What Documents Will I Need for an International Move?


If you are moving to a new country, there are certain important documents necessary to gain entry and establish residency. While these will vary depending on your new home country, there are several standard pieces of paperwork you will most likely require to move overseas.

Passport – What is it?

What is it? – The government issues a passport, which permits entry into a foreign country and verifies information such as your name, age, and nationality. In most cases, you cannot travel or move overseas without it.

Do you already have a passport?

If you are already a passport holder, make sure it is still valid before planning your move. Passports expire five years, and some countries will not grant entry if the passport will expire before a certain time – even after your arrival. This is an important question to ask the consulate so you can be sure your passport is adequately up-to-date before your move.

When to get it? – If you do not have a passport yet, you should begin the procedure well in advance of your move. A passport application can take up several months to process. Make sure all of your family members have valid passports as well.

Where to get it? – You can obtain your passport at your local post office or library.

You will need

  • Approved photo I.D. (driver’s license, military I.D., government I.D. card, etc.)
  • Birth certificate
  • Social Security number
  • Form DS-1 (available on the U.S Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs website)
  • Valid photograph that adheres to strict regulations by the U.S Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs

What does it cost? – The fees associated with obtaining a passport vary depending on if you need a passport card and book, or just the card. Visit the Department’s website for more information on fees.


What is it? – A visa is authorization by the government of your destination country that permits you to remain within its borders for a specified purpose and period of time. Immigration authorities may issue a visa as a separate document, or they may stamp it onto your passport.

What kind of visa do I need? – The kind of visa you will need depends on your destination country, the length of time you will be living there, and the reason you are moving.

Types of visas include:

Short-stay visa – (for temporary stays–include tourist visa, transit visa, business visa, medical visa)

Long-stay visa – (for longer stays)

Residence visa – (for those seeking long-term, permanent residence).

If you are planning a scouting visit prior to your move to make any preparations – such as looking for work or housing – you may need a tourist visa or no visa at all. Most countries require a visa if you intend to take up residence, conduct business, or begin employment in the country, but not all countries require one for short visits.

Before your move, you will need more information on the specific regulations for your destination country and the type of visa you will need for the circumstances of your move.

Where to get it? Your destination country’s consulate office in your home country issues a visa. While you will usually have to acquire your visa before your move, you may be able to obtain one port of entry. The process will vary depending on the country.

Work Permit

What is it? – A work permit is a document that authorizes you to begin employment in another country. If you are already moving for a job, your employer can usually provide assistance in obtaining your permit.

How to get it? – Depending on the country, work permits can be hard to obtain. Regulations for receiving a work permit will vary depending on the country you are relocating to, so speak with the nation’s consulate office in your home country to get more information on the regulations, entry requirements and application process.

Restrictions – You may already have to have a job offer to apply for the permit.
Some governments may hesitate to provide employment to foreigners if they believe the work can be done by their own citizens. So, if you are seeking employment in a low-demand field, you may have better luck.
Additionally, some countries only permit employment to one spouse and do not allow both you and your wife/husband to obtain permits. If your spouse also plans to work in your new country, you must not list him/her as a dependent on any documentation.

Other Documents

Depending on the country, there are various other documents you may need to enter the country, verify identity, apply for permits, pay taxes, and clear your shipment through customs. They include, but are not limited to:

  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificate
  • Medical records and medical insurance documents
  • Immunization certificates
  • Dental records
  • Tax records
  • School records
  • Divorce/child custody papers
  • Adoption papers
  • Wills
  • Driver’s license
  • Social Security cards
  • Veterinary International Health certificate (for pets)
  • Pet vaccination records
  • Customs documents (customs forms, power of attorney, valued inventory list, receipts and invoices, special permits for certain items)

Contact the Consulate/Embassy Before planning your international move, speak with an official from your destination country’s consular office located in your home country to receive more detailed and accurate information about the necessary documents for your relocation. You can get a list of all foreign consular offices’ locations and phone numbers in the United States at the U.S. Department of State website, or simply visit your destination country’s embassy website.

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