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Why Does Overseas Moving Take So Darned Long?

 

Featured image via Wikimedia

Conventional wisdom is that moving is one of the top stressors in life -- somewhere behind death and divorce. And that's if you're moving within the United States. If you're moving out of the country, well, let's say this might not be the time to let your Xanax prescription run out. With the right moving company, overseas moves get easier, but depending on your destination, you could be looking at months before you see your precious belongings. No wonder the biggest complaints international moving companies hear is that shipments take too long. 

What is the holdup?

When you move from one state to another, unless you live in a large home, your shipment will share a truck with other shipments to be dropped off along the route. This can add weeks to an out of state move, but it also saves customers money. Now, imagine that same shipment going overseas. Your goods won't share a truck with other shipments, it will share a ship and that ship won't go anywhere until it's full. 

If you live somewhere far away from a major shipping port, it might add weeks to the delivery schedule, especially if you are moving to a land-locked area. 

The most unpredictable factor is...

If we could wave a magic want anywhere along your goods' journey, it would be during customs. Customs is the most unpredictable part of international moving. There are some things we can do to help move the process along, but there are so many things out of our or your control. I recall a time when a customer's goods hit London's port on the same day as a terrorist attack hit the city. Customs delayed the shipment for weeks, and needless to say, our customer wasn't happy. 

Sometimes customs delays are random. You might find a customs agent in a bad mood, or perhaps they choose your container as the one they go through with a fine-tooth comb. Either could cause serious delays. Sometimes, though, you will know in advance to expect delays. Australia, for example, has some of the world's most stringent customs restrictions. 

Australia has some of the most stringent requirements for importing HHG’s. To move to Australia, you’ll need an Incoming Passenger Card, along with Form B534 Unaccompanied Effects for items that will be shipped. Most household goods for personal use are not subject to duty taxes. Goods under $900 (Australian) in value may be imported duty-free. You are also allowed 2.25 liters of alcohol and 50 cigarettes. For specific duty rates beyond the personal exemption, consult the Australian Customs Service. Fresh produce and dairy and meat products are prohibited. There are also restrictions on medications and firearms, among other items. Most live plants are prohibited from importation.

All pets being imported must meet the requirements of the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) and are subject to a period of quarantine at an AQIS approved facility. Quarantine periods vary depending on the type of pet and country of origin. Australia also has an extensive list of restricted and prohibited items. Importation of goods that have contact with the ground such as motor vehicles, bicycles, golf carts and even golf clubs must undergo thorough steam cleaning and possible fumigation to remove all dirt, sand and/or debris. Quarantine authorities will inspect these vehicles upon arrival. Those not meeting the criteria will be further fumigated at the clients’ expense.

Source:My Moving Reviews

While there is no easy way to speed up your shipment, we do have tools available to help you prepare. We are familiar with customs procedures throughout the world. We can help you choose what to pack and what not to pack. We'll take a thorough inventory, helping speed items through. 

 

Do American Expats Have to Pay Double Taxes?

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People move overseas for many reasons, but one is to escape the United States' high cost of living. What many American expats don't give a lot of thought to, though, is that they may end up paying taxes in both countries. There are ways around it, though. Of course, you'll want to consult a tax professional and not take our word as legal advice.

The IRS is pretty clever about tracking people down and ensuring they get their share of foreign-earned income. Don't worry too much, though. There are laws in place to prevent you from being unfairly double taxed. 

Foreign earned income exclusion

The Foreign Earned Income Exclusion protects you from most double taxation by excluding around $100,000 of foreign-earned income per year. That amount is adjusted for inflation each year. You can also exclude some housing expenses in foreign lands. If you are a civilian or military government employee, your income is not considered to be foreign-earned. 

If you are self-employed, things get a bit more complicated. You are still eligible for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, but you will be responsible for self-employment taxes. Instead of a housing exclusion, your housing will be a deduction. 

how to qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion

To qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, you need to jump through several hoops. For starters, cut all ties to the United States. Of course, that doesn't mean you have to dump your friends and family, but you'll need to sell your house or end your apartment lease. Cancel ties like gym memberships. Then you'll need to find a home in your new destination. Either sign a long-term lease or buy. You should also establish other signs of residency, such as utilities, a library card, and a gym membership., The exclusion isn't offered to people who jump between the US and another country. Plan on spending at least 330 days a  year (not necessarily consecutive) outside of the United States to qualify. That means that even if you live relatively close, like in Canada or Mexico, jumping across the border to visit family can cost you thousands if you do it for more than 35 days out of the year. Note that the IRS counts any days spent hold up in an airport because of weather delays. If your plane even enters US airspace on the way to another country, that will count as one of your 35 days. 

