[Sticky] Solo Move - A Story of a Minimalist with Pets from the U.S.
Hi all, I recently relocated to Dublin from the US (San Francisco) and I thought I would share my experience in case it is helpful to someone else in a similar situation. I gleaned lots of helpful information from this forum so I'm paying the information back 🙂
None of this is legal or immigration advice nor should it be solely relied upon for your own move, it's just a nice starting point for considerations to make if you are someone in a similar situation.
- I had a job lined up before moving to Dublin. My work permit was applied for and approved while I was in the US. It was sponsored by my new employer.
- I live a minimalist lifestyle. I did not need contents relocation (someone shows up, packs your stuff, puts it in a shipping container, and delivers to you in Ireland). I was moving via checked/excess luggage and mailing 2 boxes via post to myself (from me - to me).
- I was moving solo, no one on the other side waiting for me and no one traveling with me.
- I was relocating my 2 cats, and they would not be traveling with me they would follow me once I secured an apartment.
I've bolded a headline for each topic to help keep it organized, and they are based on the lifestyle I described above.
Securing my PPS and GNIB Appointments
Do this early. Don't wait for someone to tell you to schedule an appointment. There are long waiting lists. The PPS appointment was the easier appointment to get. The actual appointment took about 20 minutes. I was living in temporary accommodation so my proof of address was a letter from my employer stating that I had just moved to the country and stating the address I was living at. This same letter worked for opening a bank account to prove my address. It takes about a week for your PPS number to be mailed to you. But if you call after 3 pm on the day after your appointment, don't mention that you applied the day before just say "Hi I don't know my PPS number can you give it to me?" and they will ask you identity/clearance questions and give it to you over the phone. First time I tried the woman figured out I had applied the day before and told me to wait for the letter. I tried a few hours later and that person didn't probe with that question and they gave me my number after I cleared security.
Securing a GNIB appointment is nearly impossible. You can only book 90 days out (I think) and they have a specific time each day that they release new appointments. If you don't check at the exact time each day, you will miss securing one of the new allotments. However, people regularly cancel appointments. I spent 6+ weeks checking for new appointments each day, which was hard because the time they were released was during overnight where I was (San Francisco) so I was just never online when they were released. However, a friend recommended the app "GNIB - Ireland" which monitors for cancelled appointments and sends you a notification when one comes available. The first 2 times I got an alert I was asleep (4am and 11pm) and the appointment had been snatched up by someone else by the time I woke up. By the 3rd day of downloading the app I got a notification while my phone was in my hand and secured an appointment. Downside: the app is only available on Android (for now). Doesn't hurt to check if it's available on IOS now though.
I am currently present in Ireland under my 90 rule. My work permit allows me to apply for residence through my GNIB appointment. I'm going to Berlin for Christmas which means I am leaving and returning before I've been approved to reside here. I inquired with GNIB if my specific work permit allows me to leave and return and in my case I can, but I need to have my work permit with me on re-entry from Berlin and I need to be carrying with me proof that I have scheduled my GNIB appointment (which is scheduled for January). A print out of the appointment confirmation is enough for me. I don't claim that this will work for you, because I don't know your circumstances, but the point of explaining this is that I emailed the GNIB office to query this and they replied with a succinct answer within 24 hours. Very responsive and helpful.
