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Everything You Should Know About Moving Internationally

Moving internationally is an opportunity that not many will see in their lifetime and it takes quite a bit of careful planning to ensure everything goes smoothly. Before you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with the big move, you need to take time to get things organized and plan the move from start to finish.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Ohare Airport Walkway

A great way to get things together is to find an expat community online for the country you want to live in, and start learning as much as possible about local customs, foods, language and what to expect when you move. Once you have the necessary information to get your move started, you’ll be able to work with an international moving service to get things rolling in the right direction. 



If you’re considering a big move overseas, one of the first things you will need to do, unless this is a retirement move, is secure a job or make sure you have a steady source of income if you haven’t already. Depending on where you’re planning to move, finding a local job might not be easy as there are many countries that do not allow foreigners to work in local positions. If you can commute or work remotely, that may be a better option than finding something local. If you can find a local company to work for, be sure you get a good employment contract or assurance that your income will be sufficient to cover your housing, food and other bills.

In many countries you will need to apply for a work permit before you move. Once you arrive, it is not always an easy task to apply for and be approved for a permit. Something to know about a work permit is that you need to already have the job and chances are, you’re going to need a notarized statement from the employer stating that you have a job offer or that you are transferring for work to the new country. You can’t just apply for a permit and then head out to job hunt as it simply does not work that way. While it may not be an issue in many countries, in some countries, the government will need to check for verification that the job you are taking is not one that can be easily filled by a local citizen. Not many countries want foreigners to come in and take work that will sustain local citizens.

A work permit will be issued based on the duration of time the country allows or for the time allotted by your company for you to perform your duties. To find more information on obtaining a work permit, it is a good idea to get in touch with the embassy for the country you plan to relocate to. 

Get Ready for…. Culture Shock


When you make an international move, you need to be fully prepared to experience life in a completely new way. Moving from one end of a country to another can cause a person to see some cultural differences, but moving from one country to another, you will see many differences in culture and it can be shocking at times. Differences can be as simple as language spoken or foods to clothing or even proper ways to greet someone or walk into a building. A great way to combat the shock of living in a whole new environment can be as simple as bringing along some of your favorite décor items to place around your new home or bringing along some favored family recipes so you can feel the comforts of home, even when you may be thousands of miles away from those familiar places and people you know. 



When you move internationally, you need to understand that relocating everything can not only be expensive, but you will need to make sure the items you pack are going to be able to be brought into the country legally. Just know that for most countries, you cannot bring in guns, ammo or other weapons as well as alcohol, flammable liquids, lighters, military apparel (unless you are in the military), plants and other items. You need to check with Customs to get a complete list of prohibited items.

Several months ahead of the move, you need to go through your home, one room at a time and downsize. Unless you have a bottomless bank account, you’re going to find that moving everything you own, especially things you haven’t used in years, if ever, can be more money than you want to spend.

You should know how long you plan to stay. If this is a short relocation for six months or less, it may be wise to either keep the house you already have or place items in storage before you leave. For longer, or permanent moves, you might want to donate or sell unwanted items. Selling unwanted or unused items can help earn some spending money for your move. Even on a permanent move, if you have items that have a great deal of sentimental value, but you can’t take them with you, leave them with a relative or a close friend you trust to take care of them until you can decide what you want to do with them. It’s also wise to check out the annual climate to make sure your possessions will stay safe from mildew or damage during particularly hot or cold weather. 



You will want to pack items that will help you feel at home fast such as photographs, artwork and even comfy blankets to wrap up in at night. Check on the cost to relocate your heavy furnishings as opposed to buying new when you move to see which will save money. In some cases, it can be cheaper to buy new whereas in other places, having everything shipped over can cost less. 

Motor Vehicle

motor vehicle

If you plan to bring a car along with you, be sure to check with Customs in the country you are moving to, so you can make sure the car you own will be allowed. Some countries require modifications to exhaust systems before a car can be imported, so if you need to take care of this or something else, you’re going to need plenty of time to hire a mechanic and have the necessary modifications handled. 



