How to Move Internationally in 2021

Moving abroad is always full of planning, logistics, different considerations for different countries, and that’s why people come to us. Suddath can handle some of the trickier aspects, while they focus on building their dream international life.

The past year however has gone beyond just good logistics and planning – with things changing every other week, people began postponing and even cancelling international moves.

Many international moves did still happen with our expertise and assistance, but some put dreams of working, studying or retiring abroad on the backburner until some uncertain future date when it would all be safe again and we could go back to “normal.” There was no way to predict if in a month, that country would accept them, or anyone, and how safe it would really be to travel and move.

The meaning of a post-vaccine world

As borders begin to open up, vaccines become more widely distributed, and people are less afraid of the ramifications of moving abroad, more and more we see questions popping up like, when will it be safe? When is it ok to start planning? What are the best destinations to focus on?

Research your destination

At this point in the COVID-19 era, some countries are a better option for potential expats. Some borders are essentially open, while some, like New Zealand, are barely peaking open to foreign professionals.

You need to understand what those restrictions are currently, and plan for that. Likely, if you have a few months’ notice before your move, things will open up even further, but create an initial plan that prepares on a stricter situation, just in case.

For example, you may be required to quarantine for a certain amount of time once you reach your destination. Ensure that you are prepared for this expense if it is still required at the time of your move.

Also, there is a lot of discussion of countries, especially in Europe, requiring proof of vaccination to enter – a “vaccine passport,” if you will. Make sure you research this and get vaccinated if possible and consider your vaccine card as part of your essential documents, the same as your passport or visa.

The availability of vaccines in that country, and who they’re available to, is also an important aspect of how open a country is, or how safe you will be from COVID-19 if moving there. Some nations are receiving doses at a far lower rate, therefore your risk may be greater. Moving to Israel, for example, where nearly half of the entire population is already vaccinated, would be safer than moving to Rwanda, where the goal is to vaccinate 60% of the population by 2022.

Gather essential documents

If you’ve checked that you’re eligible to move to the country of your choice, and you feel comfortable with the health and safety factor having looked at their vaccination rate, the next step is documentation.

Ensure that you will have all the documentation and visas require to enter, a vaccine card if needed, as well as a valid passport. If necessary and not already done, try to understand what your professional skill level puts you in your new country – what can you expect your salary to be? Will your degrees be recognized? Don’t forget about a driver’s license – if you’re planning to rent or buy a car in your host country, you may need an international license.

Start by bringing together all of your important documents (and any family members’ documents), pull together your international moving checklist, organize it all and make photocopies of everything. Once that is all started, apply for a residence permit or visa, and reach out to an experienced international moving company to assist you the rest of the way.

At Suddath, we even assign you a single-point-of-contact Move Coordinator to help ensure you have everything you need and have all of the information necessary to make your transition abroad go smoothly.

Look into your housing options

Just like in the United States, the housing market internationally, for the most part has been upended by COVID-19. The real estate market may not be the same one you were looking into over a year ago when you were first considering moving abroad.

However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For example, in the United States, real estate prices for rent and buying is trending downwards in cities, and you may find that trend translates internationally as well.

Mainly, you want to do your research so that you aren’t surprised, and don’t find yourself unprepared late into the moving process. Get a good understanding of what an appropriate housing budget may be and set your expectations accordingly as you search for accommodations.

Where you can travel currently

Traveling is an important part of any expat experience. As of March 22, 2021, a handful of countries are already open to American travelers without any testing, quarantine, or vaccination requirements for entry.

They include:

Americans who are fully vaccinated can visit today, as recently announced by three additional countries:

Iceland is especially exciting, because as a tourist favorite, it is a destination that is at the top of many lists. Iceland recently announced last week that so long as they had already been vaccinated, American and EU/EEA visitors could bypass any testing/quarantine requirements. Dozens more countries are currently open to American travelers as well—especially throughout the Caribbean and Latin America—but require a recent negative test.

Upcoming reopening announcements to look out for

Alongside the countries already open, a handful have given specific dates they are targeting for when widespread international travel will resume.

Reminder: You will need a negative test to get back into the United States

If you’re living abroad currently, or planning a trip to and from your new country, just remember that for all international trips currently, you are required to show a negative COVID test within three days of your return flight into the U.S.

Likely, that requirement will expand to include proof of vaccination, but plan to include a test as part of your travel “to-do” list. If you’re staying at a hotel or resort during your international stay, many are offering complementary tests, so make sure to inquire as that makes the process a lot easier.

Looking into the future: travel predictions

While there is no way we can predict for sure, there are certain indicators across Europe and the Asia/Pacific region that allow us to make some educated guesses as to when things might open back up for travelers, which are good indications for those looking to make the move internationally as well.