Checked Luggage and Mailing My Belongings
This was the most confusing and stressful part of my move. I had temporary accommodation lined up for myself in Dublin but that was only going to be 2 weeks. The shipping time from the US is 7-10 business days. I needed to sort out where to mail the boxes. I don't have a better answer other than a) work, b) make a friend, or c) use a Parcel Motel (but only if you have an Irish or UK cell phone unfortunately). I eventually was able to choose the a) work option and I shipped 2 medium size boxes to my office at my new job. For people that don't have a job lined up, this doesn't really work. I looked into a service that was like a parcel acceptance service where they can receive packages (including those that need signature) and I pick up from them, however to setup an account I needed to present my passport in person. This didn't work if I was trying to ship my boxes from the US before I departed on my one way ticket. I was trying to get my boxes on their way before I left so that I didn't have to ask a friend in the US to ship them to me once I had arrived. Another option I found was Parcel Motel but in order to use this you have to have an Irish or UK cell phone number to accept SMS: http://www.parcelmotel.com/collect/
Generally speaking, when you bring goods into a country you must pay customs/VAT/duty/stamp on those goods if they exceed a certain value. Example: if I leave the US with $2,000 worth of goods on vacation (my clothes, my camera, my phone, that all adds up real quick), then buy $500 worth of stuff in the foreign country, when I return to the US I would not owe anything on the $2,000 that I had left with, but I may owe tax/duty on the $500 of stuff I'm bringing back (purchased in the foreign country). There is usually an allowance that says "if the value of the goods does not exceed $X (lets say $400) then you don't owe us any tax/duty, but if the value exceeds $400 then you may owe tax on the entire bit". That's generally how a duty free allowance works (but I'm not offering you any sort of legal advice on that, this is just for illustration purposes). By departing the US and entering Ireland permanently, I'm essentially bringing everything in for the first time (I am not "returning to Ireland with stuff I left with"). As I was traveling with 4 checked suitcases and 2 carryons (one personal item and one duffel bag), I was clearly carrying more than the duty free allowance. For those that have never self evaluated how much stuff they own, I can fit about $10-$15k worth of belongings into those 6 bags (clothes, toiletries, shoes, cameras, jewelry, etc). Also, if you mail things in the post there is no duty free allowance (like a $400 threshold) - you will owe tax/duty, etc on the whole bit.
Side note: carrying that much stuffs means you either a) need a very good contents insurance coverage that covers your belongings anywhere in the world like USAA, b) travel insurance, or c) purchase additional luggage insurance from the airlines because your regular ticket usually only covers $500-$1,000 of goods inside each suitcase.
So, now I'm carrying $10-$15k worth of belongings - how does customs/stamp/duty/tax work since I'm clearly in excess of the duty free allowance? And what about the goods I'm mailing to myself?
Enter: Transfer of Residence Exemption. You can read more about it here and the requirements for availing of the exemption: https://www.revenue.ie/en/importing-vehicles-duty-free-allowances/transfer-of-residence/index.aspx
I printed off the C&E 1076 form, filled it out (ignoring the parts for vehicles), and included a general inventory of my goods. I had about 20 lines that were general descriptions and values: "women's personal undergarments, women's personal pants, women's personal blouses, women's personal dresses, personal sporting gear, personal artwork, personal toiletries, etc" with the word "personal" being used to indicate that none of this was commercial / for sale goods. You can see on the last page of the form that you must include evidence that would be required to approve the transfer. I included a tenant/rental agreement to show I had resided outside of the EU for 12+ months, I included a print out of the cancellation of my apartment and internet, also included a print out of my cancellation of voter registration, included a printout of my employment offer/contract. The more evidence the better.
I made 3 copies of this: 1 copy for each of the 2 boxes I was mailing via post and 1 copy to carry with me through the airport for my luggage. I did not make separate versions for each box. I made 1 version with all goods no matter how they were being transported and then made the copies. This was by advice I had received from the Irish customs office (through email). I got plastic sleeves with sticky on the back from UPS (I just popped in there and said I was preparing some boxes and they gave me a handful for free). I took black marker and wrote "Transfer of Residence Documentation for Irish Customs" on the outside, folded my paperwork and stuffed it in the sleeve. I then removed the paperbacking and stuck the sleeve/paperwork to the box. I wrote "Transfer of Residence" all over the outside of both of my boxes. I carried the 3rd set of paperwork with me to through the airport.
Ok so my boxes (and my luggage) were all set for the Irish customs side of things. But what about the US customs side of things?
First, I mailed via USPS. My boxes were between 25-35 pounds each (x 2) and were about $140-$160 each to mail. Compared to FedEx / UPS, they were going to cost $600+ each to ship. I'll take USPS thanks! The difference is that FedEx / UPS have actual employees in Ireland that allows your package to track all the way to its destination. With USPS, once it arrives in Ireland, it becomes a delivery of An Post and not USPS. Which also means it is not worth buying tracking or other supplementals (except insurance, buy the extra insurance it's cheap). USPS tracking will only tell you it landed in Ireland and can provide no further updates beyond that.
