Understanding Customs Regulations When Moving Internationally with International Van Lines

March 14, 2024

When moving abroad with a moving company like International Van Lines, all of your belongings will need to go through customs clearance once they arrive in your new country. This means your shipment will be inspected by customs officials who determine whether your items are allowed entry. Certain goods may ...

When moving abroad with a moving company like International Van Lines, all of your belongings will need to go through customs clearance once they arrive in your new country. This means your shipment will be inspected by customs officials who determine whether your items are allowed entry. Certain goods may be subject to duties and taxes, while other prohibited items will be confiscated or require extra processing to bring in. Declaring the contents of your shipment accurately is important to avoid penalties or delays.

Moving to another country can be an exciting but challenging process, especially when it comes to navigating customs regulations. Each country has its own rules and restrictions regarding what can be brought in during a move. Understanding these regulations is crucial for ensuring your international relocation goes smoothly.

This guide will provide an overview of what you need to know about customs rules when undertaking an international move. We’ll cover the key documentation required, restrictions on specific items, duty-free allowances, and the customs clearance process. Understanding these regulations upfront will help you plan what to pack, ship, and take with you through customs when relocating overseas. With preparation and the right moving partner, your international move can be hassle-free even with the added customs requirements.

Documentation Needed

When moving internationally, having the proper documentation is critical for entering your destination country and clearing customs. At a minimum, you’ll need a valid passport that does not expire for at least 6 months beyond your intended return date. Depending on where you are moving, you may also need to obtain visas, work permits or residence permits ahead of time.



Work Permits

Residence Permits

Having proper paperwork lined up will ensure your international move goes smoothly through customs and immigration. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to complete the process. Your moving company can also provide guidance on documentation requirements.

Restricted Items

When moving overseas, it’s important to be aware of any restricted items that may not be allowed or have limitations on quantities. Generally, restricted items fall into a few main categories:

It’s essential to research and comply with all restrictions specific to the destination country to avoid penalties, confiscations or deportation. The moving company can provide guidance, but the owner is ultimately responsible for compliance. Declaring all restricted items is mandatory.

Duty-Free Allowances

When moving overseas, you are allowed to bring a certain quantity of personal effects and household items duty-free. Duty-free allowances vary based on your destination country, but most allow at least the following:

For a standard household move, most countries allow $200-800 worth of goods duty-free. The limits are higher for diplomats or military members on government orders. For example, diplomats may qualify for $10,000 or more in duty-free imports.

For personal vehicles, there is often a time requirement, such as owning and using the car abroad for at least 6 months before importation. The vehicle also needs to meet environmental standards.

It’s important to properly document and list your personal belongings that qualify for duty-free import. Work with your international moving company to understand the allowances and file the necessary paperwork. Exceeding your duty-free allowance means you’ll have to pay import duties and taxes.

Taxes and Duties

When moving internationally, you’ll likely need to pay import duties and taxes on your household goods. The specific amounts vary widely depending on the country you’re moving to.

Import Duties

Import duties are essentially a tariff or tax levied on goods being transported into a country. Duty rates are based on the type of item and its value. Some countries charge duty only if the items are over a certain value threshold. Furniture, electronics, appliances, and vehicles often have the highest duty rates.

Value Added Tax (VAT)

Many countries also charge a value added tax (VAT) on imported goods. VAT rates range from 5% to 25% depending on the destination. Some countries have lower VAT rates for necessity items like basic furniture and clothing. VAT is calculated based on the value of your items plus any import duties owed.


There are some exceptions that allow you to import household goods duty-free. For example, if you are moving for work or study, or if you have officially changed residency status. However, you typically need to prove you’ve lived abroad for a minimum period of time. It’s important to check the specific rules based on your situation.

With the right documentation and process, it is often possible to legally minimize or exempt taxes and duties. Reputable international moving companies like International Van Lines are experts on import regulations and can advise you on the best solution.

Customs Clearance

When your International Van Lines shipment arrives at your destination country, it will need to go through customs clearance before you can take delivery. This is the process where customs inspects your shipment and determines if any duties or taxes need to be paid.

The main steps in the customs clearance process are:

The customs clearance process can seem daunting, but your experienced International Van Lines agent will guide you through every step. Their knowledge of the forms, regulations, and procedures for your destination country will help ensure your international move goes as smoothly as possible.


Moving internationally with pets involves additional steps to comply with customs regulations. Depending on the destination country, you may need to provide health certificates and vaccinations for your pets. Some countries also impose quarantine periods to prevent the spread of diseases.

Make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up to date and work with your vet to obtain the necessary health certificates. These usually need to be issued shortly before travel to confirm your pet is healthy.

Certain breeds of dogs may be restricted in some countries, so it’s important to research any breed-specific regulations. You may need to apply for an import permit in advance as well.

