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Move to America from Germany

Germany has the highest population of expats living in the US of all the EU States. According to the Statistisches Bundesamt, approximately 10,000 Germans leave their home in Germany and move to America each year.

America and Germany have a long history dating back to the first settlers in Jamestown 1608. Today, America is the third most popular destination for Germans worldwide. This is largely driven by both Germany and the USA having strong trade relations, which means there are a lot of employers with offices in the US and Germany and a lot of people moving between the countries for work purposes.

How to Move to America from Germany Guide

This “how to” guide for international moving has been specially written to help with moving house from Germany to the USA and make the process as clear as possible. Written by expats for expats, with insider international removals industry experience, it explains everything you need to know from what pre-move checks you need to make, to finding a mover, arriving in the USA and everything in between. We hope you find this useful.

Germany and the EU

It is worth noting that Germany is part of the EU and one of the main member states. As such many of the requirements relating to US immigration and customs are defined by US – EU agreements.

Pre-move checks

Here are a few key questions and checks you need to consider before you move home:

Do I need a US visa or work permit

Yes. If you are a German citizen, you will need to receive prior permission to live in the USA. It is highly likely that you will need to secure work as part of your move to America. To be able to work in America, you will also need to secure a work permit. Some permits can take up to 6 months to obtain.

Returning US citizens: Returning US citizens are permitted to live, work and travel in the USA.

Types of US visas for German, EU citizens moving to America: The visa type required for entry into the US from Germany is defined by your nationality (i.e. a German citizen, a Schengen country and EU state), personal situation and how long you plan to stay and work. For example, whether you are planning to move permanently, or if you are moving for a number of years as part of a temporary employment (assignment) move with your employer, starting a business, studying, moving with a spouse who is a US national, seeking permanent residence, whether you have ancestry, and so on. If yours is a diplomatic move from Germany to the US then there will be different types of visas too.

Family members and accompanying adults: It is important to remember that if you move to America as a family, or as a couple, the people moving with you will also need to have the correct visa to live, study or work. For example, if your partner or spouse intends to work, they will also need to have a working visa unless they are a returning US national.

Documents to provide as part of a US visa application: Depending on the visa type you are applying for, it is a good idea to have these documents ready if needed: A valid passport, an up-to-date resume, educational / professional qualification certificates, marriage certificate for an accompanying partner, birth certificates for accompanying kids and/or proof of employment.

These documents will also be useful to have in preparation: police certificates, employment references, health insurance cover, proof of accommodation for when you arrive and potentially your home address, proof of finances and/or proof of historic employment.

Have you already started your application? If yes, it's time to request a move quote. You can get a moving quote here

*Information provided above is for awareness purposes only and should not be used as legal advice. Please ensure you consult with a qualified immigration lawyer.

Have I got a property to move to

To enter America you will need to show proof you have an address to live at. This can be your new permanent address or temporary / lease accommodation where you will be living until you move into your new home.

Temporary accommodation: When you arrive, temporary accommodation can be a useful place to stay as you await the delivery of your household goods or the keys to your new house / apartment.

Rental property: If you are arriving for a set number of years, it is common to move into a rental property under a lease agreement. Make sure you have a verifiable copy of your signed residential lease agreement with the details of the property address.

Young couple and real estate agent outside home

Home purchase: If you plan to stay for longer, or as a permanent move, you may have purchased a house or apartment to move into directly. In this case, ensure you have a copy of the purchase and mortgage statement with the details of the address.

Do I need health insurance

It is highly recommended: The German universal healthcare system is considered one of the best in the world and is ranked above the US healthcare system by the World Health Organization.

Whilst healthcare in Germany is funded by statutory contributions, the healthcare system in America is highly dependent on private health insurance arrangements.

As an expat arriving from Germany, you will not be eligible for the basic cover provided to US citizens under and Medicaid, Medicare or the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). As a non-US citizen, you will be required to pay for treatments and medication, so it is highly advisable to organize private healthcare for you and your accompanying partner and family members. It can also be expensive, so it is worth getting several quotes.

