Let us first explain what Google Voice will and will not allow you to do with your current mobile number in a foreign country.
Google Voice WILL allow you to…
- keep your mobile number without paying for a recurring parking cost
- set up a new voicemail for anyone that calls your U.S. number
- access voicemails you receive while you’re abroad
- receive and make calls via Google Hangouts (desktop)
- receive and send text messages sent to your U.S. number
- have one app (Google Voice) that allows you to manage your phone calls, voicemails, and messages.
Google Voice WILL NOT allow you to…
- forward calls to a number outside of the U.S. (although in reality you probably won’t need this)
- use your built-in message/phone apps
- get notifications/accept real-time phone calls through the Google Voice mobile app
- accept or make phone calls without Wi-Fi, paying for minutes through Google Voice, or setting up another data service.
The benefits of using Google Voice totally outweigh minor disadvantages and is way cheaper than keeping an expensive U.S. mobile international plan.
Now that you have a basic understanding of what to expect, get started by creating your Google Voice account. Be careful to choose the correct email in the beginning and go through the process of creating a Google Voice number (this will be replaced automatically once your
The porting of your number needs to be done before you leave the US. The cost to port your number to Google Voice is $20.
Make sure that your phone is UNLOCKED before you port your number. Your phone might currently be locked by your carrier, even if it is fully paid off. You have to check and request that they unlock your phone.
VERY IMPORTANT Porting your number automatically ends your cell phone service with your current carrier. This means you need to immediately sign up for a new cell phone plan and get a new number, either with a new carrier or the same carrier. As soon as the porting process was complete, my service with T-Mobile ended and I signed up for a Google Fi plan. I had already purchased a Google Fi sim kit so I was able to do everything from home.
-(Optional) With the new phone number that you get with your new plan, you will go to Google Voice settings and add this number as a forwarding number. Anytime someone calls your Google Voice number (which is the number you ported), it is forwarded to your new number. This way, I didn’t need to update family and friends with a new number. They will continue contacting me with the number they’ve always had. Adding a forwarding number is optional. You can just answer your calls via the Google Voice app.
-Also, after adding your forwarding number to Google Voice settings, turn off ‘call screening’ in the settings. If this is on, every time someone calls your Google Voice number, they will receive a message saying that they are calling a Google Voice number and they will be asked to say their name. It’s annoying to you and them because you will have to listen to their name and agree to accept their call. This doesn’t need to be on unless you want it to.
There was one problem during the porting process. There was an error that the T-Mobile pin number that was entered on the porting page was not valid although the correct pin was being used. Just contact T-Mobile and verify that the correct pin is being used. They can set up a new pin number while on the phone, which fixes the issue. If you run into the same problem, reach out to your carrier.
One last thing, even after doing all this, you still need to make sure that your phone is unlocked before you leave the country. The new cell phone carrier that you select after porting your number may lock your phone. Some cell phone carriers will lock your phone even if you signed up for their service with your own unlocked phone. Fortunately, Google Fi does not lock phones.
The process described above was partially provided by a Facebook post, from an expat group.