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Moving Overseas and Abroad: How to Move Your Belongings to a New Country

Bring the stuff you can’t live without with you, don’t ship it. Shipping your belongings overseas can take several months, especially if they’re being transported by sea. So anything you think you’ll absolutely need for a few days and up to a few weeks/months should travel with you.

Gearing up for an international move? Whether to study, work, or simply enjoy life and experience other cultures, there are many reasons to move abroad. Moving overseas and/or abroad is a fantastic way to experience a different way of life. While this is an exciting move, it often involves a different level of planning and preparation. You have to figure out everything from where you will live to how you will make money.

From learning new languages to applying for visas, we know that relocating abroad comes with unique challenges. Fortunately, we’re here to help you check off one of those important to-dos: figuring out how to move your belongings to a new country.

Questions to ask yourself before moving your belongings to another country

Asking yourself a few questions before you move overseas will help determine the scale of your relocation and the best way to move.

Where will you live?

Knowing where you’re going to live is a big part of any moving process. Are you going to live in a house? An apartment? Will the new place have furniture? If it will, you probably don’t need to transport all of yours as it can get expensive. So, now might be a good time to lighten your load. You can save time, space and money by sorting your belongings into five categories: keep, sell, donate, store, recycle.

Those looking to purge, declutter and downsize should consider donating or selling unnecessary items. When donating clothing and furnishings, all you have to do is call your local Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity or Goodwill to schedule a donation pickup, free of charge. Or make some cash by selling your items online, at a garage sale or at a consignment shop.

Can you afford an overseas move?

Moving is expensive. Moving overseas can get even more expensive. From hiring international movers to securing a new place and obtaining insurance, an international move will be pricey. Make sure that you have the moving cost budgeted. Save up three to six months of income so that you have some wiggle-room as you look for work. You’ll also have to obtain any necessary documentation and maybe even learn a new language.

How will you move your belongings to another country?

There are options like moving them by sea, air or land. In our Moving Abroad Checklist — International Moving Planner, we recommend that you start looking for an international moving company as far ahead as three months and book at least two months in advance. That way, the movers can assess your needs, learn your preferences, and help you figure out what’s best for your budget and time frame.

Moving to another country via sea freight

The most common and cost-efficient way to transport household belongings to a new country is by shipping via sea freight. The costs associated with sea freight movement typically include container hire and transport fees. They can vary widely depending on the weight and size of your belongings.

An international moving company will arrange to send a container to your home to do this. Once the container is loaded, a truck will pick it up and transport the container to the port. Most international moving companies offer door-to-door and door-to-port services. An agent helps manage the move to make sure your container is on the right carrier and that all customs clearance documents are completed and submitted.

When moving items via sea freight, you have two shipment options: Full Container Load (FCL) and Less than Container Load (LCL). The decision often comes down to the amount of stuff being moved. If you think you’ll need a full container to fit your belongings, you’ll likely choose the FCL option. If you’re not moving an overwhelming number of items, opting for an LCL makes sense. With an LCL, you’ll be sharing the container with others.

With FCL, you’ll pay a flat rate for the full use of a whole container, which can get expensive. If you are only shipping a small amount of cargo, LCL is the more cost-effective option. The international moving company you choose will explain this in more detail. Overseas freight can take a while, so please consider this in your move-making decisions.

Moving to another country via air freight

Airfreight is a less common way to move household belongings to a new country. Shipping household belongings via air freight is much more expensive than shipping them via sea freight. In addition, there’s usually a limitation on the weight of belongings that you can ship via air freight. After all, an airplane can only hold so much cargo. However, many will tell you that the convenience of air freight is well-worth the high price tag and space limitations. Airfreight is considerably faster than sea freight, so those opting for this method will receive their belongings much more quickly. If you’re moving abroad on a tight timeline, we recommend considering this option.

Moving to another country by land freight

This option is obviously limited and involves crossing into Mexico or Canada from the U.S., but it does exist. It could be cost-effective to rent a moving truck or use a freight trailer or ship your belongings and drive yourself to the new destination. There are several hybrid options to explore. Of course, hiring a professional moving company will add more ease and convenience to your international move.

How are you going to move your pet to a new country?