What about taxes in your destination country?

Whether you'll owe taxes in your destination country depends on a few factors. If you spend 183 days in a country (about half the year), you are generally considered a resident, which means you may owe taxes in that country. If you make your living online, there may be exceptions. Some countries don't charge expats taxes at all:

Some countries — like Costa RicaHong Kong, Panama, the Seychelles, Singapore and Taiwan — have a “territorial tax system,” and only tax income generated within the country’s borders. There are also a handful of countries that have no income taxation in place at all, including Andorra, the Bahamas, Bermuda, the Cayman IslandsMonaco and the United Arab Emirates.

Source:The Points Guy

 

Yes, it gets a little confusing, which is why you should consult a tax professional before leaving the country. That being said, in many circumstances a move out of the country can save you big come tax time. 

 

 

How to be Comfortable Without Looking Like an American Tourist

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Whether you want to immerse yourself in your new culture, or you simply don't want to wear a pickpocket target on your back, you might want to think about leaving certain items of clothing back in the states. While every country has its own customs for clothing, and climates dramatically vary throughout the world, there are certain items that scream American tourist, almost no matter where you are. 

Americans have made comfort a science. We love our logo tees, leggings, and gym shoes. The rest of the world, though, tends to think they belong in the gym. That doesn't mean you can't be comfortable. 

Don't Wear Logos

You may be proud of your college, or of your favorite sports team, but outside of the United States, no one cares. As a matter of fact, there's nothing that says "American" more than logos. Few people outside of the United States wear clothing with Nike or Puma emblazoned in huge letters. Instead, wear a neat, clean, plain t-shirt or a shirt with a collar. Avoid hoodies and sweatshirts altogether. 

Don't wear gym shoes

Gym shoes should stay in the gym. Instead, wear comfortable but stylish shoes, such as flats, low-heeled boots, supportive sandals, canvass lace-ups, slip-on shoes, or plain athletic-type shoes in a higher quality fabric such as wool. 

Don't wear baseball caps

Hats are a definite yes. They add style and keep the sun off your face, but stay away from baseball caps, especially backward baseball caps. They are almost purely American. Instead, opt for a hat made of cloth or straw. There are hundreds of styles to choose from, and they add a dash of style to even the most basic outfits. 

Don't wear leggings

For American women, leggings outsell jeans. In the rest of the world, though, leggings are for the gym. It's the same with sweatpants. For a casual look, wear jeans. Flowing pants are comfortable and can be dressed up. 

Don't carry a backpack

Backpacks are comfortable and can hold a lot of items. Unfortunately, when access is on your back, it's easy for a skilled pickpocket to pull something out without you even knowing it. Instead, use a cross-body bag, such as a messenger bag or a cross-body purse. 

Do Prepare to cover up

In conservative countries, such as Saudi Arabia, it is customary, or even expected, to cover from head to toe. Most countries, though, give a lot more freedom when it comes to dress. The same can't be said, though, of many restaurants and institutions such as churches. Women can rarely go wrong with a knee-length dress, but if it's sleeveless, having a cardigan or shawl on hand is recommended. 

Take all of this advice with a grain of salt

How you dress, excluding some local rules, is completely up to you. If, however, you don't want to stand out as an American, observing some simple fashion guidelines will help. 

 

 

What to Do With Your Home if Your Overseas Move is Temporary

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Many of our customers are diplomats or have temporary overseas assignments, which leaves many in a sort of quandary. They might own a home in the United States, and unfortunately, mortgage payments don't take a hiatus just because no one is living in the home. Which leaves the question, what does a temporary expat do with their home?

Temporarily displaced homeowners have more options than one might think. Here are the most common:

Sell your home

If your assignment is for years, instead of months, you might consider selling your home. Real estate prices are at a high. Sure, they could continue rising in the next couple of years, but they could also fall. If you don't want to take the risk, or if you planned on selling in the near future anyway, it could be time to call a Realtor. In fact, the timing could be perfect. It's much easier to sell, and keep clean, a vacant home than it is to sell an occupied one.

Rent your home

If you plan on keeping your home, the most obvious solution is to rent it out. While that's a great option, it can be problematic. You can brush up on state and local landlord/tenant laws and screen tenants, all while preparing for your move, or you can hire a property management company. Most charge between 8% and 12% of the monthly rental, but for that, they find tenants, collect rent, and arrange for maintenance. If your tenant falls through, or needs eviction, while you are overseas, a property manager can take care of it. 