Ok so now you need US customs forms. Fill these out on the USPS website, or go in and get the paper versions (I grabbed multiples in case I screwed one up and needed a do-over). Their website is confusing and makes it sound like there are different types of customs forms. There used to be, now there is only one. They are phasing out the old versions. If you go into a USPS location and get the paper version you will be handed a 2976-R. https://pe.usps.com/text/imm/immc1_009.htm
In the section for describing your goods, make sure to use all 4 lines to give your general descriptions. I filled out 2 versions, one using 1 line and the other using all 4 lines. When I tried handing the USPS employee the version using 1 line of descriptions he rejected it saying I needed more detail. Luckily I'd filled out a backup form. In the box for Shipment Information: Category of Items, mark "Other" and write in "Transfer of Residence".
I completed the forms at home, sealed up my boxes, wrote "Transfer of Residence" all over them, affixed the Irish customs forms in my own sleeves on the outside, but handed my US customs form (2976-R) to the USPS employee for review / completion (they type it into a computer, print out a new one, and slap that on your box). Make sure to take pictures of everything in your boxes and do your own personal, longer inventory of everything for insurance purposes if it's lost along the way.
My boxes I mailed to myself arrived in the 7-10 window with no damage. No one at customs ever opened the envelope with Transfer of Residence paperwork inside.
Now at the airport: I went to the red line at customs which is where you go to declare something. There was a barrier up. So I went to the green line and asked the employee where do I go to declare stuff if the red line is closed. He said "oh it's open, we just put a barrier up since no one ever goes that way. What have you got to declare?" I told him I was moving to Ireland and that I had my transfer of residence paperwork and hand him my big stack of papers. He asks me to hold tight and disappears into an office for 10 minutes. He comes back and says "I haven't seen this type of paperwork in some 5 years or so which means I don't know much about it. You look trustworthy, you're good to go. Thanks." So I asked him if I'd gotten the wrong paperwork? Why would he never have seen this paperwork in 5 years? He says these papers usually come through the shipping ports from contents relocation services. Most people aren't moving themselves in luggage. I find that last part hard to believe, but I do believe that most people don't realize they should have that paperwork on hand and declare their goods. He said he would send it over to the Irish Revenue office and they would contact me with any questions or concerns. I've not heard anything yet 4 weeks later.
Apartment Hunting with Pets
I knew that landing in Dublin, staying in temporary accommodation, and starting my job was not going to mesh well arriving with two scared cats as well. I found friends in the US that were willing to take care of my babes for me while I got to Dublin and found an apartment. The cats would then join me once I found something suitable. My friends were willing to keep the babes for up to a year if that's how long it took me to find something. I reached out to friends for referrals for pet relocation service. It's expensive, but work was willing to pay for it because I was not doing contents relocation (which would have cost about the same). In total, the relocation cost me over $4,000 USD. I'll go into more detail on that later.
I spent weeks/months researching Dublin and neighborhoods/areas I would be interested in living in, that were convenient to public transportation as well because I was not going to have a car (not at first). Once I arrived in Dublin I did some walking around in the neighborhoods I had preselected to make sure they met my expectations (some didn't, I struck them from the list). Searching for apartments too far out doesn't do much good since most places are available immediately and are doing showings within 48 hours of the ad posting. But I searched apartments anyway to get an idea of styles/tastes and what I could afford in what neighborhoods.
In the week leading up to arriving in Dublin, I hit the ads on Daft.ie, Rent.ie, Property.ie, and Let.ie super hard and had viewings of units scheduled about 3 per day for an entire week. These were scheduled by the time I landed so I didn't lose any time. Most weekday showings were in the evenings (only one asked for a day time showing) so that was no problem. I setup alerts to be notified immediately of any new listings that met my criteria. This way I could be one of the first to email the landlord about the unit. Sometimes if a landlord has 3 great candidates they will just go with the one that emailed them first.
