Moving internationally can be a daunting and complex process. There are many aspects that you will need to take into consideration to make sure your overseas removals runs as smoothly as possible, especially if you are relocating with pets and family.
A key factor to help you with your move abroad is to ensure you employ professional companies with an expertise in international moving, to guide you through the procedure. Having your treasured items surrounding you can help you to settle into your new home quicker, so it is important that you find a quality firm of international movers to get your belongings safely to your new home.
Moving your belongings overseas will be a large task in itself. Broadly speaking, your belongings can travel by land, air or sea. Much will depend on where you are going, the volume of goods you are taking, and how much time you have. An experienced international removal company can advise you on the pros and cons of the various ways of transporting your belongings, and how long each shipping method will take.
The whole process will usually have to begin much sooner than with a domestic move. If, for example, your goods make up part of a container load travelling by ship, it can take weeks for your consignment to arrive at the destination country. Similarly, moving your belongings by land, even if it is just a hop across the Channel for the removal vehicle, can take a few days. As well as land and sea, there is the option of transporting your items by air. This is often the quickest option, but its cost makes it prohibitive for all but the smallest or most urgent moves.
In order to move your items abroad, you will have to complete customs paperwork. If you are using an international mover, they will supply the necessary forms and will be able to advise you on the documentation you need to provide. Please note that there may be charges and restrictions on what can be imported in certain countries, and that you may be required to appear at customs yourself to get your goods cleared.
Packing for an International Move
Deciding on what to pack for your overseas move will depend on how long you plan to stay abroad. If it’s a short-term contract or sabbatical and you plan to return within a year or so, you may be keeping your UK property and renting it out fully furnished in your absence. In this case you can probably leave personal items such as books in boxes in the loft or a locked cupboard.
Even if you no longer have a base in Britain, you might want to keep some of your items in storage, either with a storage company, or with family and friends, to await your return. Your international removal company may be able to offer or recommend storage facilities.
When relocating abroad, you may be in temporary accommodation to begin with, and so will need to divide your things into those that you’ll want from the start, and those, such as furniture, that you will only need once you are settled.
If transporting by land, the packing issues are similar to what they would be for a domestic move: your possessions will go in one or more trucks and be driven to your new home. This might take several days, depending on the destination, meaning that you will have to manage with just your basic belongings for longer than with a domestic move.
If you are sending your belongings by sea, they will be packed at your house into one or more sturdy wooden containers. You will be charged by volume, so moving fewer items will save you money, but if you fill a fraction of a container, you may find you can then add more items for the same price to fill it. You could also discuss the option of a consolidation shipment with your international movers. Don’t pack anything into your container that you are likely to need in a hurry on arrival!
When you transport belongings by air, the cost will be determined by weight rather than volume, so you may find that you’d prefer to leave heavy items, like books, behind and only taking high priority possessions by this method.
It is recommended that your international house removals company packs your belongings for an overseas move. Not only will they be aware of any item restrictions and the local customs regulations, they will be highly skilled and experienced in packing goods to ensure their safety.
An often overlooked aspect when packing for a new life abroad is the local electricity supply. Before you pay to have your stereo, toaster and other electrical items sent to your new home, check you will be able to use them. You need to consider: voltage, socket design, and frequency. In the UK, the voltage is 230V, which is now the European standard, and quite common. Many countries have 220V; some have 240V. Since most electrical appliances are designed to tolerate slight variations, any of these should not present a problem, but you should bear in mind that severe variations can damage electrical equipment.
You may still have to use adapters to plug equipment into foreign sockets. See electricaloutlet.org for more information. Some countries (notably the USA) use 120V. Even with suitable voltage and any necessary adapters, you should be aware that the frequency of the local supply (50Hz n the UK and most other countries but 60Hz in many places) can affect the working of electrical devices made for the UK market.
Moving your belongings is one thing: moving people and pets to another country brings with it additional requirements. It’s a good idea to talk to someone at the local embassy of the country you’ll be moving to, to find out what is involved in the immigration process. You and any members of your family travelling with you are likely to need a visa and/or a work permit when moving abroad.
projectvisa.com and workpermit.com are helpful resources when researching your chosen destinations immigration rules.
