How to Move to Europe: The Bureaucracy Monster


Okay, so your plan to Europe is hatched, you’ve put things in motion, gotten some last American hurrah shopping in and now you’re ready to buckle down and get to coordinating the nitty gritty details. This, my friends invariably involves paperwork. Lots and lots of paperwork. Depending on what you’re planning to do when you get there, take with you, etc. you may need the following items:


Make sure you have originals of EVERYTHING and have AT LEAST one extra of each. Reason being you never know if the official office of whatever needs to keep it, or will give it back. Also, you’ll need EVERYTHING to have an Apostille (I’d get it for the extras too. I didn’t do this and now regret it.) These you get from either the County Clerk or Secretary of State, depending on where you’re from. Don’t take the word of the government websites, call to confirm. I learned this the annoying way. The purpose of the Apostille is to prove to whatever government you present your documentation to that it’s a legal, U.S. government issued document. Finally, you’ll need to translate everything (the original documents, not the Apostilles). Government websites usually provide a list of certified translators they’re familiar with and they work fast over email, so that part at least is easy. Here’s what I brought and DEFINITELY ended up needing:

Marriage certificate (s)

Birth certificate (s)

Social Security card


Extra passport photos

I’m dealing with all of this and more triple time, as my hubbie, daughter and I all need Spanish residency and we’re also applying for Italian citizenship for my daughter. Ugh. The above applies to everyone whether baby, adult or senior. If you present any of the above to a foreign office without a certified translation and an Apostille, you’ll be laughed out the door. Another little tip, if you want Spanish residency of any kind, you need to deal with the Oficina de Extranjería. God speed.


If you’re planning to legally reside and work in Europe, save EVERY receipt, moving contract, etc. for tax purposes and get yourself a gestor or accountant. You can probably write off a lot of your expenses and if you’re no longer residing in the U.S. you shouldn’t have to pay the usual amount of taxes, though you do still have to file. Talk to your accountant, but he or she will help you find and fill out the right forms, so that you pay only a percentage of U.S. taxes and the rest goes to the E.U. or your pocket if you want to be naughty (no judgement).


If you’re traveling with pets, the best thing to do is:

1. Book your flights on the phone with the airline, so they can help you plan a safe and comfortable trip for you and your pet (s) and you can ensure you’re following the correct protocol. Please travel with your pets in cabin if you can, the cargo hold is just effing cruel. Not every airline lets you travel with pets in cabin though, so check before you book.

2. Call the vet at the USDA. My local USDA vet was awesome and super helpful. She told me what I needed on the phone and made sure I was ready to go when I met her in person (which you have to do to get everything certified.)

Check out the USDA website and another handy resource called to make sure you have everything you need. Don’t pay for the forms on though. You can get everything you need for free from the USDA, your local vet and the airline you’re flying, all of which have forms you NEED to fill out. Every country is different and some have stricter regulations than others. The U.K. for example is a huge pain about bringing in animals. Here’s a quick snapshot of what you may need for your pet (s):

Health certificate from vet

Rabies certificate

ISO microchip and tags

USDA forms filled out and signed by vet

FCC approved animal carrier (s)

Food, water, toys

Photos and descriptions for each pet and clearly marked on each carrier with an extra copy on your person

Drugs (I won’t give my cats drugs if I need to travel with them again for some hellish reason. I think going to sleep and waking up somewhere strange really freaked them out. They’re still weird from the trip.)

That’s all for now. Here’s hoping the paperwork doesn’t almost kill you. Happy travels!

For more zaney adventures in the How to Move to Europe series, visit these previous posts…

How to Move to Europe: Psychotic Pre-Departure Shopping Spree

How to Move to Europe: The Plan

…and stay tuned for my two final posts in this series: How Move to Europe: Moving Day and How to Move to Europe: I’m Here, Now What?


One thought on “How to Move to Europe: The Bureaucracy Monster

  1. Pingback: How to Move to Europe: Moving Day | lostinspainblog

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