This will be determined by the climate. For instance, if you’re planning to relocate to Costa Rica, you certainly wouldn’t want to pack an entire winter weather wardrobe. However, even in the warmest spots around the globe, packing a few sweaters and jackets is always a good idea for rainy weather or cool evenings out. The same goes for colder climates, be sure to toss in a few warm weather outfits or even swimwear for trips to a local beach or even to an indoor pool. 


petsPets are family, am I right? Leaving family behind is simply not an option for most pet owners and it is important to check ahead of time to make sure pets will be allowed. Most countries will allow dogs and even cats if a vet record accompanies them showing they are vaccinated and not considered a dangerous animal. Birds, minks, lizards, snakes and other ‘exotic pets” are often not allowed in various countries, so if your pet is in the exotic category, you need to find out if you will be able to bring them along or if they need to be placed for adoption before you leave. 

Shipping Everything

By now, you most likely know where you want to move, and you probably have a general idea of what you can, or cannot, bring along during the move. This is the perfect time to determine who you need to talk to for shipping everything for you. You’re going to need to hire an experience professional international moving company for your household goods. It’s a good idea to speak to an auto transport company who has experience shipping cars to the specific country you are moving to if you plan to take a car with you. 

How to Ship


Making an international move means you need to decide how everything is going to ship. Basically, it comes down to sea or air for shipping everything. Air shipping is going to be expensive and is usually reserved for highly valuable items that need to arrive extremely fast.

Most international movers schedule sea shipment because it is not only the least expensive way to move, but when it all comes down to it, unless you have a fleet of cargo planes available, sea shipping may be the only logical way to move an entire household of furniture and other personal items as well as a motor vehicle. Take your time with planning however and choose the one that makes most sense for you and your overall moving budget. 

Checklist for International Move

Moving is stressful, and an international move can be downright beyond mind boggling. Here are a few tips to add to your checklist ahead of the move to make sure you take care of important matters:

  • Get all documentation together (Passport, I.D., Visa etc.)
  • Speak to Immigration
  • Have Immunizations Up to Date
  • Collect Medical Records (for every member of the family moving)
  • School Records
  • Health Certificates for Pets (include vaccination records)
  • Fill out Customs Packing Forms
  • Open New Bank Account
  • Check Local Area for Shopping, Dining etc.
  • Speak to a Licensed Realtor to Find New Home
  • Learn the Language Spoken (If you have time before the move)
  • Hire an International Mover or Auto Transport Company

Top International Moving Companies

world map

Here are some of the leading international moving and auto transport companies to assist you with your move overseas:

A-1 Auto Transport, Inc.

A-1 Auto Transport ships cars, trucks and other motor vehicles to and from locations across the United States as well as internationally. To get a free, no obligation quote, you can contact the company at 1-800-452-2880.


Aires is a corporate relocation service that offers management of global moves. For information on moving services, check this link.

Atlas Van Lines

Atlas Van Lines has agents who operate in 140 countries globally and offer residential and corporate moving services nationwide and globally. To contact Atlas, you can call and agent at 1-800-638-9797.

National Van Lines

National Van Lines offers domestic and international relocation services. For service you can call an agent at 1-877-590-2810.


SIRVA is a global relocation company that can assist with moving household goods and other property internationally. They have offices in the U.S. as well as Asia, Middle East and Europe. To contact SIRVA, you can call 1-800-341-5684 in the USA.


Before you take off

Please contact us if you believe information on this page is incorrect, misleading or offensive, or if something important is missing.

The International Wanderer aims to provide you with up to date and accurate information. However, content is submitted by writers/wanderers from all over the globe. Sometimes we will get it wrong. Furthermore, working holiday and other visa opportunities and requirements (or numbers allocated) may change. New working holiday agreements are constantly being negotiated between countries. We suggest that you contact the nearest consulate or embassy of the country you wish to visit to ensure you have the most recent and accurate information. For further information about this website see our Terms & Conditions.