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How to Prepare for a Move Overseas

Preparing for a move overseas.
Preparing for a move overseas.

Leave your old car at home and buy locally. You’ll save money and time for three reasons: First, importing your car may require you to make some adjustments. Second, shipping the car costs a minimum of $1000 to $3000 each way depending on the destination, and takes six or more weeks. Third, if your car is not a common make or model, parts will be expensive or unavailable. If you’re overseas longer than a year, consider selling your car instead of storing it.

Store most things, buy the rest. To start with, shipping is expensive. UPS charges quite a bit for a small box to Europe. A 40-foot container — enough to ship a medium-sized household — costs range from a minimum of $4,000+, not including moving costs to and from the ship. A storage locker, on the other hand, costs from $1500 per year, depending upon your location in the U.S. So, pack only what you know you’ll need regularly and immediately. It may be far cheaper to rent a furnished apartment abroad than to ship your furniture back and forth.

Bring your computer but not electrical appliances.The U.S. is one of the cheapest places in the world to buy computer equipment, so you’ll want to bring a laptop with you. Include accessories to adapt everything for overseas use, and WiFi access is now very common in most destinations.

Find a property manager experienced with hard-to-reach clients to manage your house. Most property managers charge 7 percent to 10 percent of the monthly rental income.

Keep phone numbers, addresses, and paperwork handy. Write down every phone number, address, and email address of every business and government organization you’ve dealt with in the last two years — including auto, health, and home insurance, computer technical support, doctors, magazine subscriptions, and the IRS. Include account numbers for mutual funds, bank accounts, frequent flyer miles, business license numbers, and serial numbers for any equipment you bring, such as computers, cameras, and bicycle locks. You never know when you are going to need the numbers. For example, you may need to transfer money from your U.S. account to your foreign one, or you may lose the only key to your Kryptonite lock.

Second, make copies of important paperwork such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce decrees, school transcripts, and old tax returns. To buy auto insurance at a reduced rate in Germany, for example, you must get letters from the insurance companies you’ve used in the previous seven years. As part of the work permit process, you must show a copy of your college and high school diplomas, no matter how long ago you graduated.

Get your bills paid automatically. Instead of paying bills such as mortgage and credit card payments by checking account auto-deducation every month. It is easy to set up an automatic payment plan with your checking account connected to your online banking. For credit card companies that don’t have an automatic payment plan, you can prepay, but most have realtime services. Keep track of irregular bills, such as quarterly estimated taxes to the IRS and storage fees. Because mail to the U.S. takes up to two weeks, so pay at least one month in advance. With the IRS it is often wise to seek the help of an overseas accountant due to the complexity of filing taxes if you make income such that you must pay taxes in two or more countries.

Get a callback service and email. Calling from the U.S. is cheap, especially if you use services such as Skype. From other countries, calling anywhere else usually costs $1 or more per minute. Find a reliable callback service, such as Skype. With a callback service, you dial a toll-free number that connects you to a computer in the U.S. The computer then calls you back and you dial your destination number. You are essentially making a phone call from the U.S. to your location.

If you don’t already have one, set up an email account via, or to contact friends, families, and take care of personal business.The are a plethora of hotspots available around the world now, and even services that allow you to rent devices to make your own PC a hotspot.

Forward your mail. If you already know your foreign address, change the address for your most important mail, such as credit card bills and bank statements. Cancel mail order catalogs and magazines you can do without and change the address on the ones you can’t. Otherwise, find a mail service, relative, or friend who will send you your mail regularly.

Learn the language. Take time to learn at least some basic words in the new language before you get there.

Be patient. It is a big effort to move. Before you go it feels like you are spending a lot of time researching costs and arranging things. This is only the beginning. After you arrive, you’ll be running from office to office, tracking down missing shipments, or arranging permits and services. You’re in a new country and you have to learn to do things someone else’s way. That’s part of the adventure.

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How to Move Abroad

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