Expat Chronicles: What it Costs to Move Overseas

The idea of relocating to a new country, especially one far overseas, is easy to romanticize. For sure, it’s a grand adventure, but also a costly one. If you’ve ever considered making a big move, you might have wondered about the expense involved. Of course, expenses vary dramatically based on location, needs and destination country; still, I would have loved to see a snapshot of another family’s costs early in the process. And so, I present that to you!

Keep in mind that we’re not moving with the assistance of a company or government, so we bear all costs directly. As a result, we tend to choose the more economical options. Here’s our budget for moving our family of five from South Carolina to the Netherlands.

by Christopher LeMercier

by Christopher LeMercier


Moving Expenses

Passports + Documents

Adults and children will definitely need passports! We took passport photos at home and made an appointment at our local post office to complete the application. New passports are about $110 per person. Renewing expired or soon-to-expire passports costs about the same. We purchased three new passports and one renewal for $460.

For resident application purposes, many countries require that vital records be certified or “apostilled.” This gains them a stamp or seal of authenticity. You’ll want to apostille birth certificates and your marriage license, if applicable. Only the state that issued the document can authenticate it. Thus, if you go all the way to Europe without getting this done, you might have to mail your documents back and wait for them to return before starting your resident applications. That’s no good! We had to mail documents to multiple states to complete this process. It took months and one failed attempt to have everything we needed for proper processing. Altogether, we spent $225 on documentation for our family of five.


Moving Household Goods

Since I’ll be supporting our family with my longarm quilting income, our giant sewing machine must come. We’ll be transporting it by a 20 foot shipping container, which provides plenty of room for everything else we’ve decided to bring. We’re moving a little bit of furniture, most of our household goods and definitely ALL of my fabric!

The cost of the 20 foot container is $3495. That includes transportation from our home in the middle of South Carolina to our new home city in eastern Netherlands. If we lived far inland or on the west coast of the United States, I believe moving would be significantly more expensive. The company we chose, UPakWeShip, also handles customs, which is nice. However, we are loading and unloading the container ourselves, in a limited amount of time.

We’ll be insuring our items during the move. This cost is not totally calculated until we complete a detailed evaluation of our goods, box by box; but, we estimate we’ll spend about $1000 on insurance.



Flights from our area tend to be expensive, so we usually fly out of Charlotte, NC. This time we discovered it was much more economical to fly direct from New York City to Amsterdam. The inconvenience of traveling to New York is worthwhile, since this is a one-way trip. Plus, we’ve never been to New York! We plan to stay there two nights in order to take in some of the city prior to emigrating.

We like to use the Hopper app to research the best time to buy airfare. Based on the app, we bought tickets in advance for travel dates at the end of May. The direct 7 hour flight from NYC to Amsterdam was just $200 per ticket, plus $100 to check a bag. We spent $1500 on airfare for all five of us, including 5 checked bags.

We also booked train tickets from South Carolina to New York for $107 per passenger, spending $536 to travel to New York City.


Temporary Housing

If you’re immigrating without assistance, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to secure longterm housing in advance. There are certain steps that most people cannot carryout without being present in the country. Banks, realtors and landlords all want you to have a physical address and possibly a residence permit in place before working with you. That’s why new arrivals stay in hotels, vacation rentals or with friends while starting the immigration process and searching for a place to live.

by Daria Nepriakhina

by Daria Nepriakhina

As a large family, hotels are way to pricey. It’s rare to find a vacation rental in our price range that has two or more rooms to accommodate our family. We did a lot of research and decided to rent in advance a vacation home through AirBNB. It’s the only vacation home in our new city that fits our needs. We rented the city home for the month of June and a cheaper home out in the country for the month of July. The housing market in the Netherlands is hot, as there are not enough homes for the demand. Our hope is that we won’t need more than two months to find permanent housing. If all goes as planned, some of July will be waiting for our new home to become vacant, so we hope living in the country won’t be too inconvenient. Buying temporary lodging in advance was a big gamble, as it is non-refundable, but it really seems like the only option for a family. We spent $5115 on temporary housing for the months of June and July.


University Tuition

There are many universities in Europe that offer instruction in English for very reasonable fees (or even free in Germany, if you qualify!). If someone in your family will be going to university abroad, you’ll probably be paying for the first year’s tuition prior to your move. We recently paid Brandon’s first year tuition, which cost $12,000. This also included a small fee for his student residence permit. That permit will give him permission to live in the country, but not his family.


Work Permit

I need more than permission to live in the Netherlands. I need permission to work there and to bring three dependents. Fortunately, the United States has a treaty with the Netherlands which should help. This treaty simplifies the work permit process for entrepreneurs whose work has ties with both countries. Because Stitched in Color should qualify under the Dutch American Friendship Treaty (DAFT), it should be significantly easier for me to gain a work permit in the Netherlands than elsewhere in the EU.

But, it’s not cheap! I will pay a $1600 application fee and then wait to see if I get approved. Plus, I must create a business bank account and hold $5225 in that account. I must not use that money at all during my time with a DAFT work permit. It is sort of their guarantee that I am contributing to the economy in some way, and that we are financially independent. Along the same lines, our family cannot use any social services designed for those with financial need while living in the Netherlands under the DAFT work permit.

by Oliver Dumoulin

by Oliver Dumoulin

Total Cost

The expenses cited here total a little over $31,000. Yep, it’s pricey! Keep in mind that includes $12,000 for Brandon’s first year at university and $5225 that Stitched in Color holds in a business bank account, but doesn’t actually spend.

We planned for a late May move, giving ourselves about 3 months to sell our home. That seemed reasonable, but it was always a guess. Although we’d love to move in May, since it gives us time to work on housing before Brandon has to start school, we cannot move until we sell our house. That hasn’t happened yet, so it’s possible we will have to delay our move until later in the summer or even the fall. This is what it’s like planning a big move - so many moving pieces, some of which you cannot control. But even so, we very much feel it will be worth it!


Establishing Residence. You pretty much can’t do anything until you arrive in country and register an address with the local authorities. Always make sure you have permission to use your temporary housing address for registration. Only after registration can you open a bank account, apply for rentals, register kids for school, etc, etc.

Cost of Living. In today’s connected world there are lots of ways to explore cost of living wherever you are considering moving. I like Numbeo, which breaks things down for budgeting purposes. Look up your potential new city and see estimates based on user-generated content. Here is the estimate for Enschede, Netherlands, our hoped-for future home.


Phew! That’s a lot of numbers. I’m kind of glad to have them recorded in an organized manner, just for my own records. That’s what’s great about blogging - it helps others and yourself all at the same time.

If you have any questions, I’d be happy to try to help. I know how complicated it is! The challenge of moving overseas can seem so insurmountable. Only when you break it down into individual questions and little steps does it become possible to tackle.

Thanks to all my readers for having patience with me during this process. And now… back to our regular stitchy programming!

Rachel Hauser34 Comments