You’ll need to understand the law surrounding how long you may stay, whether you (or your partner) may work and so on. There may be requirements in terms of your level of education or area of professional expertise, or you may need to show solvency or a certain amount of savings to be permitted to settle in the country. If your employer doesn’t provide one for you, you may want to hire an immigration lawyer to guide you through the process.
In addition to the various forms you will need to fill in as part of the relocation process, make sure that you have ready to hand other useful documents. These include up to date passports, driving licences, marriage certificates, medical records etc.
It’s a good idea to keep copies of these somewhere safe (though usually the originals will be required) – this will help you to get replacement originals should the need arise. Keep the originals with you when you travel rather than shipping them with the bulk of your possessions for quick retrieval.
Find out the costs and restrictions of your existing bank accounts if you want to be able to access funds from abroad. For day to day expenses you will probably want to change your bank account to a current account local to your new home abroad; this could be a branch of your existing UK institution, or a different bank altogether, and you might want to have help from a local adviser when choosing where to keep your money.
It can take time to set up bank accounts so anything you can research or organise ahead of the move will be helpful in enabling you to access your money once you get there. It also pays to seek advice about local tax issues, as well as the implications for your UK tax status of your moving and earning abroad.
You could also considering talking to a currency exchange specialist, as you can get information on rates and the best time to transfer your money.
The host country may require incomers to have certain vaccinations and health clearances – check what is needed and leave plenty of time to organise these. Don’t forget to keep records to prove that you have complied with the necessary regulations.
For more information, take a look at our article on vaccinations when moving abroad.
If you have health insurance at home, it's unlikely to cover you when you are living abroad. It might do so for an initial period (check how long) but you will need to look into, and arrange, local health insurance or satisfy yourself that you won’t need any in the country you are moving to.
Different countries have different customs and laws concerning health care. In some countries, for example, you may be required to have private insurance, whereas other countries have social healthcare paid into by residents (like the NHS, or France's PUMa). These services may also vary depending on whether you are a national, a resident, or a visitor.
Moving your family
If you are single and only have yourself to worry about, relocating abroad can be complicated enough, but what else is there to consider if you are moving with your family?
Within families if one adult has a job organised in the new country and the other does not, this can create problems. If your partner is a stay at home parent or has given up their work to accompany you, you should be sensitive to their needs.
If you are in the office you will soon make friends with colleagues, and be fully occupied during the day. Children will be similarly involved at school. It can be harder for the house wife or husband to become integrated in the local community. Prepare by learning the language and researching ways of meeting people to avoid feeling lonely or bored. A home broadband connection and some kind of video calling software can help all of you to keep in touch with people and events back home, too.
If you are moving abroad with pets, check with the consulate what the requirements are for importing pets to your destination country. This could include quarantine for up to six months (which you will have to organise and pay for) and/or vaccinations. Remember to have all the necessary documentation to prove that you have done all that is required. Be aware however, that there may be further restrictions (by breed, by age) which could prevent you from bringing your pet into the country at all.
Some countries are members of the PETS (pet travel) scheme, which allows cats, dogs and ferrets to avoid quarantine if they meet certain requirements. Most EU countries, as well as common travel destinations such as USA, Asutralie and Canada, are a part of the PETS scheme. Do talk to your vet about whether you destination is included and also ask about the best way to prepare your pet for the journey ahead.
Find out more about moving abroad with pets.
If you will be moving with children, you will need to find schools for them in your destination country abroad (unless you are going to home educate). Do you want them to go to a British school, if there is one, so that their education can continue in the same system? Or do you want to throw them in at the deep end with a local school where they will quickly learn the local language and integrate into the local culture? Much will depend on the ages and needs of your children, as well as the reasons for your move and likely duration of your stay.
Alternatively – particularly with older children who may be about to sit GCSE or A Level exams – you may decide that they would be better off boarding in Britain while you are away, and joining you only for the holidays.
Don’t be daunted!
There is a lot to be done, but, as with most things, forewarned is forearmed. Make sure you take the time to find out what is needed in advance, and prepare well to minimise the stress of moving internationally. You will soon be settled into an exciting new life abroad!