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Your Complete Guide to the International Moving Process

An international move is exciting and brings with it a lot of anticipation you imagine all of the adventures that lie ahead and new cultures you can explore. However, part of the anticipation of a global move has to be organization. That way, you can complete the process in a way that’s as stress-free as possible. 

To help you with your transition to a new country, we have plenty of tips and strategies for you to consider as you begin planning and packing. 

Put Together a Checklist 

The most important first step is your international moving checklist. There are so many new elements to moving internationally that it’s important to keep track of every little detail – even more helpful if you put it onto a timeline for what you want to accomplish and when. That way, you won’t be overwhelmed trying to do everything at once. 

Collect and Organize Documents

You’ll need to gather important documents when preparing for an international move. Documents may include:

  • Birth certificates for each member of your family 
  • Adoption papers
  • Marriage licenses/divorce papers
  • Home mortgage information and other financial records
  • Legal/tax/insurance documents
  • Driver’s licenses
  • Social Security cards
  • Medical records for each member of the family, including immunization records
  • School transcripts
  • Veterinary records for each pet
  • Passports for each family member
  • Visas and work permits
  • Employment contracts
  • Consulate and embassy contact information 

Already, you can see what we said above is true: moving internationally, even if you’re not going overseas, can be overwhelming. The paperwork alone is a huge undertaking – to help keep you organized, here is that international moving checklist again.  

The best thing to do, both for your move and general organization, is to scan and upload digital copies of these documents into the cloud. This way, they can be accessed wherever you have an internet connection and shared with organizations, as desired. You can store the physical documents in a fireproof box, organized in a way that allows for easy retrieval. 

Not everyone will need every document on this list—and you may have important ones that are uniquely yours. A true international moving company like Suddath can assist you in understanding what is required for your individual move and country of destination. 

Contact List

Besides letting friends, family, and employers about your move, you’ll need to inform:

  • Your banks
  • Insurance providers; do you need to purchase travel insurance?
  • Medical and dental professionals; what immunizations do you need?
  • United States Post Office; what mail needs forwarded to you?
  • Social Security Administration
  • Landlord, if relevant
  • Realtor, if relevant
  • Utility companies
  • Internal Revenue Service
  • United States Embassy in the country where you’re heading

Country-Specific Information 

Each country has unique issues you’ll want to consider, as well, sooner rather than later. So, next up, we’ll share a sampling of them when moving to the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, France, or Italy, including documentation and processes required. 

Note that requirements can change so it’s important to investigate and verify ones that apply to you, doing so in plenty of time before your move. 

Moving to the UK

When moving to England or elsewhere in the UK, it’s time to think about cultural changes, like driving on the other side of the road. Although that might briefly make you nervous, plenty of people have successfully made the adjustment!

There are also paperwork issues to deal with, including applying for your transfer of residence and other documentation you’ll need when moving to the UK.

You’ll want to investigate the most cost-effective way of transferring your dollars into pounds. You’ll want to consider that a value-added tax (VAT) of 20% is included in prices of most things you’ll buy in the UK. This is somewhat like sales tax that’s charged in the United States, except for two things: one, the percentage is higher; and two, it’s already included in the listed prices, not added on at the register. VAT isn’t charged on food or children’s clothing.  

Also look into how you want to handle your healthcare insurance. People living in the UK can benefit from the country’s universal healthcare system (National Health Service or NHS) and once you’ve paid your Immigration Health Surcharge, you can use the NHS. 

This surcharge is included in your visa application, so it’s not something you need to pay beyond visa fees. At this point, you can take advantage of the free services offered to people in the UK. Note that prescriptions and dental care, for example, do cost some money.

Or you can choose to pay for private insurance. Some people decide to go that route, often because it can help to reduce wait times for care.

Moving to Germany

GermanyVisa.org provides a summary of the visa options available to people moving to Germany from the United States.

Here’s other helpful information. You’ll need to report your address to authorities—and report a new address for any subsequent moves. As part of the Anmeldung(registration) process, you must show your property deed or rental contract. When moving out of a residence, you’ll also need to inform authorities as part of the Abmeldung process. 