When relocating overseas, most airlines require pets to travel as manifest cargo rather than as carry-on or checked baggage. This involves transporting your pet in a climate-controlled area of the aircraft. Work closely with your airline to arrange travel crates and any additional requirements.

During the mandatory quarantine period after arrival, pets have to stay at an approved quarantine facility. Quarantine length ranges from 1-4 weeks on average depending on the destination. You may be able to visit your pet during this time. Make sure you factor in quarantine costs and arrangements when planning your move.

Properly preparing for your pet’s international move will ensure the process goes smoothly. Keep open communication with all parties involved and have documentation ready to avoid any issues at customs. Taking these steps will get your pet to your new home abroad in the best condition.

Also, Read : International Van Lines Review


Moving a vehicle internationally comes with its own set of customs regulations. When shipping a car, truck, motorcycle, or other vehicle, there are important requirements to be aware of:

Registration – You’ll need to show proof of ownership and registration for any vehicle you’re moving. This usually means having the vehicle’s title, registration paperwork, and license plates. Some countries may require you to get a Carnet or import license before bringing in a foreign vehicle.

Insurance – Most countries require foreign vehicles to be insured locally. You’ll want to cancel your existing insurance and obtain new coverage once the vehicle arrives. Some movers can assist with short-term insurance during the move.

Modifications – Any modifications made to the vehicle should be declared, as this can affect import duties and taxes. This includes things like lifts, custom paint, performance upgrades, etc. Some countries restrict modded vehicles or charge higher import fees.

In some cases, it is simpler to sell your current vehicle and purchase a new one in your destination country. This avoids hassles with registration, insurance, and modifications. But if you wish to bring your car, truck, or motorcycle along, be sure to research the import regulations thoroughly. Your international mover can also provide guidance on properly clearing customs when shipping vehicles overseas.

Prohibited Items

When moving belongings internationally, it’s important to know which items are prohibited or restricted from entering certain countries. Attempting to import prohibited items can lead to confiscation, fines, delays, or even criminal charges. Some commonly prohibited items include:

Weapons – Bringing weapons like firearms, ammunition, explosives, pepper spray, knives, etc. across international borders is illegal without proper permits. Each country has its own rules regarding weapon importation. For example, Canada requires firearms to be registered and declared to the Canadian Border Services Agency. Meanwhile, Australia outright bans guns without exception. Check regulations before packing weapons.

Food – Many countries restrict bringing in outside food, meat, dairy, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and other agricultural items. This helps prevent introducing pests, diseases, or contaminated products. Some nations like New Zealand have strict biosecurity laws. Be prepared to surrender banned food items at customs. Declare any you’re bringing.

Plants – Importing plants poses environmental and agricultural risks. Countries forbid bringing in living plants, flowers, seeds, soil, wood, and plant materials like straw without phytosanitary certificates. Wood packaging used for shipping also faces restrictions. Don’t pack anything plant-related without pre-approval. You may need inspections and treatments beforehand.

Know what’s prohibited where you’re moving. It’s imperative to follow all laws and regulations. Otherwise, prohibited items will be seized and penalties assessed. When in doubt, check with customs officials. Declare items you’re bringing. And resist packing anything questionable or risky.

Additional Regulations

Some other important regulations to be aware of when moving internationally:

Cultural artifacts and antiquities – Many countries have restrictions on the export of cultural heritage items and artifacts. It’s important to check regulations about whether you can take such items out of the country of origin. There may also be restrictions in the destination country on importing certain antiquities and artworks. Declare any culturally significant items being transported.

Currency restrictions– There are limits in most countries on how much currency you can take in or out of the country. Some countries prohibit foreign currency export altogether. Know the regulations on carrying cash, prepaid cards, bank checks, cryptocurrency, gold, and other monetary instruments. There are often different limits if you’re traveling vs. moving. Declare bringing in large sums for the move.

Firearms – Moving firearms across international borders is very complex. In most cases you’ll need to apply for an import/export license for each weapon. There are many countries where private gun ownership is essentially prohibited. Never attempt to conceal or smuggle firearms.

Alcohol and tobacco – Most countries allow you to import a limited quantity of alcohol and cigarettes duty-free as part of your personal effects. But some Islamic countries ban alcohol altogether. Check rules for the destination country.

Food products – Many countries restrict the import of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy, seeds, and other food items to control pests and disease. Some foods may require inspection or treatments before shipping. Processed and canned foods are usually OK. Understand if you need phytosanitary certificates for any foodstuffs.

Plants – Importing plants involves getting a phytosanitary certificate to show the plants are pest-free. Some plants and soil are prohibited imports in certain countries. Don’t try to hide any plant material or seeds, declare them for inspection.

Pets – We covered pet import requirements earlier, but remember they will need health certificates, immunization records, microchipping, possible quarantine periods, etc. Work with your vet and the destination country’s officials to ensure your pets are compliant.