The international removals process to America from Germany

The Sterling Lexicon Promise

Book with confidence. Book to reserve your move date and if things change you can move your dates. Sterling Lexicon is an accredited international mover who provide professional support throughout your move from here in Germany and at destination. FIDI protected.


Plan each stage of your international move with this useful checklist:

Finding an international removal company

An international move to America requires a different set of expertise to moving house within Germany. So, before deciding on which companies to request an international removal quotation from, make sure you do your research and identify reputable and specialist international removal companies who can provide the support you need from Germany and in America. Here are a few points to consider when deciding on an international removal company:

Senior couple with ipad relaxing at home

Guaranteeing your international move

The international removal company you choose will essentially need to pack in Germany and guarantee the delivery of your household goods in America, so check they are a registered international mover, are certified, and have all the correct insurances.

Are they a FIDI accredited international removals company?

For international removals, the first thing to check is if they are FIDI certified. FIDI is the primary worldwide association for certifying international removers. Only those removals companies who are able to demonstrate they are able to fulfil their commitment to customers can receive FIDI certification. Those companies who pass the regular audit receive either the FAIM or FAIM Plus certification levels.

Step 1 - Get a Move Quote

Once you have chosen who you want to potentially use, you are ready to request an international removal quote. The easiest way to do this is via an online Move Quote Form.

If the company has a locally based international removal office in Germany, then you can also call them directly or send an email.

Step 2 - Pre-move Consultation

It is normally a good sign of a reputable international removal company if they contact you and provide an international removal consultation. This is good because it provides an opportunity to conduct some pre-move checks to define what you need for your move to America, and to understand your specific international moving requirements correctly.

Speak to experienced International Move Specialists, not Sales People

At Sterling Lexicon, the consultation is conducted by an experienced International Move Specialist, rather than a sales person, who fully understands the technical requirements for your move to America from Germany. They will walk you through the international move process and answer your questions.

A home survey

Depending on the complexity and scale of your house move, a pre-move survey of your home contents may be required. Ultimately, this ensures a more accurate move quote so you avoid unforeseen bills later on while your move is in progress.

Video surveys

This can often be conducted using a video survey using your mobile device. It is very similar to having a conventional video call on your phone or tablet, where you walk around your home and show what you want to move.


During the survey, you may like to ask your international removal company about these things:

  • Packing materials and processes
  • Access and parking
  • Vehicle shipping and storage
  • Fine art and special items
  • Insuring your items being moved
  • Pet moving
  • Storage
  • International money transfers
  • Temporary accommodation arrangements
  • Umsatzsteuer (USt) reclaims
Sterling Lexicon Video Survey App

We offer covid-safe, quick and easy video surveys.

Fine art works, antiques, heavy sculptures and delicate items
should be clearly identified with information on specific treatments. For example, handling, disassembly, specialist crating, materials that prevent damage to each piece, specialist lifting equipment, and so on. Fine art will also most likely have specific customs requirements that need to be taken into account. Make sure your international moving company has the ability to handle these requirements.

Over the phone and ballpark quotes may be offered and can be useful, but you should be aware that without all the information, the actual cost can vary and sometimes quite considerably. It is advisable to ensure the international removal company has the full details for the most accurate cost.

Your International Move Summary and Quote is provided after the survey is completed. When you receive the written quote, check to make sure that everything is correct and clear. If you have more than one quote, make sure you are getting a like-for-like comparison. If you have any questions, ask your Move Specialist.

Step 3 - Book your move date

Simply review your move quote, then complete and submit the booking form to secure your move date. If you have any questions just speak to your Move Consultant.

Step 4 - Pay for your move

You will normally be asked to pay to book your move. Payment can be made by credit card over the phone or your mover may enable you to pay online. Credit card is recommended as the safest way. You can pay online here with Sterling Lexicon.

Track and manage your move online

You can save time by managing parts of the move process using a web portal and tracking the progress of your move online. Check your international removal company has this option.