Rent it short term

Apps like Airbnb or VRBO are great temporary solutions, under certain circumstances. If your home is in great shape and has a good location, you can make some serious cash. An average two-bedroom can earn over $20,000 a year. Obviously, tourist communities do better than more remote areas, but it could be seasonal. College towns and large urban areas are also very popular. Airbnb or VRBO take a service fee for finding renters, but unlike property managers, they don't watch out for your property. It will be up to you to hire a cleaning and maintenance company. 

Don't rent it or sell it

If you can keep your home without a financial burden, do it. Have a friend or family member move in and take care of the home. If you don't have anyone to move in, hire someone to keep an eye on your home. You'll want them to open the windows on occasion, to air it out. They should watch for problems like broken pipes, a leaky roof, or other potential hazards. 

Whatever you decide to do, your home should be a significant part of your pre-move planning. Your home is your most valuable asset and costs you thousands of dollars every year. If you've owned your home for a long time, it could cost you a lot more to replace it once you return to the United States. Whether you choose to sell your home or rent it, look for reliable and qualified people to help you out because handling everything from overseas will be difficult. 

 

10 Critical Steps to Get Ready for Your Overseas Move

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Image CC0 Public Domain, via Max Pixel

You may be a frequent mover. Perhaps you've moved across the country, but moving overseas is another thing altogether. There might be language differences. There will be cultural differences. There are also a lot of practical considerations before you board the plane. While that might all sound daunting, it doesn't have to be. Here are ten steps you can take to make the transition much more manageable.

Get your passport

This one is probably a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised at how many people realize when it's too late that their passport is expired. Double check yours. Allow a few weeks to receive a new one. 

Get your driver's license

Most countries will allow American driver's licenses, at least temporarily. If you are moving overseas long-term, you will want to test for a license in your new country, but until you have permanent residency, you might need to carry both. Be sure to let your insurance company know about the move. 

Research schools and housing

Make a list of requirements in your new home. Be realistic. Research the area and find out what it has to offer. Realtor.com, for example, has international listings. They might not be comprehensive, but there are enough to give you an idea of what to expect. The next step is to hire a real estate agent and communicate everything you need, everything you want, and the things you can compromise on, if needed. Once the real estate agent finds a few good alternatives, take a trip and look. While it's not unheard of to rent sight unseen, it's not recommended, even with virtual tours. 

Downsize

It's unlikely you'll find a 5,000 square foot home with all the modern conveniences in most other countries. Your children might have to share a bedroom. You might have just a living room, instead of a living room and family room. Storage could be at a premium. Sell, donate, or give away everything you don't need. It will save you money on your move, as well. If your move is temporary, your moving company is an excellent resource for storage. 

Hire a mover

Once you find a place to live, it's time to hire a mover. Moving within the United States and moving overseas are very different. The vast majority of local movers outsource all their overseas moves, so why not directly hire an overseas mover? Do your research through expat communities, Yelp, Facebook, Google, and other review sources. 

Get your pets ready

Each country has different policies when it comes to pets. Do your research. Get the proper shots and paperwork. Some countries require quarantines. Others just want proof your pup or kitty is healthy. Most do not allow exotic pets. Read this for more information on transporting pets. 

Learn some of the language

It's tough moving to a new country when you don't speak a word of the language. While you will learn with time, before moving, learn some key phrases. Learn to order off menus. Learn how to ask for directions, or for the nearest restroom. 

Temporarily wave goodbye to everything you own

The number one complaint we, and all overseas movers receive, is that shipments take too long. Ports and customs are fickle. While one shipment might sail through, another could be held up for no reason whatsoever. If you are moving from a coastal town to another coastal town, things will move a bit faster. But, if you're moving from the middle of the United States to the middle of another continent, it could add weeks or even months. Expect to be without your furniture for at least two months, often more. Pack well, including clothing for the next season. In many areas, you can temporarily rent furniture. Rest assured, though, that unless something catastraphic occurs, you will see your goods again. 

Prepare your children

Children are resilient, but it will be a culture shock. You might feel some guilty, but be reassured that in the long-term, your children will thank you for showing them the world. Part of your pre-move research should include schools and activities for your children. If you have friends in the new country, ask if they know any children around your children's ages. If your children play sports, or like music, or art, sign them up for local teams or classes. 

Emerse yourselves in the new culture

Once you're settled, it's time to absorb everything possible about the new culture. Shop local stores. Eat local food. Attend local events. Before long, you'll speak the language, have friends, and almost feel like a local. 

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