Guide to Work, Study, Travel and Living Abroad    

How to Move Your Possessions Overseas

How to move your possessions abroad
A cargo ship is often a cheaper way to move possessions overseas.

The decision has been made. It may be for pleasure. It may be for a mixture of reasons. But one thing is for sure. Moving abroad creates the need for a labyrinth of lists that need to be checked off before you set sail to the new place you will be calling home. One of the top items on that mile-long list is how to deliver your beloved belongings to the foreign land of choice.

The following is a list of must-do’s to guarantee a successful, worry-free, reasonably-priced move:

  1. Once you have made the decision to make the move, start separating out belongings that are absolute requirements in your life abroad, what stuff is ready to go to a new home and which items (if any) will need a place of storage while you are away. Separating these items out can take up space. It is nice if an area like a bedroom, garage or large closet can be the designated organization zone for the divided things.

  2. Plan on having a garage sale at least a month before leaving. This helps to get rid of the definite not-needed items, earn a few extra dollars, and create space to help organize the leftovers. A way to incorporate some fun into the event is to throw a barbecue/going away party. Invite the neighborhood, friends, and family to rifle through your castaway belongings before the general public is allowed. Though it may be a little harder to haggle for a good price with a friend or loved one, at least you will know it went to a good home.

  3. As the pile grows of “to be shipped” items, start looking for sturdy boxes, differently sized bubble wrap and strong tape now. The earlier you start organizing, making a list of the items, and carefully packaging them, the happier you will be in the long run. Do not leave it till last minute. Your precious items deserve better. Although it is possible to hire your moving company to wrap, box and label all of your stuff, it is nice to know exactly where everything is when the customs officials decide to open the crate. As you are putting the items in boxes, have a friend or loved one help write down the detailed list. That detailed inventory list will be your friend later down the road. Also, use more tape and bubble wrap (or clothing and blankets for cushion) than you would think necessary. The extra padding and tape will assist your goods in making a safe voyage.

  4. Check with your new country to find out the restrictions or duties on bringing your United States household goods into the country. Each nation is different. Some are lackadaisical; others will tax certain items heavily or forbid them all together. For example, Argentina does not allow electronics like televisions and posts an 80% tax on an automobile’s worth.

  5. Choosing a moving company.In today’s world of globetrotting, the business of moving someone else’s personal belongings internationally has grown beyond a one-company monopoly. Therefore doing your homework on the different companies out there is vital. There are a number of operations that will help with the process, whether you are located on the west or east coast of the United States. Depending on where the final destination is, it may be beneficial to hire more than one business to help with shipping the goods within United States territory, storage of the container before shipment and the final transfer to end resting spot. 

    Most companies base their shipping fees on the amount of weight per container (or a portion of a container if your shipment is minimal). Also, the price varies greatly whether shipping via air, road, or sea. Obviously, going the water route is slower and less costly. Other aspects that make the final bill less cheap include packing materials and labor costs attached if they do the packing, loading, and shipping to the place of departure, clearing of customs at destinations, and the final delivery. Make sure to ask for a transparent pricing list, references or testimonials from past clients, the ability to have a means of tracking the goods, and insurance options. 

    Another important subject to bring up is making sure your goods arrive in the time needed. The moving company will be knowledgeable about shipping times and when your items should begin their journey. One other aspect to question is the company’s credentials. Ask if they are members of the FIDI (an organization created to uphold international moving companies to high business ethics) and are certified with the ISO 9002, the Registered International Mover Certification, and the Overseas Movers Network International.

  6. Insurance. Insurance can be multi-leveled, depending on what your final destination is. Of course, it is vital to get insurance on the goods while they are being shipped. Most shipping companies offer insurance policies. Another means of securing your investments is to check with your native country’s insurance agent about your house insurance policy.  Some policies will cover your goods abroad or offer an extension while they are in transit.

  7. Getting your stuff through customs. This is an important part of the equation. Some countries are more lenient and not too investigative when foreigner’s personal belongings come through the line-up. The variation in standards can even depend upon the individual customs’ station and each different agent when it comes to the way things are handled. If you do not speak the language, it is highly suggested to hire a company to assist with the paperwork. The shipping company that you are dealing with will most likely know a customs agent. If not, the country’s embassy should have a list of reputable businesses.

  8. Bringing a personal automobile can be easy or difficult, depending on the new country. Ask the embassy of any restrictions. As stated before, there may be taxes on the value of the car and you will need to show multiple notarized copies of the title, VIN number, and details of the ride. A couple of points to think about when deciding whether or not to bring the car: is the car going to be difficult to be serviced in the new country and will it stand out like a sore thumb (some countries demand the original country’s license plate to remain in use).

  9. Can the family pet come? That was a requirement when we were choosing where to live abroad. Most countries have thrown out the quarantine idea — though it is vital to ask your new country’s embassy the rules and regulations (and a word to the wise — ask more than once, sometimes things change or the person asked was not exactly in the know.) There are a few different aspects that are similar across the board. An official veterinarian’s health, vaccination and history report must accompany the pet at all time as well as an appropriately sized crate. There are businesses created solely to assist you with the move of your furry friend; everything from a horse to a snake has made the move to a life in a foreign land. If your pet is small enough to fit under the airline seat or is a search and rescue animal it may be able to ride with you in the cabin of the plane. Different airlines have different policies and methods to move your pets abroad.

If you start your packing early, do your homework with country regulations and research the different moving company options, you will avoid headaches down the road. It will give you the chance to do what really matters when moving abroad; staying in the moment when saying goodbye to loved ones, seeing new and exciting things while making the transition, and learning the ways and words of your new chosen culture.

For More Info on Moving and Living Overseas

Moving Companies

Britannia International Movers

International Movers

Atlas International

A1 Auto Transport International

General Information Sites

US Passports and International Travel (U.S. State Department)

Americans Living and Traveling Abroad (part of

The Association of American Residents Overseas (AARO)

American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)

American Citizens Abroad

Animal Moving Services

The Independent Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA) maintains a lengthy list of pet moving services and offers guidelines on choosing a good one.

Animal Land Pet Movers

Air Animal Pet Movers

Related Articles
Moving Overseas: Mistakes to Avoid
How to Move Abroad
4 Keys to Moving Abroad On Your Own
How to Ship Your Car Abroad
Moving Overseas with Pets

  Facebook Twitter
  About Us Privacy
  Contact Us Cookie Policy
  Advertise With Us Terms of Service
  Add / Update Your Programs