides pretty much no support. They not only won’t get the number back, but they won’t shut it down so that the hackers will stop trying to scam all his contacts. Also google voice themselves says it should not be used for any 2-factor authentication and that it should be only used in conjuntion with a legit US number. Don’t make the same mistake we did… google does not have the secruity you think they do nor do they offer any help when something goes wrong. Find a paid service and save yourself the headache.

  20. I watched video after video of how to do this, and I was so confused. Your blog laid it out perfectly, and I finally did it! Thank you so much for all of your help!

  21. Thank you so much!!! This had all the answers to the questions I had after reading Google’s instructions. Great user perspective. You really saved me several hours of research.

  22. US citizen going to live abroad for only three months. (Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam) Best way to maintain my US phone number without porting? Phone is unlocked. I was thinking of buying a prepaid sim in each country. Will WhatsApp function as a messenger service for me? Or what are your thoughts?

    1. It depends on the service provider. You should ask if they can suspend the line temporarily, If not, I would keep paying your US phone bill as usual since it’s only 3 months.
      Yes, you can get a prepaid SIM in each country and WhatsApp will function as usual. It will recognize that your phone has a new number associated with it, and ask you if you want to change your WhatsApp number. I would recommend clicking “no,” do not change WhatsApp number. Unless you want to of course.

  23. 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?

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

  25. 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!

      1. Is it simpler to have a second phone with the American SIM in it? Am already in FR. Thank you, Victoria.


  26. 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.

  27. 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!

    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.

  28. 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?


  29. 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!

  30. 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!

  31. 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.

  32. 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!

  33. 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.

  34. 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,

    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!

      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.

  35. 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!

  36. 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?

  37. 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?

    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.

  38. 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 :)

  39. 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!

  40. 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.

  41. 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?


  42. 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

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

  43. 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.

  44. 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!

  45. 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!

  46. 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:


    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!

  47. 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!

      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 ?

  48. 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.

  49. 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.

  50. 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!

      1. Victoria, can you confirm this? GV doesn’t allow to make/receive call from mobile app unless the number it’s linked to real US/Canadian number. Sounds like porting “real” number to GV might eliminated this problem, but I want to make sure that’s the case before I port a number I had for 23 years and cancel my TMobile service.

  51. 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.

  52. 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.

  53. 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?


    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!

  54. 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.

  55. 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.

  56. 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.

  57. 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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