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Use a Google Voice number abroad

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?

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.

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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.

  1. 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.
  2. Port your U.S. cell phone number.
  3. 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?

Nathalie Nahmani

About Nathalie Nahmani

Nathalie is the creator of ma French Life. She moved back to France after living in Los Angeles for 20 years. She writes practical articles to help expats in France. Nathalie lives with her family in the French Alps near Grenoble.

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58 thoughts on “Use a Google Voice number abroad”

  1. Bonsoir Nathalie!
    Your articles are very helpful and informative. I tried following all of the steps to port my American phone number to google voice, and have run into several problems. I am now in France, and have a French phone number and phoneplan. When I open the google voice app on my phone it says that “it is not supported in your country” which I know is false. When I go online to my google voice account, it lists my phone number that I had attempted to port as one of my linked numbers instead, and says that I do not have a google voice number set up, even though I am certain that I set it up before leaving the States. Finally, I tried accessing google voice online and setting up a number to go back and change to my phone number. I used a VPN. When I tried to setup a google number, the phone number I’ve tried to port is needed to verify, and so I entered it, but I received the message: “This phone number can’t be used to sign up for a Google Voice number. Try verifying with another number.”
    I am at a loss for what to do next. Is it enough that my phone number is linked, rather than ported? I am very confused.

  2. Hi Nathalie,
    I just want to use google voice as is using my laptop and goole voice phone number overseas in Japan.
    Do I still need to port any US carrier phone numbers to goole voice in order for me to use google voice as is?

    Kind regards,

    • Hi Takuya,
      You only need to port a US # if you want to use your existing US#, otherwise you’ll get a US phone number when you create your Google Voice account. The process is the same for a computer or a phone.
      I hope this helps!

      Take care,

  3. I am planning on opening up a French bank account as soon as I get to Paris. Do you have any recommendations? I will also sign up for a wire transfer company such as Wise or Revolut.

    Can you help me with other things? I don’t want to be a bother.

    Thank you!!!!!

    • Hi Martine,
      I don’t have any recommendation for banks as I don’t live in Paris.
      You will need to try bank agencies near your place. It really depends on who you talk to. Go in person, bring your documents and try a different agency if they refuse.
      For money transfers, I’ve been using Wise for years and I highly recommend it (read my article on Wise).
      To use my services, contact me there

  4. I am moving in September and trying to get everything ready before I leave. I am very “untechnical” and this kind of stuff stresses me out, but I now understand why people promote Google voice.

    I understand with my phone, I can have two SIM CARDS. Is your recommendation for me to purchase a SIM CARD in France and subscribe to one of their mobile carrier?


    • Most phone providers in France require that you have a French bank account. If you don’t have one yet, you can get a SIM card that will give you a French phone # and some data. You can also get an eSIM if your phone supports it. Read Best French SIM card for the details. Once you have a French bank account, you can get a regular French phone plan.

  5. Hi Nathalie – I just joined and I find your articles very useful. What is the difference between GoogleVoice and WhatsApp which is what I use when I travel overseas.

    Also, once I drop my US mobile carrier, what do I need to do in order to be able to use my GPS?

    • Thanks Martine. The big advantage of Google voice is to be able to port your US number. It means that people can call you on the same number, even when you’re abroad.
      WhatsApp requires both recipients to install WhatsApp. While everybody uses WhatsApp in France, it’s not as popular in the US.
      To use a GPS in France, you need to have internet access on your phone. It can be with a SIM card with data or a portable router.
      When are you moving to France?

  6. I simply kept my American phone and got a Mint $15/month SIM card with the same phone number. I use data roaming very sparingly if at all, because T-Mobile will cut you off. It is great for Wifi calling, dealing with BofA (which does not accept Voip phone numbers or VPN), various text messages from the US, and those times I return home. Of course, I have a French phone number also.

  7. Thank you for all the tips! I currently have Google Voice abroad, but now I’m moving back to the US and am unsure whether I should end my Spanish cell phone plan first, or switch to Google fi (the US phone plan I’ll be using) first. Does anyone know which order you are supposed to do?

    • Good to know! I was not aware of that until now. I checked and you’re right, Google Voice cannot port numbers from Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico, Alaska or the US Virgin Islands.
      Thank you for your feedback Patrick!

  8. Hi,
    Just need some clarification. I am moving temporarily from the U.S. to The Netherlands. I would like to wait until I get to Europe and then move my U.S. cell number over to Google Voice, then get a local SIM for regular phone usage while there. I’ve been told by “Google Voice experts” online that you CANNOT move your number to Google Voice while overseas, even with a VPN. Others seem to say it does work. Does anyone have any advice for this? Can I, or can’t I, wait until I get to Europe to do this?

    • Hi Eric,
      If you scroll up, you’ll see comments from people (Karen Ruster, Ashey) who recently managed to port their US number while in France with a VPN. You need to port a valid US number so don’t cancel your phone plan before leaving the US.
      Good luck Eric!

  9. Thanks for this! My needs are a little different — to have a US number that works like an American phone when I’m in the U.S. For a long time I had an AT&T prepaid plan where I was only charged for usage (on a second SIM card in my dual-SIM phone) but they have discontinued that and I need to find another solution. I’m told something called Google Fi can help, but I need to learn more about it. If I figure it out I’ll let you know, cheers!

  10. Nathalie, thank you as always for this. I have a specific question, for you or for any of the commenters: I use a dual-SIM phone. On one SIM is my SFR account, for calls in France of course. My other SIM used to be for AT&T prepaid, but that service is no longer satisfactory. Can I put Google Voice on another SIM in that slot and if so, where do I get the SIM? Or if not, how can I get my phone to share my SFR account and Google Voice?