I was open to the following:
- small studio so long as there was a quiet place to stash the kitty litter box
- small one bedroom
- flat share with 1-2 other people
My budget was 1,000 euro. Some studios and one bedrooms would come on the market in my price range but they were really shit quality. Minimum price for quality was 1,200 euro. Not in my budget. So while I kept my eyes open for either of those, I was also looking for flat shares. I looked for flat shares on the websites listed above, but I also joined a flat share group on Facebook. I had no luck on Facebook, too flaky. People didn't reply to any of my messages. I did find a one bedroom pretty quick off of Daft, in my budget, in Stoneybatter, that I absolutely adored but the landlord said no to the cats.
My strategy originally was writing the apartment listings, asking for a viewing, and asking if cats would be allowed. If you put a filter on the ads of "Pets Allowed" you will get zero results. Most places in Ireland are furnished, and won't advertise pet friendly. They will just consider them on case by case basis. However, when I asked the question in my intro email, I would never get a response. I changed my strategy: email the ad, introduce myself, and ask for viewing times. Meet the landlord, have them fall in love with me, then ask about the pets after they've already made up their mind that I'm the perfect tenant. My intro emails were also very detailed but not too long "Hi my name is Jessalyn, I'm a XX year old [profession] who moved to Ireland permanently for work. I have a 2 year permit and intend to renew until I'm a permanent resident. I work for X company and you can find me on LinkedIn at [insert link]. I'm looking for my long term permanent accommodation and your unit looks perfect for me! I spend most of my time in the outdoors or traveling, I'm in bed by 10pm, extremely tidy, and never bring a party home. I am happy to provide you tenant references in advance of a viewing." Problem with this strategy was still my budget -> not much was coming on the market in the 1,000 euro range for a studio or one bedroom. If I approached flat mate ads, they were not always willing to ad me to the lease (and protect the cats) or they weren't interested in the cats because they weren't allowed or they already had pets. Finding someone, that didn't already have pets, and a landlord that allowed them, willing to have new pets join, was a needle in a haystack. My strategy then changed to finding a 2-3 bedroom apartment that was empty. View myself, apply by myself (show significant savings account to demonstrate I could handle the rent alone if need be), then find a flat mate later.
Side note: I do not recommend lying about your pets. If you have them, disclose them. Have them specifically added to the lease. Offer to pay additional security deposit. But couch/chair covers for the furnishings. But if something in your unit breaks and maintenance needs to come by, your pet will be discovered and you don't want yourself kicked out with no where to go (no local network of friends that would take you in like back home).
This new strategy worked: I viewed a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom unit, applied for it myself, asked permission for the 2 cats after they had already decided I was the perfect tenant (but before signing the lease), it was granted and added to the lease, and then I put up an ad to find a flat mate to join me.
Some other strategies that helped me in this process:
- I had made packets of information to hand to landlords at the showings. I had a blue envelope with my name, email, phone number printed on the outside. On the inside I had printed out 4 signed tenant references (I had obtained these in the US before I came over and they all mention my pets), copies of bank statements to show I have money in savings, a letter from my employer confirming employment and salary (I have no Irish pay stubs yet), and a printout from my last apartment showing my rent payment record to document I pay my rent timely. People LOVED this packet, it made me stand out and memorable (especially good for my strategy of making them fall in love with me and then asking about pets later). In most cases though I was sending this information to the viewing agent / landlord before I even showed up to the viewing. They would give me the date/time/address and I would reply with "Great thank you! In advance of the showing please find attached x,y,z for your review at your convenience" and then hand them the paper packet too in person. Sending via email before the showing also makes you more memorable: when you show up they go "Oh yes you sent me those tenant references all ready thanks for that!" and you keep getting stuck in their head that way.
- I knew it would take ages to get a proper bank account in order so that I could pay a rent/deposit. In total, it did end up taking about 2 weeks for a proper bank account to be setup. So I brought over $5,000 USD cash with me. I exchanged it at the bank to euro. When I secured my apartment I was able to take my euro cash to the bank branch belonging to my property manager, deposit it into their account (with my name in the reference line) and get a proper receipt. Don't give cash in person! You can just deposit it at the bank in their account. If I hadn't thought of this before I left the US I would have been in Dublin with no way to put money into my apartment (international transfer bank to bank would have taken ages and cost a lot of money and pulling out of an ATM wouldn't have worked because of limits on the amount of cash you can withdraw).