Step 5 - Prepare your home for your move

Once you have your move date booked, you can start to prepare everything in your home in anticipation of the first day of packing and your move to America. Here are a few things you can do to prepare and get your home ready for the move day:

Confirmation of packing and move dates

You will normally receive written confirmation from your international removal company of the key dates of your move including the date and time your packing crew will arrive. For example, Sterling Lexicon Move Specialists provide an International Move Summary with key dates of packing and estimated shipping times. It is a good idea to make a note of these dates in your phone diary and share with everyone who is moving, or note it in your calendar and place it somewhere for all to see such as on the fridge door.

Customs documentation and move paperwork

Ensuring your documentation is complete and in order will minimize the potential for delays and incurring additional costs. Most international removal companies will support you through the documentation process to save you time and ensure accuracy. Check with your Move Specialist to learn what you need to do.

Customs requirements for moving household goods to the USA from Germany

You will need to ensure you have all the correct customs documentation. If you are moving with Sterling Lexicon, they help you with the documentation process and completing the US Customs 3299 Form, importer’s declaration, as it can be very detailed and sometimes unclear.

Below is a list of the documents you will need when planning an international removal to America from Germany:

  • Copy of valid Visa for non-US citizens, copy of Permanent Resident Card, or an A-1 Visa for diplomats moving to America
  • Copy of valid Passport (some ports require Passports for all family members listed on the 3299)
  • CF-3299 – Declaration for Free Entry of Unaccompanied Articles, if applicable
  • US Customs Service Supplemental Declaration for Unaccompanied Personal and Household Effects
  • Detailed moving inventory in English – Your international mover should complete this if you want them to undertake a full packing service for your removal
  • Form DS-1504 (applicable only to diplomatic relocations/diplomats moving)
  • Form CF-6059B – Customs Declaration
  • Copy of Bill of Lading (OBL) / Air Waybill (AWB) – Your international removal company should take care of this if completing the entire international removal to the USA for you.
  • Food Questionnaire
  • CBP Form 7501 - Customs Entry Summary
  • Importers Security Filing (ISF)
  • Stamped I-94 Card
Preparing your house in Germany for moving day

Begin with working through those items that will be moving to America. Next identify those going into storage. Lastly, those that will not be packed. Sort the items being moved by air by putting them to one side so they don’t get mixed up with the rest of your belongings. Work through each room in your house methodically.

Your international removal company will often provide you with a pack of packing stickers so you can label items ready for the packing crews. They should be “low tack” so they can be easily removed, but don’t put them on delicate areas such as TV screens, or delicate items that may react. If your mover does not provide these, then use color coded Post-It notes.

Set aside any prohibited items and mark as “Do Not Pack”. Clear out any items from loft spaces, your basement and any outdoor storage areas. Nearer the time of the move, remove pictures from your walls and place them safely on the floor propped against the wall ready for packing.

Moving with pets

It is always recommended to keep pets out of the way and safe on the packing day(s). Having them stay with a friend or family member is often the best option.

If you are moving with pets, make sure you speak with your Move Specialist to find out what requirements there are for your pet. For example, a pet cat or dog will have different requirements than moving with an exotic pet. There are also certain animals you cannot take into the USA. If you choose Sterling Lexicon, they offer a free pre-move consultation and will arrange for a time and date to collect your furry family member. Learn more about Sterling Lexicon's Pet Relocation services.

Woman on beach with dog

Set aside items to travel with you

Put the following items aside in a clearly identifiable container so they do not get packed: your passport(s), visa(s), phone and charger, power pack, adaptor, documents, employment references, health insurance cover, items of jewelry and medication. Also keep your important documents such as your insurance, copy of your lease for the new home, mortgage letter, etc. in a wallet – make sure you have physical and digital copies to hand.

