Top Five Tips for International Moves


iStock_000011713497XSmallMoves of any type are stressful, but international moves provide some unique challenges. In addition to being uprooted from your home, moving to another country means a separation from your family, friends, culture and, in many cases, even your language. For these reasons, it’s important to carefully prepare for an international move by carefully choosing a good moving company, deciding what is worth taking with you, and learning about things like pet importation laws and possible tax breaks.

Here are five tips for making your international move easier:

1. Scrutinize Movers

An international move is quite different from moving within your home country, even if the move doesn’t involve overseas shipping. In addition to the normal risks of moving, such as loss or damage of your possessions, your belongings will also have to clear customs in the country to which you are moving.

  • When looking for an international mover, perform the same due diligence that you would with any other service provider: Check out its reviews at the Better Business Bureau, Yelp and other consumer reporting services. Make sure that it holds all necessary licenses to operate as a moving company.
  • Get recommendations from people who have actually made the same move as yours. For example, if you are moving from San Francisco to London, get in touch with people who also made the trek from the Bay Area to the UK.
  • If you are moving for employment reasons, ask the human resources department about the experiences of other employees. They may have a list of recommended movers or other resources to help make your move easier.
  • Visit online discussion forums for ex-pats: Participants are usually happy to share experiences and can offer referrals to reputable movers.

2. Storage Options

If your move is temporary, storing your possessions is likely to be a cheaper option than shipping them back and forth. When considering moving costs, calculate how much you’ll spend shipping your belongings vs. the cost of storage and either buying or renting things once you get overseas.

3. Begin Sorting

Before asking for shipping estimates, figure out what you’re going to be taking with you. Many people who have made international moves note that bringing electronics and electrical appliances from the United States to other countries is often a waste of money because of electrical current variations. In addition, American homes are often larger than those in other countries, which may mean that your furniture won’t fit into your new living quarters. Consider selling electronics, appliances and furniture (or storing them) rather than trying to move them overseas.

4. Pet Relocation

When moving your pets, you may be dealing with more than one set of regulations:

First, you’ll need to understand your new country’s laws regarding the importation of animals. In the European Union, for example, you’ll need to have your pet vaccinated and microchipped  in advance of your move. You’ll also need to get certification of your pet’s health from the United States Department of Agriculture vet in your state.

Second, if you plan to fly your pet to your new home, you’ll also need to abide by airline regulations which usually require the purchase of an airline-approved crate in addition to obtaining health and vaccination certificates from your vet.

If shipping your pet overseas feels like an overwhelming proposition, consider hiring a pet relocation company or “pet travel agency.” These companies can walk you through the preparation process and handle the logistics of your pet’s transportation for you.

5. Moving Costs and Taxes

Even if you don’t plan to ship large quantities of goods, international moves are expensive. Fortunately, if you are relocating for work reasons, you may be entitled to some tax breaks. Talk to your tax adviser to find out about your eligibility for deductions.

Moving overseas can be an enjoyable adventure if you prepare in advance. Be sure to take the time to talk with others who have made international moves, as their experiences and observations are often invaluable. By developing an understanding of what you can expect, you can better ensure that your transition to a new country is a smooth one.