I hired a pet relocation service since my cats would not be traveling with me. I also did not have the time or resources as a solo individual to research all of the requirements. I was also not willing to risk my pets being turned away if I made a mistake somewhere along the way.
I asked some friends for a referral and they gave me Cassandra at www.petrelocator.com. I've never met Cassandra, and she's never met my cats. But she successfully got them from San Francisco to Austin Texas and Austin Texas to Dublin Ireland. My cats arrived (no quarantine) this past Friday.
She works out of Colorado Springs, Colorado and does everything remotely. While she doesn't show up to perform tasks for you, she gives you all of the instructions you need. She can send people to do tasks for you but the price would go up (obviously). For example I don't have a car in Dublin so I can't pick them up at the airport, she coordinated delivery to my apartment so I paid extra for that.
The cats flew in airline cargo (which is temperature controlled) on both sections of the trip, on United Airlines. I took them to the UA cargo facility in San Francisco for their journey to Austin. My friends picked them up in Austin and a few months later they took them back to Austin airport for the next journey to Dublin. There was a layover in New Jersey, almost 24 hours I think, and the employees there care for them during that time (refill food, water, change out pee pads, etc). My cats had never flown in an airplane before the SF->AUS trip, and they are both 9 years old.
If you visit the Irish government page for importing animals they give you details of 2 onsite veterinarians that clear pets at the airport for release. The way the web page is written makes it sound like pets are released from customs/import only after the vet inspects them and their paperwork (make sure they don't have rabies etc). However when I raised this with Cassandra she said that she uses a different vet. So the Irish government site is misleading. Ultimately once the cats landed they were transported to an offsite veterinarian that cleared them, and then the delivery service Cassandra coordinated picked them up and brought them to me. If they had not passed this health exam there is a possibility they would be assigned quarantine.
In total, the cost of my pet relocation for 2 cats was $4,000+ USD. The fee from the pet relocation service covered the services of Cassandra, the flights for 2 cats from SF to Austin, the flights for 2 cats from Austin to Dublin (via New Jersey), the customs/vet/clearance/delivery in Dublin. The things that I paid for separately were the 2 special airline approved travel crates (bought on Amazon) which were about $130 total for the 2, the vet appointment and domestic health certificate in SF to fly them to Austin (about $280 for 2 cats at my local vet), and the vet appointment and international health certificate in Austin to fly them to Dublin (about $450 for 2 cats at Banfield), plus a USDA fee of $38. I would have saved about $1,300 if I had done it myself but as I described above, it was worth it to pay someone to coordinate the entire thing (since I was already in Dublin when they were shipped to me) and work was reimbursing me in lieu of contents relocation.
Because I did a ton of advance planning, did my research, used forums like this one, and brought an adventure attitude to it all, I had no problems through my whole move. My only hiccup was when I locked myself out of my apartment the night my flatmate was to move in. A neighbor in the building let me in to use his computer so I could contact my flatmate, and I wrote her from his laptop while his Slovakian flatmate stared at me from the dining table while sharpening knives!! I obviously escaped alive 🙂
Things I'll be navigating in the future:
- Renting or buying cars, car insurance (I've already ordered my claims history from my insurance agent and my driving records from Colorado and California)
- Getting a credit card
- Driver licensing
Hope something in here helps someone, happy to answer any questions or elaborate (like I could go into way more detail on how I completed the customs forms, etc).
Thank you, thank you, so much for this extremely useful post. Wow! You really put a lot of effort into it, and I'm sure dozens/hundreds of readers will benefit from it over time.
Thanks too for the quick reminder that this is not legal advice. None of the info on this site is. It's experiences from people like you, me and countless others, which can really be far more useful than legal advice IMO.
Proof of address - that info is really helpful. The banks can be really difficult to deal with on this issue. Do you mind us asking which bank accepted this info?
Over the phone PPS - weird huh?! They gave me all 3 of my kids details over the phone. A little less secure than I'd like, but handy none-the-less 🙂
GNIB appointment - yes, I've heard it's difficult to get an appointment, however if you live outside Dublin, it's meant to be far easier. I wonder if Dublin folk can apply elsewhere, and drive to wherever to get this taken care of?
