Moving overseas can be a daunting undertaking; in addition to the normal challenges posed by moving, there’s a whole slew of additional considerations. Moving to an unfamiliar place may mean contending with puzzling foreign customs, navigating a confusing sea of visas and paperwork, and perhaps even mastering a new language. On top of everything, the logistics of an international move may seem just as unfamiliar and convoluted. Unlike with a domestic move, it isn’t just as simple as loading a moving truck and driving to your new home. International relocation requires coordinating pickup from your home or storage unit, delivery to a shipping container, shipment via cargo ship, unloading, and final delivery to your new place. And that’s just your belongings! Getting you and your family to your new home can be just as tricky as possible.

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How To Move Overseas

1: Establish A Budget

If you’re moving as part of a military or corporate relocation, you’ve probably already discussed the budget with your employer. However, if your relocation costs are not going to be reimbursed by your company, you need to sit down and formulate a budget. Since moving abroad involves additional logistics when compared to a domestic move, make sure you take a few additional things into consideration:

  • Storage: International moves sometimes mean a large lag between the time you move out of your old place and departing for your new home. For example, if you know you’re moving abroad in a matter of weeks or months, you’d likely forgo re-signing your lease for another year or might proceed with getting your house sold. In the downtime, before your stuff gets loaded into a shipping container, you may need to factor in additional expense for storing your things. On average, a 200-square foot storage unit costs in the ballpark of $150-200/month.
  • Documentation and Taxes: You may have to pay fees like custom clearance charges, taxes or duties on your shipment depending on where you are moving.
  • Shipping: The biggest expense of your move will be the actual transport of your belongings from your house/storage unit to the shipping container, and ultimately to your final destination. The actual price varies wildly depending on where you are moving from and to.
  • Travel: Don’t forget to factor in the expense of you and your family traveling to your next destination. Flights, hotels, and meals out can definitely add up.


2: Establish Your Timeframe

The earlier you can establish your timeline, the better, since international moves require a lot of organization and coordination. Most international carriers recommend booking your move at least 8-12 weeks out to ensure that all necessary paperwork can be completed in time for your move. Keep in mind that while you might be able to hop on a plane and be to your new home quickly, it can take your belongings as long as 4-6 weeks to make their way to you, especially if they are being transported by boat.

3: Book A Mover

Once you’ve honed in on your timeline, you’ll need to shop for a mover that works with your budget and timeframe. When you shop for a mover using the Great Guys moving quote generator, you can enter your information just once and receive quotes from multiple international moving companies, saving you both time and money. When moving companies bid for your business, you could save hundreds or even thousands off of your international relocation.

4: Start Packing!

Preparing for an international move is not something you want to procrastinate about. As soon as you’ve confirmed that you are in fact moving, it’s time to get started on those moving to-dos. In addition to the typical out-of-state moving checklist, there are a few additional considerations specific to international moves that you’ll want to consider:

  • Book your transportation and any temporary housing you may need
  • Gather documentation: Make sure you get all of your important paperwork in order prior to your move. This includes applying for passports and visas, and gathering up any other relevant documentation like school and medical records, finances, etc. You’ll also want to look into getting a new driver’s license in your destination country and making sure your legal affairs are in order.
  • Get your final medical checkups done, including filling any prescription that you may need since it could be awhile before you’re able to do so again.
  • Set up an international bank account and ensure that you’ll have access to needed funds once you land abroad.
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International Moving FAQs

How Far In Advance Do I Need To Start Planning My International Move?

International relocation takes far more time to plan than the typical process with domestic long distance moving companies due to a number of factors including customs issues, more complicated logistics, and governmental regulations. It’s advisable to start planning your move as early as possible! Most international movers recommend booking your move 8-12 weeks out from the desired moving date. This should give you and your moving professional ample time to resolve any issues that you may run into along the way.

How Much Does An International Move Cost?

As with domestic moving, the cost of moving abroad can vary widely depending on where you are moving from and to, the amount of things you plan on moving, and the flexibility of your transit time. Most moves will fall somewhere within the range of $5,000-$15,000. For the most accurate quote for your upcoming move, please request a free quote.

How Long Will It Take To Receive My Shipment?

Shipments may take anywhere from 3-6 weeks to arrive depending on the international moving service that you select. Keep in mind that slower transit times may be a more cost effective solution if you’re looking to save money on your move.

Is An International Move Covered By Insurance?

If you are familiar with the domestic moving policies in the U.S., you may be aware that the U.S. Department of Transportation regulates interstate carriers, including requiring these companies to maintain a minimum level of insurance coverage. International removals are not regulated in a similar manner, so there is not a standard level of insurance protection for international moves. However, any respectable moving company will always include insurance to cover your items in the event of loss or breakage during your move. Always make sure you ask to see their insurance coverage policies before you confirm your move.

Make sure you have a detailed inventory of everything you are handing off to your movers. It’s wise to take pictures of your belongings in the event that you need to file a claim with the insurance company. It may also be advisable to purchase additional insurance coverage from a 3rd party if the insurance provided by the mover is not adequate.

How Do I Handle Customs Clearance Documentation Requirements?

To obtain duty-free entry of your household belongings, you’ll need to ensure that you have obtained the most up-to-date customs clearance documentation requirements. To do so, reach out to the appropriate embassy or consulate in your place of destination.

What Items Cannot Be Shipped With My Household Goods?

Though you’ll need to check with your movers for a final list specific to your destination country, prohibited items generally include:

  • Explosives and firearms
  • Perishables including food and wine
  • Building materials

Can You Ship My Vehicle?

Yes, vehicles are one of the most commonly shipped items during international moves.

How Will My Items Be Moved?

This depends on the arrangement that you make with your moving company, but most international moves are done by either air freight or ocean freight. With air freight, your transit time will likely be much shorter (1-2 days), but this method of moving is generally more expensive than the alternative. Ocean freight takes longer (a month+), but tends to be cheaper for bigger, heavier loads. For most international removals, ocean freight is the preferred method of transport.

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