When moving abroad, don’t forget to plan for your cat or dog. While moving with pets is never easy, moving internationally with pets is even more complicated. First of all, we recommend researching the country’s pet import laws. Chances are good that your pet will require certain vaccinations before entry into the new country. Once you’ve met all of the pet import guidelines and requirements, you’ll need to figure out how exactly you’re going to transport the pet. To do so, we recommend researching airline requirements and movers and packers dubai uae contacting a pet relocation service. Check out our guide to How to Move with Pets Internationally for more information.

How are you going to ship your car?

Planning to bring your car with you when you move? Make sure you’re allowed to drive the car in the new country first. Each country has its own licensing requirements and guidelines for operating vehicles.

International car shipping isn’t cheap, but transporting a car overseas is surprisingly straightforward. Although your car can be transported via airfreight, international air transport for cars is incredibly expensive. Also, it’s not really advised unless you’re shipping a very rare or valuable car. So, most likely, you’ll be shipping your car overseas by boat. We recommend reaching out to an international auto transport company specialized in shipping vehicles.

Once you reach out to an international auto transport company, make sure that it offers service from your current location to your new one. Make sure they are properly licensed, bonded, insured and that it only works with third parties (such as freight carriers) that are also licensed, bonded and insured.

At least 72 hours before the date of transport, the officials at the U.S. Port of Entry will ask you to provide several export documents, including a completed U.S. Customs & Border Protection Vehicle Export Cover Sheet and an original Certificate of Title for the vehicle or a certified copy of the original, plus two additional copies of either. Is there a lien on your car? An official letter from your lien holder permitting you to take the car out of the country is required. It must contain the make, model, and year of your car and its VIN.

In addition to the cost of moving the car, there are other car shipping costs to consider: marine insurance, destination charges (once your car arrives at the port of your new country, it will have to be trucked off of the freight carrier and navigated through customs) and customs duty (this fee is typically calculated as a total percentage of the item’s value).

Should you rent furniture and household items instead of paying to move them?

Another option is to look into renting furniture abroad. It might be more cost-efficient than moving your furniture to another country. Do you even need to bring your furniture and household items with you? Before forking over thousands of dollars to have belongings shipped overseas, first consider renting items in the new country. If the move is only temporary, consider renting a furnished home. It’ll be more cost-effective than moving all of your household belongings overseas. If the move is long-term, it might make sense to move some or all of your belongings abroad. The decision will likely come down to your needs, budget and rental options in the new country. If hiring a relocation specialist to assist with the move, be sure to ask about rental options in the area.

Will you need storage in the U.S.?

Unless you’re bringing all of your household items and belongings with you, you’ll likely need to rent a self-storage unit in the U.S. These storage facilities offer a safe, secure and convenient option for temporary or long-term storage. Since you’ll likely need a place to hold your stuff for a long period of time, we highly recommend using a climate-controlled storage unit. It should also be kept in a safe facility with plenty of surveillance and security measures. To find self-storage in your area, use’s Storage Center. Just type in the zip code or your city and state of residence and click the “Find Storage” button. Service Basket UAE

Extra tips on moving your belongings internationally

  • Different countries have different restrictions, so learn which items are restricted or prohibited.
  • Depending on where you’re moving, your belongings might be taxable (furniture, computers, musical instruments, cameras, etc.). The tax amount is determined at a certain percentage of the item’s value that you’ve declared.
  • You will need insurance. Sure, a storm sinking your cargo seems unlikely, but it does happen. Insurance will typically cover the entire loss of the shipping container.
  • Have your paperwork in order. There are several essential documents you must bring when you move abroad, from your passport to your visa to your medical records. There is the shipping paperwork too, and your international moving company should help with that.
  • Bring the stuff you can’t live without with you, don’t ship it. Shipping your belongings overseas can take several months, especially if they’re being transported by sea. So anything you think you’ll absolutely need for a few days and up to a few weeks/months should travel with you.

Moving internationally soon?

While international moves are certainly stressful, figuring out how you’re going to move abroad doesn’t have to be. Thanks to our network of reputable and reliable international movers, finding the right company to handle your relocation is a cinch. We vet all movers for key certifications, capabilities, and insurance. Our movers are also licensed and bonded with the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission (FMC). In addition, all moving companies based outside of the U.S. must be in good standing with FIDI, the largest global alliance of professional international moving and relocation companies, in order to remain under their banner as an Accredited International Mover. Of course, before hiring an international moving company, we also recommend reviewing a mover’s history with the American Moving & Storage Association, the Household Goods Forwarder Association and the Better Business Bureau. Best of luck and happy moving!

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