In Germany, having health insurance is mandatory, and hospitals and doctors there won’t accept coverage from the United States. Your employer may provide acceptable coverage or you may need to buy your own from a German company (or one from another country whose policies are accepted). 

To become eligible for permanent residency in Germany, you’ll need to open a bank account in the country and transfer enough funds to demonstrate your ability to cover your living expenses. And, although many people in Germany speak English, you’ll be expected to prove an ability to speak German. The type of work permit you’re applying for will dictate how proficient you’ll need to be in the language. 

A residence permit appointment is required. At this appointment, you’ll provide authorities with documentation and have your German language skills tested. You’ll also be asked why you’re moving to Germany. Proactively set this appointment because this requirement must be fulfilled within 90 days of your move.

Moving to Spain

Money-wise, you’ll probably want to convert some of your US dollars into euros and to think about your potential income tax situation during the year of your move. In Spain, both residents and non-residents alike are required to file tax returns, with non-residents who have worked in Spain for more than 183 days that year also needing to pay income tax. Rates for income tax have a pretty wide range, from 19% to 45%, based on income earned.

When moving to Spain, you’ll also need to consider your healthcare situation. Legal, working residents in this country are eligible to receive free public healthcare that covers most costs. A few services are not free and are based on income; these include dental care for adults, corrective glasses, prescription costs, and some orthopedic services. 

To receive this benefit, you would register at the nearby Social Security office and then you would show your tarjeta sanitaria individual (healthcare card) at each medical appointment. If you don’t meet the requirements for Spain’s health care, you can pay for the benefits, with rates starting at $67 per month USD.

Then there’s the language(s) spoken. The official language is Spanish, which is also called Castilian or Castilian Spanish; it sounds similar to the form of Spanish spoken in Latin American countries. Each region in Spain is also allowed to select a co-language and six of them have done so. You’ll likely hear more English spoken or understood in cities, rather than in more rural areas.

Moving to France

To confirm your move, you’ll need to head to the nearest French consulate’s office to get a Certificate de Changement de Résidence.

When moving to France, you’ll also want to convert some of your US dollars into euros—and as is a theme when moving to Europe, begin to think about healthcare early. In France, healthcare is required and isn’t entirely free, but the majority of essential services are funded by taxes through a system of reimbursement. This insurance typically covers 70% of medical expenses and you can apply for your coverage at the local office of the Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie (CPAM). 

There typically aren’t significant waiting times for medical appointments and so many people just use the public insurance option, although you can choose to buy private insurance. Public insurance covers quite a bit, but not everything and some prescriptions that are available in the United States can’t be obtained in France, so you should do your research on any important prescriptions prior to moving. 

Banks are open fewer hours than they typically are in the United States, which used to require a bigger adjustment than it might today, given the growth of mobile banking. 

The great majority of people, naturally enough, speak French in France, with about one in four people able to speak English. As noted in Spain, that’s more likely to be the case in cities than in smaller towns.

Moving to Italy

As with other countries in the European Union, it makes sense to turn some of your US dollars into euros before moving to Italy. You’ll need to obtain a Codice Fiscale, a document that’s required to rent a home, get a phone, open a bank account, and so forth. You’ll also need to attend two days’ worth of classes to help you adapt to life in Italy.

This country has a unique points system for new residents and you have to maintain a certain number of them. You can gain points when you pass the required Italian language certification program and you can lose some for traffic offenses, as just two examples. 

When moving to Italy, locate your post office as soon as you can. Numerous transactions take place there (and note that they close at 2 p.m.), including applying for health insurance, paying your bills, purchasing bank cards, and more. 

There is a public healthcare system in Italy. Or, you can get private insurance, either through your employer or by buying your own policy.

Moving Internationally—But Somewhere Else?

Even if you’re not headed to one of the above countries, there are certain steps everyone needs to take to prepare for moving out of the country. 

Sell, Donate or Throw Away Belongings

About four to six weeks before you plan to move, declutter. Shred documents with personal information that you no longer need to keep and throw away items that you don’t need and aren’t things you can donate. Drop off hazardous items at the appropriate centers.