GNIB App - I had no idea that existed. I'll publicize it on a couple of pages here, including the 'Resources' page. Great tip, thanks!
Shipping - Do you mean USPS to Ire is 7-10 days? Whoa, that's fast! Perfect for people with a minimalist lifestyle.
Tracking via USPS - Further down, now I see it was USPS. Great tip on the tracking. I shipped via USPS on my first move, and think I did naively pay for it. Handy money saving tip for all you readers.
Pet relocation costs - Holy moly! $4k!!! I've done it plenty of times to know it's expensive, but every time I see a reminder, I'm blown away. It's ridiculous! We've had people on here, who are moving with 4, 5, 6 pets...It really changes things with regards to cost of moving.
Studio rent - 1K for a studio - boy has rent gone up! Totally agree with regard to holding off on announcing the pets until after the interview. That's what I tell everybody. You'd be surprised as to how many people will not entertain it initially, but may listen to you in person, or come back to you afterwards.
Blue Rental packet - love this tip! Everyone... STEAL IT!
Again, Jessalyn, thank you so much for all this info. It's people like you who really make it so much easier for others who are making the move.
Let me know if there's any info you need that I can help with. I'm happy to if I can.
Looking forward to hearing more from you as you settle in.
Best wishes to you, and your babes 🙂
Ulster Bank accepted my letter from my employer for proof of address. My employer had contacted them in advance to confirm what should be in the letter and that it would be sufficient. So I think they have an existing relationship. At a minimum, most banks will accept a government letter as proof of address. So the employer letter should get you a PPS number (worked for me and my flatmate), then the Welfare office will mail you a letter with your PPS number on it and voila, you have official government correspondence with your address on it.
The GNIB website says something about visiting other offices so I think that is possible. Should just check the website before booking!
My boxes were here in a flash. I hadn't even moved into my permanent apartment when they arrived. My friend from Singapore has been waiting for her shipment of stuff for months.
Just thought of another tip re: US cell phone number.
When I was in the US I had T-Mobile with the plan where I can touch down pretty much in any major country around the world and text US numbers for free (i.e. part of my regular bill, doesn't cost me extra) and use unlimited 3G internet. I was relying on this when I landed in Dublin since it took me a bit to get a SIM card (my iPhone wasn't unlocked ugh).
So I was delaying cancelling my T-Mobile plan, for my US number, until I had updated all of my online accounts for my new Ireland phone number.
Problem: most, if not all, of the websites that use my phone number were not equipped to accept my Irish phone number.
Bigger problem: in today's data security age where our accounts are being hacked all the time, more and more websites require your cell phone number so that when you log in they will text you a PIN to validate it is you. This happened to me the other day, I was locked out of my apartment and my cell phone was inside. My neighbor let me use his laptop to try and contact my flatmate. I wanted to log into my Google account, get her phone number, and call her from my neighbors phone. But my Google account went "Urp, we don't recognize this laptop, we've sent you a text to confirm it's really you" but of course my cell phone was in my apartment. Doh. Eventually I got ahold of my flatmate through Facebook BUT I started wondering what I was going to do about this problem.
I didn't keep my US number to actually get texts or calls from friends. For all they know this number doesn't work anymore. I needed to keep my US number so that my online accounts wouldn't lock me out! Another example: my Trusted Traveler / TSA Pre-check account -> anytime I log onto the website it texts me with a security code I have to enter on the website. I logged in, updated to my Irish number, but it still texts my old US number! Arg.
The summary of the link above is: don't cancel your US phone number!! Create a Google Voice account. Select a random phone number. Then go update your account to port in your actual number. The port takes a few days. Once you've confirmed the port worked and tested it with a few texts, voila. It's done. I was no longer able to access my T-Mobile account online once the port finished so I had to get on Facebook Messenger with them to pay my bill and close out my account with them.
I hadn't really thought of this before I left the US and I think it's a more recent development in that more and more websites in the US are using texting to verify your account (especially when you login from a computer the website doesn't recognize, like in your new home country!) but they aren't going to be interested in allowing international texting.