International relocation is a major venture that requires a great deal of planning, preparation, and careful consideration. It is not a decision to make hastily, and it is not the kind of move that you can plan at the last minute. Moving to a new country may be exciting, but when you are shipping your life across the ocean, there are certainly many things that can go wrong.
A little research, knowledge, and organization will go a long way when planning your international move. This guide will help you to prepare for this life-changing milestone by providing tips to avoid common pitfalls that can occur during international relocation.
Not hiring a reputable international moving company.
When planning an international move, it is imperative that you hire a moving company with extensive experience in international relocation. Your shipment is going to be stored inside a metal container and loaded onto a ship by cranes. It will be stacked among other containers and the items inside may shift a considerable amount during transit. Your moving company should have expertise in packing and preparing your belongings for overseas shipping to ensure that they arrive at your destination country unscathed and intact.
Ask any moving company you are considering for hire how much experience they have with international relocation and how many international moves they have handled in the past year to be sure that they are knowledgeable. You should also research the background check on a moving company to find out if they have any outstanding complaints with unsatisfied customers. Check their record on the Better Business Bureau website and verify their licensing credentials. Any company that performs international moves should be registered with the Federal Maritime Commission, have a Freight Forwarder permit and be a member of the FIDI Global Alliance.
Not planning ahead.
Even a domestic move requires a great deal of planning and preparation--international relocation requires even more. It may also get expensive, so downsizing your belongings is imperative to keep moving costs manageable. Some belongings may be unnecessary in your destination country, such as clothing unsuitable for the climate.
Make sure you have all pertinent documents ready, such as your passport, visa application, medical records, birth certificate, marriage certificate, current driver's license, vet records for pets and any other necessary paperwork. You can contact the U.S. embassy in your destination country to find out more information about what documents you'll need to live and work there.
It is also a good idea to plan your flight several days after the movers are supposed to arrive to pick up your shipment, in case of any unforeseen circumstances that could delay the movers' arrival. You should have at least a day or two as a buffer so you won't have to reschedule your flight.
Not getting organized.
If the movers are taking care of all of your packing, make sure your home is organized when they arrive. There are certain items you will want to pack yourself to take with you on the plane--important documents, medication, precious jewelry and anything of extreme value, etc. Keep your luggage set aside and make sure to inform the packers that you are taking it with you.
You may also opt to put some of your belongings into temporary storage before your move. Make sure these items are set aside and labeled storage to avoid any confusion. Anything that you don't intend for the movers to take should be closed-off or locked away in a separate room.
Additionally, don't forget to dispose of any hazardous materials or anything prohibited during shipping. Find out how to dispose of these items properly by calling your local recycling office or the nearest Environmental Protection Agency office.
Not staying connected to the movers.
Make sure there is a way for the moving company to contact you during your travel. If you won't be able to take calls on your cell phone at any time, provide them with an email address. In case of any problems with your shipment, it is imperative that the company can reach you right away. You can also give them the contact information of a trusted relative or friend to contact in case you are temporarily unreachable.
Not knowing the customs regulations in your destination country.
The regulations for the importation of goods vary from country to country. Before moving, research the customs regulations for your destination country, or call the U.S. embassy or consulate in that country for more information. Most countries prohibit the importation of alcohol, firearms and perishables. Pets may be subject to regulation. Find out what you can't bring into the country, what goods are subject to regulation, and what duties/taxes you will have to pay on your goods before moving.
Another important question to ask the consulate or your moving company--do you need to be there for your shipment to clear customs? Some countries' policies require your presence to import your shipment. This is important to know in advance, because if you are unavailable when your shipment arrives, it will sit at the port pending customs clearance, racking up port storage fees. You should also ask what documents you will need to proceed with the clearance of your imported goods. If your moving company does not seem knowledgeable or helpful concerning these aspects of your move, you may want to question their experience and competence in international relocation.
Moving for the wrong reasons
Moving to a foreign land is often romanticized, but the allure could give way to harsh reality when the impact of culture shock sets in. Spending two weeks vacationing in a country is not sufficient basis for making a decision to relocate there. Day-to-day life is often very different than being a tourist, and there is plenty you will want to consider. If you are not relocating for a job, how easy will it be for you to get a work permit or find a job there? What about the language barrier? The food? The customs? If you make the move and decide that you hate it and wish to return, it is quite an expensive mistake to fix.
Before making the move to a new country, you should conduct thorough research and visit several times to be sure that you will be happy immersed in this new culture. It will also help you become adjusted to your new life and home quicker and easier.