Obtaining Required Documents

When crossing international borders, you will need several documents to avoid potential complications. Submit your applications far in advance. If possible, allow three to four months before your departure date.

To Leave a Country


This travel document attests to the bearer's identity and nationality. Passports are needed when leaving and entering most countries.

To obtain a passport, you must have a photograph taken. Order at least two prints for the passports, but as many as a dozen. Passport-size photographs often are requested when applying for other documents.

Follow the detailed instructions for your country of origin on format of photos and documents needed for application.

Valid passports, especially those from the United States, are in high demand on the world black market. Protect it! If yours becomes lost or stolen, report it in writing immediately to a passport office or closest embassy or consulate and apply for a replacement or temporary passport.

Certificates of Registration

Any items in your possession that were made in another country should be registered with customs before you leave your country origin. This includes goods such as stereos, appliances, cameras, jewelry and bicycles, etc. If you take the foreign-made items back to their country of origin, you must have proof of previous possession. Otherwise, you could be charged duty for them. To register items, take them to the nearest customs office.

Foreign-made vehicles including ATV’s, motorcycles, boats and airplanes also will require registration. American vehicles don't have to be registered when leaving the United States, if you have proof of possession, such as:  

  • A certificate of title on which you are named the owner
  • A state registration card for your automobile, truck, camper or motorcycle
  • A Federal Aviation Administration certificate for any aircraft
  • A motorboat identification certificate or a yacht license for a boat

Whether foreign- or domestic-made, firearms must be registered with customs to prove ownership. Make certain the firearms will be allowed at destination before taking the time to register them. If you return to your country of origin, you will need these registrations to avoid confiscation of your firearms. Original titles, free of lien are required for all automobiles, motorcycles, boats or motors in order to export from U.S. territories. 

Export Declaration Form

This document declares your household goods and motor vehicles to be shipped out of the country. A UniGroup Worldwide agent will complete this form on your behalf before your shipment is packed. We advise you not to pack any boxes yourself, because doing so can cause delays, as customs officials usually inspect boxes that are "packed by owner." Inspections always result in additional charges and these charges are the shipment owner’s responsibility. Inspections range in cost from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars.

To Enter a Country

Check with a consulate or embassy of your destination country to confirm which documents you'll need when immigrating. You cannot start too early to obtain the appropriate documents. Waiting for approval can take several months, if not longer. For some applications, you will need duplicates of your passport photos. Also, copies of any marriage certificates or divorce decrees can facilitate obtaining permits, so be sure to bring them along. At a minimum, a visa and work permit will be required.  

When entering the United States, the documents you will need depend on whether you are a returning resident or a non-resident. A U.S. citizen will need a passport. A U.S. resident alien should have a reentry permit or an alien registration receipt card issued by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. A non-resident must have a valid passport and visa issued by U.S. consulate or embassy abroad. Requirements for non-resident and visa vary by nationality. Non-residents also should check with a consulate or embassy to see if they need a labor and/or immunization certificate.
If you're moving to a country other than the United States, you might need several documents in addition to your passport. Your UniGroup Worldwide  move consultant can provide guidance. Confirm with a consulate or embassy of your destination country which of the following documents you will need. 


Before obtaining a visa, you must have an up-to-date passport. A visa is an endorsement certifying that your passport has been examined and that permission has been granted to enter a country for a specified period of time.  

Letter of Recommendation

When required, this should be addressed to the consulate/embassy to whom you are applying for a visa. The letter should be from a bank, commercial or industrial firm, trade association, chamber of commerce or public official. The letter may be from a family member or close personal friend. The letter should include your occupation, title and any business references - plus state you are financially responsible. Also, any documents you have verifying a good credit history might be needed.

Residence Permit

Depending on where you're moving, you might need this permit before leaving your country of origin. In some cases, however, you might be allowed to apply for it at destination. In many foreign countries, new residents must report to the police or local registration bureau immediately. Some countries such as China and Brazil, in addition to others, prohibit issuance of a Residence Permit until the client arrives and completes other requirements.  

Work Permit

This is normally a prerequisite to gaining employment in another country. Responsibility for obtaining this permit rests with the employer. Working without authorization might result in deportation, fines and jail. Additionally, further reentry might be affected, if a country's work-related polices are violated. 

International Driving Permit

If you will be driving your car in your new country, check to see how long you can drive on your current license. Ask if your destination country recognizes an international driving permit or if you should apply for a license in your new country. To obtain an international permit in the United States, you will need an application, two passports-size photos and your valid U.S. driver's license. Your U.S. license must be at least one year old and cannot expire while you're living abroad. If you plan to reside in that country for more than 12 months, normally a driver and license for that country will be required.

If you have a driver's license from another country, contact the automobile club in your home country to see if an international driving permit is available. If you are in the United States and would like a permit application, contact your local American Automobile Association (AAA) branch or: American Automobile Association, 1000 AAA Drive (Mail Stop 100), Heathrow, FL 32746; (407) 444-8408 or (407) 444-8364.

Some countries might not recognize the permit for driving. However, because it is written in nine languages, it could be helpful identification should you need to communicate with the local officials.

Note: Do not let your current driver's license expire if possible. If you do, you might have to undergo the complete testing process upon your return.    

Immunization/Medical Certificates

Your destination country might require that you show, along with your passport, a validated International Certificate of Vaccination Health Card as proof of vaccination against certain diseases. This form is available at passport offices and most city, county and state health departments. Check with a consulate or embassy of your destination country to determine which immunizations are required in your new country. Have all required inoculations three or more months in advance, if possible, for full protection.

A medical certificate from an examining physician might be required for visa applications. Some consulates and embassies designate the examining physician and provide medical examination forms.

The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travel (IAMAT) offers travel clinical record forms, also called medical passports, to use in detailing your medical history. For a form, which is helpful should you need medical attention overseas, write to the IAMAT at 417 Center St., Lewiston, NY 14092, or call (716) 754-4883.
Anyone planning to live in a new country is encouraged to contact the nearest consulate to verify all the required documentation.

Other Questions to Ask

The following are miscellaneous questions you might want to ask a consulate or embassy of your destination country:

  • Are original documents required?
  • Do they need to be translated into the destination country's main language?
  • Do any documents need to be legalized by a consulate or embassy before departure?
  • Are there restrictions on the quantity of goods I can bring?
  • Can I bring more than one shipment?
  • Are other taxes or fees involved besides duty?
  • Are model or serial numbers of electrical items and /or appliances required on the inventory or special forms for customs clearance?
  • Are there special laws or regulations regarding women and children?
  • What is the availability of "special family need" items services (such as dietary needs, medical treatment and prescriptions)? How much prescribed medications may be entered through customs?
  • Must I declare my shipment upon my personal arrival?
  • Must I arrive in my new country before my shipment arrives?

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