 With a slower vaccination rollout in the European Union than in the United States or United Kingdom, there is speculation that the EU may be in for another wave of infections.

Amidst the rollout, the EU is working on reopening borders by this summer for people who have been vaccinated, were previously infected, or test negative, although the exact timing on when the doors will peak open is unclear.

Scott’s Cheap Flights, an international travel website, has postured some cautious optimism from the fact that “numerous countries are really pushing for earlier re-openings, from Greece to Spain to the UK. And reports that the US is planning to allow international visitors by mid-May increases Americans’ hopes of traveling overseas this summer, as some countries will want reciprocity before opening their own borders.”

Scott’s Cheap Flights guesses that Americans will be allowed to visit at least two EU countries without quarantine at: 50% chance by June, 65% chance by July, 80% chance by August.


With the recent announcement that Japan would not permit overseas fans at the summer Olympics struck a blow for fans, but also for those hoping for an imminent reopening.

Scott’s Cheap flights predicts that like Thailand and Australia, an autumn reopening is more likely for much of the region at this point.

Their best guess on when Americans would be allowed to visit at least three APAC countries without quarantine: 50% by September, 80% by October. (The Maldives is already open with a recent negative test.)

Frequently Asked Questions for Moving Internationally in 2021

To answer these questions, we pulled in three international moving experts from our team who have been planning and executing moves throughout 2021:

Peter Bowsher, Director, International Business Development & Client Services, Lauren Kolesar, Vice President, Strategic Development and Trevor Buracchio, Sr. Director, Global Move Management.

  1. What are the main things that have changed about international moving over the pandemic?
  • Extended transit times
  • Container & equipment availability/ shortages
  • Increased freight rates
  • Additional expense for shuttle, warehouse handling (WHH) and storage in transit (SIT)
  • World Health Organization (WHO) protocols at residence for crew and shipper and additional personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Quarantine periods that may cause extra expense at destination
  • International flights have decreased, and it can be difficult to obtain a ticket
  1. What are some specific considerations I should have with moving internationally in 2021?
  • Plan early and book move dates as soon as possible
  • Your mover will need more time to make freight bookings, as there is no guarantee for availability
  • Plan for extended transit time and budget for accommodation & temporary living accordingly
  • Understand that you must be in your country of destination for customs clearance – they cannot release your items unless you are in residence at the time
  • Check for required permits/exemptions in destination country
  • Get a COVID test or vaccine prior to departure. Check airline regulations and destination country requirements for what is required
  • We highly recommend travel insurance covering COVID, and it is even mandatory in some countries
  1. What countries are more difficult when moving, due to the pandemic? Which countries are easier?

This list is ever evolving, which is why it’s important to work with a professional relocation company when moving internationally. Our team stays up to date on the latest information and requirements for our customers, so nothing comes as a surprise.

Changes are happening constantly, but typically over the past year:

Easier: Brazil, Mexico, USA (if you have visa), Germany, UK, Spain and Ireland

Difficult: China, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, the Middle East and Thailand

  1. What are your top tips for navigating an international move in 2021?
  • Book with an experienced international moving company like Suddath who can help you navigate changing requirements and timelines
  • We can’t say this too many times: plan early and book early!
  • Work with a financially sound well established FIDI PLUS mover
  • Be aware of all potential charges and fees. A good forwarder will be transparent and advise potential costs at both origin and destinations and detail in writing to the best of their ability. Some charges you may see are: origin shuttle, WHH (warehouse handling) & SIT (storage in transit)
  • Expect port congestions delays at destination
  1. How do you anticipate things shifting internationally as we move into the latter half of 2021?
  • An increase in activity as vaccines continue to roll out, but still a slower start as many counties still have closed borders
  • The last two quarters of 2021 will see a major uptick in activity – that pent up demands means planning early will be critical
  • Continued congestion and equipment shortages through the summer
  • Anticipated continued longer transit times
  • Vaccine may be required to travel – make sure to keep your vaccination card with your travel documents, and at the very least take a picture of it in case of loss
  • This will be very important in case vaccination eliminates border and quarantine requirements
  • However, a negative PCR test will likely still be required in 2021
  1. What was the general experience of people who moved in 2020?

We can only speak for Suddath customers, but in 2020:

  • Service levels and quality scores remained high
  • They did experience extended transit times by around 2-4 weeks
  • Some faced additional costs with shuttle, WWH & SIT charges at origin
  • Generally, WHO guidelines were followed by majority of origin & destination agents
  • UK bound moves faced BREXIT delays and congestion at ports with additional delays and costs for shuttle, WHH & SIT

If you are looking for assistance for your 2021 international move, reach out to Suddath for a quote and guidance to make the experience as smooth and safe as possible.