This article teaches you how to use a Google Voice number and how to port your number to Google Voice while abroad. Learn why porting your U.S. cell phone number to Google Voice is the ideal solution for expats.
- What is Google Voice?
- How does Google Voice work?
- Does Google Voice work internationally?
- Port your number to Google Voice before moving overseas
- Can you port any US phone number to Google Voice?
- When should you port your number?
- Create a Google Account
- How to switch to Google Voice?
- How to use Google Voice internationally?
- What are the limits of Google Voice overseas?
- Move your number back to an American carrier
What is Google Voice?
Google Voice is a VoIP (voice over IP) service from Google. Voice over IP communications are carried over the internet, they do not require a phone carrier. Practically speaking, you only need wi-fi access or an internet data plan to place a call (local or international).
How does Google Voice work?
Having a U.S. number when living abroad makes it possible to receive text messages from American companies that use 2-factor authentication. Most U.S. banks will not validate an operation unless you pass the authentication test first and they won’t send text messages to international numbers.
Using Google Voice overseas is ideal because it lets you keep your U.S. phone number without having to pay monthly fees. You only have to pay a $20 one-time fee to port your U.S. number to Google Voice. Imagine how much money you save in international roaming fees compare to keeping your American carrier.
Does Google Voice work internationally?
Google Voice works internationally. It’s a great option for expats because it allows you to:
- use your U.S. number – After you’ve ported your old number to Google Voice, family and friends reach you at the same number as always. You do not lose the U.S. phone number you’ve been using until now. Your old number seamlessly becomes your Google Voice phone number.
- call home for free – Since communications are done over IP, you are able to call family and friends in the United States for free.
Port your U.S. number to Google Voice before moving overseas
You need to port your U.S. phone number while you are still physically in the United States. Once abroad, setting up Google Voice is tricky but not impossible.
To port your U.S. phone number from abroad, use a virtual private network (VPN) such as NordVPN. A VPN can make it look like you are still in the United States, even when you’re not. Read VPN for expats to learn why and how to use a VPN.
Can you port any U.S. phone number to Google Voice?
Most phone numbers can be ported into a Google Voice number but some can’t. Only phone numbers from one of the biggest mobile carriers (AT&T Wireless, T-Mobile or Verizon Wireless) or one of their subsidiary or re-seller brands can be ported.
You cannot port a VoIP number nor a land line number to Google Voice.
When should you port your number?
You need to port your number to Google Voice while your U.S. cell phone plan is still active. Do not cancel your cell phone plan until after you receive a confirmation that your number has been ported. Once Google Voice has ported your number, your mobile phone provider will automatically put your account on suspension status. I recommend that you call your carrier at that time to make sure your plan is actually cancelled.
You can only port an unlocked number to Google Voice so make sure you unlock your U.S. number first if necessary.
Porting a number takes between 48 and 96 hours. I recommend porting your number within the last week before leaving the United States. Unfortunately, your U.S. phone number can be stuck in limbo for 3 days during the porting process, so plan accordingly.
You can setup Google Voice ahead of time though and save the porting number part for the very last week.
Create a Google account
You need a Google account to setup Google voice. Create a Google account if you do not have one already.
In order to port your number, you have to provide your account number with your service provider, as well as your PIN number. You can find this information in a recent billing statement.
How to switch to Google Voice?
There are 3 steps before you can use your U.S. phone number via Google Voice.
- Setup Google Voice. Go to Google Voice and follow carefully Google support instructions. Pick a Google Voice phone number. That number will be replaced with your U.S. number after you port it to Google Voice.
- Port your U.S. cell phone number.
- Install Google Voice app on your iPhone or android phone.
How to use Google Voice internationally?
You can use Google Voice both on your computer and/or on your phone. Keep in mind that Google Voice only works with an internet connection.
Once you moved overseas, make sure you use the Google Voice app on your phone exclusively in data mode. This is super important or you might end-up using your local phone carrier and pay extra.
To use Google Voice internationally with data only, select Prefer wi-fi and mobile data in the Make and receive calls options in Google Voice settings. The Prefer wi-fi and mobile data option allows you to send texts and place phone calls without a phone carrier. Of course, it only works when you have access to an internet connection, whether it’s public free wi-fi or an internet data plan.
Your phone device has now become two phones in one:
- a local phone when you use your phone the regular way with a local carrier.
- an American phone when you text or call through your Google Voice phone number.
What are the limits of Google Voice overseas?
A Google Voice number is a virtual phone number. While most American banks and companies allow 2-factor authentication with virtual numbers, some do not.
Porting your number to Google Voice is still the best option to keep your U.S. number when moving abroad.
Move your number back to an American carrier
When you move back to the United States, you might want to get your number back from Google Voice. Moving back your Google Voice number to an American carrier is an easy 3-step process.
- Get a SIM card from your new U.S. carrier. Install it on your phone.
- Unlock your Google Voice number. On your computer, go to your Google Voice account and unlock your number.
- Port your Google Voice phone number to your new provider. Call your provider’s transfer line and let them know that you want to use that specific number.
I hope you read this article before you moved abroad. If you’re relocating to France, read Can you use a US cell phone in France?