    • Hi Anne,
      Google Voice works over IP so it doesn’t need a SIM card (it’s using internet directly).
      I’m not sure how you could have it work on a second SIM without a US carrier.
      What you can do is:
      1- Setup Google Voice (you need a VPN to do it from France)
      2- Install the Google Voice App on your phone
      3- Use the app to make phone calls to the US (same as you would do with WhatsApp if you’re using it)

      Does this answer your question?

  11. Thanks for all the great info. I’m wondering how/if caller ID works after number porting.
    Will recipients see my ported number, the assigned GV number, or does caller ID work at all?
    Will recipients still receive an automated message before answering when using the ported number as it is currently with the GV number?
    Can calls be placed and received to/from a landline? Some family only have landlines and use flip phones.

  12. Hello Nat, would I still buy a ‘regular’ local SIM card in France to use for local calls? If so, having all that set up on my phone wouldn’t interfere with the whole GV operation? Thanks for your assistance with all of your articles!

      • Is that true ? I thought that making calls in GV using wifi/data will be like calling from the US. So if the calls cost 1 cent/minute to call some country using GV, it should be the same while roaming and making calls to local number ?! Of course, you will need to dial the country code etc as an international #. That works for me because I live in the US and I have the international numbers saved in contacts with all the prefixes.

        • I guess you can use GV for your local calls in France but it means that you rely on having an internet connection and people in France won’t call you on a US number…a better (free) solution in France is to use WhatsApp since everybody has it but again, you rely on an internet connection…this is why I recommend getting a local SIM.

  13. Wells Fargo will not send SMS to my Google Voice number. Will porting a carrier number to Google Voice will make a difference regarding this? Has anyone received SMS from Wells Fargo to their Google Voice number?

    • Hi Eric,

      You are supposed to port an existing US phone # to Google Voice to be able to use it with banks.
      I don’t know about Wells Fargo specifically but it could be worth a shot to try to port your #, if you still have a phone # with a US carrier.

    • Hello,

      In preparation of my move I called Wells Fargo and I paid $25 for a little device that if a verification code will be sent the device will receive it and you can proceed with your transaction. This was suggested just in case you don’t have a U.S. telephone number that the code can be sent to. I think it’s called a RCA device. Like a key fab. Im waiting to get it in the mail.

      • Oh wow, I’ve never heard of a bank providing that kind of device.
        This could be a great option for people who can’t get Google Voice and whose bank does’t send code to international numbers.
        It will only work with Wells Fargo though, is that correct?
        Thank you so much for your feedback Dawn!

        • I just contacted them so I think it’s specific to them but I would also check other banks to see if they have it also. I plan on checking Bank of America also even though I can receive texts messages from them as I am keeping one U.S. number for business purposes.

  14. Hi. I just moved to Chile from the US and I ported my phone number successfully yesterday from Verizon to GV. I used a friend’s computer with a US VPN. It has to be a computer, not your phone or a tablet. I also used an Incognito window in Chome (this was suggested by another blog). The fist time I tried the VPN was connected through LA and it didn’t work. My friend changed the VPN to Chicago (where my new GV number and my cellphone number are based) and it went through then.

    I might also add that (for Verizon anyway) a porting specific PIN is required. You must request the this special PIN from Verizon. It is issued right away but only lasts for 7 days before it expires. After the 7 you can request a new porting PIN. I suggest you request the PIN before you start the porting process. I initially used my 4 digit account PIN which didn’t work and delayed the transfer by a couple of days.

    Hope this helps! ¡Salud!

  15. Hi Nathalie.
    Is there a way to knoww which banks or institutions do not allow the 2steps authentications with google .Good to know before leaving the US to France allowing to change banks

    • Hi Erick,

      I don’t know for sure which banks work with 2 step authentication but most of them do. I can confirm that Chase does. I am not sure it would be worth changing banks anyway because banks change their authentication system regularly.

      • Hi Nathalie.
        I don’t think i express my question properly.My banks required 2 steps but my questions is when in France will they send me the code if recognizing I use google voice.

          • I work with several banking institutions and have no issues with the authentication… they do not recognize you have Google Voice.

  16. Calling back on GV to the US is no longer free (as of last summer, I think), but it is really cheap. I think it’s 1 cent per minute.

      • Hi I’m not sure that’s correct I use Google voice to the United States all the time and don’t pay anything. Perhaps there are specific parameters?

        • Thank you for your input Karen!
          Unfortunately, I didn’t port my US # to Google Voice before leaving so I cannot try it 🙁
          On Google Voice website, they do mention some fees to call internationally from outside the US but you are not the only one saying that it is free…maybe it has to do with porting your # at a certain date? Maybe it’s a legacy thing?

          • You don’t have to port the US # before you leave!!! I was able to do it from here in France a couple months ago by masking my location using a VPN — too easy. And the free calls are this not a legacy thing since I only did this very recently. 😉

          • That’s excellent news Karen!
            Do you mind sharing which vpn you used and if there is any trick for it to work?
            I wish I could try it myself to write detailed instructions for my readers but I no longer have a US phone number.
            Thanks for your feedback!

        • I wrote the comment you are replying to, and I’m not sure I am correct either (as I am in the US and I read it on their website and you are in France). That’s good news- but if/when they charge , it won’t be much.

  17. Thanks for this. I’d like to clarify the following: “Since porting a number to Google Voice takes between forty-eight and ninety-six hours, I recommend porting your number no earlier than one week before you leave the United States.”
    Are you suggesting 1) to port it one or even two weeks in advance of the departure date? Or 2) to port it within 2-4 days of the departure date? I’m confused because I don’t know how the word “earlier” is used in this context. Thank you.


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