Step 6 - Packing your household goods on the day of moving home

Your packing team will arrive at your home at the agreed time, on the first day of your move. A reputable international removal company will ensure a professional packing crew, led by the crew foreman. The foreman will normally introduce themself and their team for security purposes, before conducting a walk through of your home. As you walk through you will discuss what you are packing for transport by sea and air, including those items going into storage and items you are not taking. Any works of art, sculptures or delicate items requiring special care will also be identified.

Professionally trained international packing crews

Sterling Lexicon’s professional international packing crews are some of the best in the business and have been working for the company for many years. We only use people we would trust in our own home, so we know they will be professional and respectful in yours too. Their experience ensures all your personal possessions are packed perfectly to withstand being handled and transported over thousands of miles.

Eco-friendly export packing materials

Reputable international removal companies will use environmentally friendly packing materials that offer the highest level of protection. For example, Sterling Lexicon uses sustainable and eco-friendly 4-6 ply export wrap, thick-walled specific packing boxes, acid free tissue paper, cornering for furniture and thick carding. You should also expect the packing crews to be safety conscious, take measures to protect your home from damage and use specialist export wrapping techniques. They should also recycle as much as possible and take away all debris from any packing materials used.

Taxable items and duties

You should identify all the items you plan to take with you to your Move Specialist so that they can advise you on restricted items and anything that will incur customs duties. That way you will be able to take action before the move and find the most cost-effective way to handle your move and keep costs down.

Items you are not allowed to bring into America

Here is a list of items that you are not allowed to bring into the USA as part of your shipment, as defined by the US Customs and Border Protection. If in doubt, ask.

  • Absinthe (Alcohol) and Alcoholic Beverages
  • Biologicals
  • Drug Paraphernalia
  • Firearms
  • Fish and Wildlife
  • Food Products (Raw and Prepared)
  • Fruits and Vegetables
  • Game and Hunting Trophies
  • Gold
  • Medication
  • Merchandise from Embargoed Countries
  • Soil, plants and seeds
Bits and parts box for your first day in your new home

Set aside a “first day box” with items for your first evening at your new place with cutlery, plates, cups, blankets, etc.

Some items you take with you on your move will need to be dismantled. Ask your packing crew to place any nuts and bolts from disassembled furniture, remote controls, etc. into a single “bits box” which is clearly identifiable.

Make sure these boxes are clearly identified and are the last things loaded so they are easy to find when you arrive in America.

Itemized packing inventory

A professional packing crew will complete an itemized inventory list of everything that has been packed. A version in English will be required for the customs process. It is also used for checking your possessions when they are delivered and unpacked at your new home in America.

Items going into storage

Items requiring storage will be taken from the home and put into a secure storage facility. Please check with your Move Consultant what options they offer.

Protecting your items being moved

Your possessions will be transported roughly 4,000 miles / 7000 kms between Germany and America. You can protect your household goods by taking out international transit protection, which will cover your personal possessions, furniture, art, collections, etc. You may need to complete an inventory list that identifies the value of your items so you have the right amount of cover. Ask your Move Specialist for more information. 

Step 7 - Transporting your household goods to America

Sea freight is regarded as the most effective way to move your household goods long distance with a lower environmental impact. Air shipments are useful for transporting your most essential items. Your international mover will prepare your possessions for transportation by sea and air.

How long will it take to move my household goods to arrive?

You should allow approximately 4-6 weeks for your sea shipment to arrive in America.

US Customs documents

Household goods being moved to America will be subject to US Customs clearance checks. Check how your international mover will support you here. For example, if you use Sterling Lexicon, they will help you complete the forms in advance and manage the clearance process.

Step 8 - Travel and temporary accommodation in America

Before the day you travel, check you have done everything you need to travel legally in regards to your visa, Covid vaccination records and travel arrangements. Ensure you have all your documents ready and to hand. Check you have allowed enough travel time to get to the airport.

Temporary accommodation booking

Inform your Move Specialist of your arrival in America and where you are staying. Until your possessions arrive, it is likely that you will be staying in a hotel or temporary accommodation. You can arrange for your air-freight to be delivered with your essential items to this address.

