Moving to USA

Thinking of moving Across the Pond to America? Read our detailed guide for important information on moving to America, from customs to visas.

Moving to USA

Moving to the United States is undoubtedly a very exciting time. Whether you are moving to the U.S. for work or simply an altogether different life experience you will need to be organised to ensure you take everything you need ‘across the pond’.
This handy guide to moving to the USA is not only designed to get you thinking practically, but to raise awareness of how important an experienced international removal company can be to oversee the safe transportation of your lifelong possessions to your new home in America.
Here are some of the most important legal and practical considerations to take into account ahead of your moving day:

Customs and documentation requirements for shipments

Foreign nationals entering the United States via U.S. Customs and Border Protection are usually required to present a passport and valid visa issued by a U.S. Consular Official, unless they are a citizen of a country eligible for the Visa Waiver Program.

The Visa Waiver Program allows foreign nationals from eligible countries to be admitted to the U.S. for a limited time of no more than 90 days without obtaining a visa.

If you plan to work in the U.S. or stay longer than 90 days you should consult the U.S. State Department ( for guidance on visas and work permits as they vary significantly depending on where you’re moving from, and what type of work you’re doing.


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The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has a list of items strictly prohibited from entering the country. The U.S. CBP is present at all ports of entry to the United States and is responsible for protecting the nation from all threats. The items prohibited from entering American shores are largely items that would “injure community health, public safety, American workers, children or domestic plant and animal life, or those that would defeat our national interests”, including:

  • Narcotics

  • Fireworks

  • Firearms

  • Poison

  • Dangerous toys

  • Selected knives

For a more exhaustive list of prohibited and restricted items in the USA check here before you travel.
It is also recommended that you liaise with your international removal firm, as they will have the knowledge and expertise to help you decide what you can and can’t take with you, and will advise you on the forms you need to complete to notify the U.S. CBP.
If you haven’t yet selected a removal company to oversee your move to the United States then click here to obtain quotes from customer-rated international removal firms in your area.

Packing advice

Before you begin packing we’d advise you to discuss with your international removals company how to best approach this task.
Packing for a move anywhere is challenging, and whether you’re moving to New York, Chicago or LA you need to make a decision on what you’re taking and what you’re going to leave behind.
Most international moves are better packed by your chosen removals firm as U.S. customs is known to be very strict when it comes to owner-packed items.
There is a saying when it comes to clothing that anything you haven’t worn in the last 12 months should be disposed of. That’s certainly a good rule of thumb when packing your favourite items of clothing for your move to America.
With space at a premium you may also consider vacuum packing your clothing into ‘space bags’ to compress a considerable amount of clothes into your suitcase. Space bags are the perfect storage solution for movers with limited storage space, as items can be vacuum packed flat. They are ideal for bulky belongings such as winter clothing, bedding and soft toys.
Try to avoid using plastic to pack items which will be stored in containers as it makes items sweat and causes unwanted mildew.
It is worth remembering that electrical goods use a different power supply in the U.S. The U.S. power supplies are 110-120v @ 60Hz – half the voltage of the power supply in the UK, although many appliances operate at both voltages.

Our moving abroad packing tips can help offer advice when it comes to packing for your international house move.


Childhood mementos are another tricky aspect of packing up your belongings and moving to the U.S. If you have any relatives or close friends that are going to remain in the UK you may consider asking if they have any space to store such treasured items for you until you’re settled or you return.
Try not to take bulky photo albums; pack your photo collection into a single photo box or you could even share some of the pictures with friends and family who may appreciate the memories themselves.
Alternatively, your international removals company may have the facility to store items and beloved mementos you don’t decide to take, saving you unnecessary hassle.

Books and DVDs

You may have an extensive book and DVD collection to sort out. Books are unfortunately some of the heaviest items you are likely to pack and therefore you may have to make the decision to sell your collection at car boot sales or give them to charity shops in order to send them to a good home. The U.S. has plenty of used books stores ideal for restarting lost collections.
DVDs pose a different issue as U.S. and UK region DVD players differ. If you don’t want to lose your DVDs you can always purchase a multi-regional player.
Avoid the temptation of purchasing new material items you’ve envisioned in your new home in the U.S. as they will simply increase your removal costs from the outset.
Be sure to focus on packing the necessities you’ll require from day one. If you have essentials you will need sooner than your books and DVDs, for instance, you could liaise with your international removal company who can offer an airfreight shipment which will arrive much faster than your container or groupage.

