Moving to the USA


If relocation to another city from somewhere within the country can be a complicated, often stressful undertaking, international moving is all of that, times two. Times AT LEAST two. Finding the right international moving company is definitely key to making your international moving experience as painless as possible, but there are plenty of other special circumstances and challenges to which anyone moving to the USA from abroad needs to attend. For a good overview of the basics of moving, take a look at our numerous rental and buying guides, and also our exhaustive Moving Checklist. Of course, everything that helps a domestic relocation go smoothly in terms of organizing and packing applies to international moving as well, but there is also a great deal more to deal with in a move from another country.

Searching For International Moving Companies

Choosing the international moving company best suited to your particular situation is possibly the most important decision you'll make when moving overseas. Remember, you'll need to choose from among companies who have experience with all of the usual sorts of relocation duties--such as delivering an accurate estimate, packing all of your items so that they will be safe and secure, delivering and unloading everything on time and on budget--and that can also help you understand and navigate the blizzard of paperwork and documentation needed. And if you're moving from an overseas location to an apartment in the USA—like, if you're literally crossing an ocean to get here—all of your possessions will likely have to pass through multiple loading, unloading, and processing points, so you'll be looking for a company with the institutional reach and knowledge required to coordinate smooth passage through all of checkpoints, and be able to stay in contact with you every step of the way.

Storage Needs

Do your moving requirements include the need for lots of storage for all of the furniture and other household items that won't fit—or that you don't want--in your new home? This is often the case with families moving from a house (even a modest-sized house) located in most places in the world, into an apartment (even a largeish one). You might want to wait until you find your new home in the US before deciding what to keep, and what to get rid of. Although living in an apartment in a major US city can offer wonderful benefits and experiences, the apartments in many cities do tend to be on the small side, especially as compared to the square footage of most private homes. Some cities (such as NYC and San Francisco) are known for smaller than average apartments, at higher than average prices. If you're coming from an apartment in many other major cities, such as London, or Tokyo, for example, this will not come as a surprise to you. But if you're coming from a larger home, get ready to "downsize." The best international moving companies can also coordinate all of your storage needs--either in your country of origin, if the relocation is for a relatively short and specific time period and you plan on returning, or here in the New York City area if things are a bit more open-ended—in conjunction with the move itself. Of course, you can also choose to handle the storage yourself. Self-storage, as it's known in the US, is rather common and relatively inexpensive (although more expensive in the major cities).

Bringing Your Car

Depending on your place of origin, it might seem inconceivable to you that you could survive without your car. Especially if you've heard all about the US's relative lack of public transportation systems compared to much of the rest of the world. But before you add shipping your automobile to your list of moving tasks and (not inconsiderable) expenses, we urge you to consider if this is advised. First, will your car be registered to drive in the US? If you're coming from a country that drives on the left side of the road, you may be asked to move the right hand steering to the left (in some areas, having right hand steering is not illegal, however). The biggest problem seems to come from emissions standards in the US being more strict. You would need to pay to have the car upgraded before you can register it to drive. Unless you have a very rare car, our advice is to sell your car, and buy a new (or used) car in America. Not only do you save on the extensive moving expenses, you'll know the car already meets US road standards. Depending on where you are moving to, however, you may not even need a car (other than an occasional rental for day or weekend trips). Most studies put the percentage of New York City households who don't own a car at significantly more than 50%… and that number jumps to more than 75% when you only consider households in Manhattan. New York City has one of the most reliable, most extensive, and least expensive public transportation systems in the world, and most residents try to take full advantage of this remarkable infrastructure. San Francisco, in otherwise car obsessed California, also has an extensive subway, commuter rail, street car, and bus system. Chicago, Washington, DC and Boston, likewise, have very good public transit. So, depending on the city you're moving to, where you'll be living and working, owning a car may not be necessary.
Back to Guide