International Moving 101: What Documents Do You Need?

When you’re moving abroad, having the right documents in place for you, your family and what you’ll be shipping is essential to a smooth moving experience. Here’s a list of everything you need to ensure a stress-free international move and enjoy your new home.

Your Passport

This is the basic traveling document that you’ll need to legally enter a country. Without your passport, you won’t be able to stay in many places for long. If you don’t already have your passport, you can obtain it from the country where you hold your citizenship by presenting required documents and paying fees. For example, you’ll need items, such as passport photos, the appropriate passport application, and supporting documents that prove your citizenship, such as a certified birth certificate, to get a U.S. passport.


Permits may be required for a variety of reasons, including imported goods or pets. If you’re shipping pets abroad, you’ll need various supporting documents, including any required importing permits, health certifications and proof of vaccinations. Check with the State Department Embassy of your destination for the required documents to get permits.

A Visa

Visas can be obtained from the embassy or upon entry to the country. The Visa type you’re granted is based on the reason you’re staying in the host country. For instance, Thailand requires different types of Visas for foreigners who are working as journalists versus those who are working as teachers. Therefore, it’s important to be clear about why you’re moving.

Questions to Ask International Moving Companies

You can employ an international moving company that offers destination services to streamline your move. Ensure you have everything set with the international movers you plan to use by asking these questions:

  • Why the move? Know the reason for your move abroad. A permanent move may require more documentation than a temporary move.
  • What residency documents are in place at the destination? Your moving company should be able to advise you of all the required residency documents in place for your new home abroad.
  • What have you already done to prepare for the move abroad? Verify that all documents are set, including any necessary customs forms or special permits.
  • Where is your VISA? Always know where your Visa is, so you can present it when it’s required, especially if it’s a separate document.
  • Do you have permission to stay in the destination you’re planning to move to? Ensure you can legally stay where you’re going and that your mover can operate there, too. Verify if your moving company is licensed with an internationally recognized independent organization, such as FIDI. FIDI members follow quality standards that are recognized across the world.
  • What are the rules for residency changes and permit applications? Since different countries have different rules for residency changes and permit applications, it’s important to verify what the procedures entail for your host country. If you don’t determine this before your move, you may end up paying additional fees and incurring extra costs, including penalties. Moreover, you’ll have to deal with inconveniences, such as waiting in long application lines or staying extra days to clear your VISA. There are also cases where your items can be shipped back to the U.S. Be aware that customs agents also tend to audit and inspect Packed by Owner or PBO shipments. This can mean that liability shifts to you if anything happens to your goods.

In addition to these document-related questions, make sure you ask moving companies these questions to ensure you get an accurate quote.

Know Before You Go

It’s important to prepare for your international move by knowing which documents are required for a seamless move. To get this done, consider partnering with a professional moving company that’s experienced in international moving.

Suddath is a FIDI member and offers full-service international moving services that guide you through the entire process.