Official documents

Official documentation is an obvious requirement, particularly on arrival in customs and when you are looking for employment. Make sure applicable references and educational and medical certification is stored away safely, but is also easily accessible when you step off the plane onto American shores.
Putting aside the emotion of leaving home permanently is difficult enough, but deciding what gets sacrificed and what makes the cut will ensure you experience a smooth transition from the UK to the States.


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Transit times

The packing and loading of your treasured possessions ready for export to the USA is arguably the most integral aspect of the whole overseas removals process.
You will want to make sure the belongings that you’ve lovingly accrued over the years are secured safely and are packaged adequately to avoid damage en-route across the Atlantic. 
The best way to ensure this is to use an experienced international removals firm. Don’t be afraid to invite potential companies to come to survey your possessions, so they can discuss with you the best way to transport them. There are several ways you can have your possessions transported, depending on the volume/weight of the goods, the speed of delivery, and your route and budget.
The vast majority of large household shipments travel by sea. They are packed to prevent damage during transit, then loaded into their very own sealed 20 foot or 40 foot steel shipping container and delivered directly to port ready for shipment.
Both containers and groupage are often packed on-site. Containers are usually loaded at home, while items to be shipped in groupage – the consolidation of many small shipments within a single container – are stored for consolidation with loading at your removal company’s depot.
For priority transport, your international removals firm may be able to arrange air freight to the U.S. depending on availability. It is important to note that as air freight is a speedier service you will ultimately pay a premium for transport and storage; typically international movers will only use air freight for the smallest high priority items which have to be shipped immediately, then wait a few weeks for the bulk of their possessions which are shipped by sea freight. 
Below is a table of approximate shipping transit times to some of the major cities in the United States of America from the UK.
You can get a more definitive idea of the relative costs and times for moving your goods by sea, road and air to the U.S. by liaising with your international removals firm.


Boston – 8 to 12 weeks
Chicago – 8 to 12 weeks
Houston – 9 to 13 weeks
Los Angeles – 9 to 13 weeks
Miami – 8 to 12 weeks
New York – 8 to 12 weeks
San Francisco – 9 to 13 weeks

Sole container

Boston – 4 to 6 weeks
Chicago – 5 to 7 weeks
Houston – 5 to 7 weeks
Los Angeles – 6 to 8 weeks
Miami – 4 to 6 weeks
New York – 4 to 6 weeks
San Francisco – 6 to 8 weeks

These are rough indications – you’ll be able to get a more accurate estimate using our international moving cost esitmator.

For more information about moving abroad, we have a number of international removals articles to help you with your move overseas.

page last updated June 2014


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Comments (3)

  • Adam

    posted on 22 May 2016

    Nice Post. Specially in national moving month in USA, it will help for many people.


    posted on 1 Jun 2017

    Great post! My wife and I will be moving to the West Coast of America from London at some point in the coming 6 months. It scares the pants off of us, and the reasons are very well explained in your post, so thank you for offering us the piece of mind. Regarding International removal companies, can you recommend any reputable and experienced ones? We haven't a huge amount of packing to do. I'm just a little worried about my computer making it safely, as it's a seriously high-end gaming computer that was not cheap. Also 2 bicycles and a few paintings, but we're not bringing anything like furniture as we will be moving in and living with my wife's parents who are quite elderly and need care. Thanks so much for any help and advice offered.

    Reallymoving response

    Hi Aidan, thanks for your comment and feedback. You can get a free overseas quote to see which of our international removals partners are available for your destination route.

    Sam Shaw

    posted on 18 Jun 2017

    Hi. Looking to move to Florida from England ASAP. I am a qualified paediatric nurse and teacher. My partner is a midwife. I haven't found any decent information anywhere. I'm also very wary of being ripped off. Any advice?

    Reallymoving response

    Hi Sam, 

    We've written up a quick guide for moving to Florida, you can find it here: 

    You can get up to four competitive quotes for you move abroad on our site under the International Removals section. 

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