Any move is stressful, but an international move must be carefully planned to avoid logistical issues that usually don’t apply to domestic relocations. In order to make a transition more efficient and less stressful, there are a few things that can be done ahead of time.
As soon as the decision is made to move overseas, divide the preparation into steps by time and order of importance. At the earliest opportunity, learn the location of hospitals, pharmacies, and schools in the new location, find out the procedure for having utilities and other services connected, and check the embassy website for that location to learn what visas or other documentation is needed, like shot records for all people and pets or school records for children. If the family pet is making the trip, it’s good to learn about travel accommodations, fees, and quarantine requirements well ahead of time.
About a month before the move, send notice to utility companies and service providers like internet and mobile phone services about disconnection requirements, make an alternate arrangement to settle any final payments due after the move, and cancel any annual service contracts. Many ex-patriots learn the hard way that their mobile phone is locked to a certain company or that their company doesn’t provide affordable service overseas. Get the unlock code so that a new SIM card can be purchased in the country of residence, if possible, or plan to purchase a new phone on arrival.
About two weeks before the move date, arrange housing, whether temporary or permanent, and learn about banking regulations overseas or electronic banking alternatives; the US has very strict paperwork requirements for American citizens opening foreign bank accounts. Get as much info as possible about utility companies, mobile phone providers, and cable or satellite TV services and their requirements for connections. In most countries, foreign residents will need a local tax or identification number, as opposed to an American social security number, to arrange connections and obtain contracts. Learn about any restrictions on current health insurance, what regular medications are available overseas, or what prescriptions have a viable replacement at an overseas pharmacy in the case of unavailability.
According to North American Van Lines, any furnishings and big items will probably require international shipping or moving company, and the same goes for off-season clothing. However, there are some things that should be kept as close as possible. That will not only protect those items, it will also make sure that they’re accessible if there are shipping delays due to weather, strikes, or other unforeseen circumstances.
Items that should be checked or carried on the plane include:
- Personal papers, identification, and financial documents
- Personal electronics devices and cords/chargers
- Medications that are taken on a regular basis
- Cash and bank cards
Get rid of all extra cords and chargers. It’s unlikely they’ll be of use overseas. Make sure that to have adapters and voltage converters that are compatible with electrical outlets at the new location; buy them before leaving the US.
It’s better to convert any cash to the new currency before boarding. The exchange rate and commission fees are comparable, but US currency will be no good once boarding begins. Some cash may be necessary for ground transportation, but it’s possible to escape paying a commission by taking cash from an ATM upon landing.
A big move, especially if it’s a long-term relocation, may mean letting go of some things. Decide head of time what is essential, what can be placed into storage, and what can be donated or discarded. Many things that seem important can be easily replaced after the move. Making an honest inventory of possessions will enable one to travel a little lighter and reduce fees for excess baggage.
With a little pre-planning and exploration, an international transition can seem almost as easy as moving across the street. Those who are in the military or transferring to a foreign branch office for their current employer can usually receive additional help relocating. For the rest of us, being proactive and anticipating problems before they occur is key.