Now, take a look at what remains. Are there antiques or other valuable items that can be sold by auction or consignment? Is it worth your time to hold a rummage sale, either in person or through an online venue? Can you list individual items online to see what you can quickly sell?

If you’re not going to sell items (or you’ve already sold what you planned to sell), then there are plenty of organizations—from Goodwill to Salvation Army, and from Habitat to Humanity to Amvets—that will likely appreciate your donations. Some of these will even pick them up. Or you may know people who would love what you’re ready to leave behind, whether that’s a friend, family member, or neighbor.

Check for Furniture Fit

Americans are notorious for having much bigger houses and home spaces than the rest of the world. Don’t be shocked if you are making a serious cut in terms of space. Make sure you’re clear about the accurate dimensions of each room in your new home. Then, measure your bed, couches, and so forth to decide if these pieces will fit. Are there any doors in your new place that are more narrow than what’s standard? It is also not uncommon for furniture to need to be hoisted into some homes abroad, depending on issues with stairs and clearance. Take this into account as well, as it may turn out to be an added cost. 

The bottom line is that there’s no use in shipping furniture overseas that you won’t be able to use, so investigate carefully. 

Prepare for Packing

Survey the belongings you plan to keep and estimate how many boxes you’ll need and how long it will likely take to pack them. Add a cushion to your timetable, because it often takes longer than people anticipate. After all, life doesn’t stop during the time you need to pack!

Get new boxes, packing tape and dispensers, labels, permanent markers, and so forth. Collect reusable containers and used boxes in good condition. Do you have the right amount for what you need to ship in the right sizes? Heavier items typically need to be put in smaller boxes, while lighter ones can usually be packed up with other less weighty belongings.

Also get whatever material you’ll use for padding in boxes and determine whether you’ll buy or rent dollies, straps, and so forth.

As part of your packing timeline:

  • About three weeks before shipping your belongings, you can pack seasonal and rarely-used items. Label them by where they should go in your new home and store them carefully.
  • About two weeks before shipping, pack the rest, except what you’ll absolutely need between now and when you leave your home. Label them, including boxes that you’ll want to open first in your new residence. Store them with the other packed boxes.
  • Shortly before moving, pack your remaining items, also labelling them accurately. 

How to Ship Household Items Overseas

Whether you are wondering how to ship furniture internationally or the rest of your belongings, you can check out our wide range of international shipping options. Our experienced international movers can also guide you—and that brings up to another subject: making your choice among international moving companies.

Choosing Your International Movers

First, it’s important to choose a reputable company, such as one accredited by FIDI. If you’ve had friends or family members who have moved out of the United States into another country—and they were happy with their experience—then ask them for recommendations. If you’re making a move because of a job, ask your employer for referrals.

The bottom line is that the right international moving company can save you plenty of time, money, and stress. They understand the often-intricate logistics associated with this move and have experience in navigating issues that people newer to this industry may not. Also consider a move coordinator. This person will also help to reduce stress by managing the risks associated with an overseas move, including packing and shipping. 

When you contact Suddath, here are steps we’ll take to streamline your global moving process:

  • We’ll verify your move size and packing dates, check your home for access conditions, and discuss specific requirements you have. We’ll create a plan for wall, floor, and door protection; determine what belongings will need custom crating, such as valuable paintings; and so forth.
  • Using this information, we’ll provide you with a free quote and our international team will coordinate custom requirements, the destination partner agent located in your new country, and so forth. We’ll be prepared to explain specific moving processes and answer any questions you have.
  • After you approve the estimate, you’ll work with a single point of contact—an experienced and dedicated professional—throughout your move.
  • Our move counselor will coordinate your moving day. Here is more information about our international packing services
  • We’ll ship your belongings to your destination and manage the customs clearance. At this point, your Suddath partner agent will be involved, as your belongings are delivered and unpacked, and documentation handled.

Once your move is complete, we’ll be in contact with you to make sure all international moving services have been satisfactorily addressed.