Step 9 - Delivery to your new home and unpack in your new home

Your international removal company should handle the clearance of your possessions through US Customs. If you choose Sterling Lexicon, their offices in Germany and the United States of America work together to manage the entire process for you.

Once your items have cleared customs, your international removal company will contact you to arrange a delivery date to your new home.

Step 10 - Welcome to your new home

Welcome to your new home! Your first night will often feel strange so make sure you locate your first night box so you can get takeaway or even cook yourself.

Take time to familiarize yourself with your new neighborhood. When you arrive in a new area, take your personal safety seriously. For example, do your exploring during the day.

Young happy couple on beach with us flag

On a more practical note, you will also need to get all your utilities connected, register for a local doctor, dentist, arrange for a bank account (if not already organized) and get yourself set up correctly. Speak to your international mover at the early stages as you can often get this set up in advance.

Settling-in and orientation support

If you have moved with Sterling Lexicon and would like any local advice on places to help you settle-in, or you need additional support for the practical things such as utilities, local expat club introductions, schools, or anything else. Simply contact your Sterling Lexicon Move Consultant.

Additional areas Sterling Lexicon can help with

Currency Exchange

If you need to transfer GBP to USD before you move to the US, we recommend Currencies Direct.

Currencies Direct is multi-award-winning foreign exchange company. They have been helping people save time and money on their currency transfers since 1996.

They offer Sterling Lexicon clients:

  • Bank-beating exchange rates*
  • No transfer fees
  • Access to a dedicated currency expert

Contact Currencies Direct today!
*see the  Currencies Direct website for details

Moving classic cars and motorcycles to America from Germany

We have been moving classic cars and motorcycles to America from Germany since 1990. Check out our vehicle shipping FAQs or speak to us today about a quote for importing your classic vehicle to the USA.

Moving your pets to America from Germany

We have been moving family pets from Germany to the America for over 30 years. Contact our team to get advice and pet travel quote.

Moving fine art to America from Germany

If you have a work of fine art you wish to take as part of your move to America, we have specialist advisory, art technicians, fine art crating and shipping services to ensure your works receive exceptional care. Please contact us for a consultation.

Do you have any questions?

Why not speak to one of our experienced Move Consultants in Germany who can answer your questions clearly and simply. Call today.

What do to next

Get a move quote

To request a free move quote, complete our moving quote form and one of our move consultants will be in contact within 24 hours.

Book your move survey

The next step is to book your video survey. This allows Sterling Lexicon to accurately estimate the weight/volume of your household goods and get you the best price for your move. All you need is a smart phone and a move specialist will guide you through the estimate at a time that suits you. To book your free video survey, speak to your move consultant.

Pay for your move online

Payment can be made by credit card over the phone or you can pay online

Customer reviews

What people say about their move

Chris B Germany to USA
Hello Team, just wanted you to know that the movers did a masterful job today! I was amazed at the resolve of the crew to play a game of Tetris with all 400+ boxes in that container to include a motorcycle crate that was not built correctly and still fit everything in. They have my respect and gratitude for treating our personal belongings as well as they would treat their own. Thank you for sending your BEST team!!
Robert A Germany to USA
Melanie has been very professional, responsive and an absolute joy to work with during our move to the US. She has been awesome!
Vince A Germany to USA
Nick was very professional and kind - he performed a very thorough analysis of what is required to be transported. Hope we have a chance to work together again - very nice young man.

Sterling Lexicon

Each year we help many returning residents, professionals moving with work and their families to move to the United States of America. We support them with their Visas, finding homes and moving house. Everything they need to start their new lives in America. We have offices in Germany and across the United States, so our team of international move consultants can support you from Germany and at your new destination in America.

Our Locations

Sterling Lexicon Germany

Kleiner Kornweg 26-28
65451 Kelsterbach
Frankfurt, Germany

Tel: +49 61 076 98 40 20

Sterling Lexicon USA Head Office

815 South Main Street
Jacksonville, FL 32207
United States

Tel: (904) 858-1255