It’s easy to see how moving the entirety of your life and home across international borders can feel like an insurmountable amount of organization and work to undertake but having an understanding of the key stages of the international move process can help a great deal. This article addresses this need.
As an expat who has moved internationally several times, it is worth saying that just dealing with arranging visas, preparing your family, finding a home and trying to maintain focus on your job can be complicated. Then you have to deal with the moving company selection process, understanding the required documentation, filling out paperwork, customs clearance and insurance, and of course the packing, transportation, and delivery of your shipment.
Overall there are a number of tasks to concern yourself with during this time that can make you feel overwhelmed. Don’t worry, this is how most people feel when they move and it is why I have written this article in conjunction with Gerson Relocation, the international moving and relocation experts. It may also be comforting to know that you can significantly reduce the stress and gain a feeling of complete control, if you have a clear understanding of the process and the support of a great international moving company will help you achieve this.
The 12 key stages of an international move process
The following is a guide to show the dozen key steps you need to know when arranging to move overseas. It covers everything from finding a mover to moving in to your new home in your new country. I have focused on the household goods move process, so please be aware that it will generally also be part of a broader relocation process that Gerson Relocation can coordinate in conjunction with your move.
Keep track of these steps, use them as a guide, and achieving that satisfying feeling that comes from checking each one off the list, should help you take control of the process and achieve peace of mind.
1. Make a short list of international moving companies to contact
There are a number of resources available to help you find the right international moving company for your move. This is a handy article I’ve written which gets into a way to identify the one which matches your requirements. Further to that, an online search for the moving companies that operate in your area, with particular attention paid to those that have been recommended by colleagues or friends, should help you narrow down potential choices.
Following this, it’s good to read review websites to get a detailed picture of past client experiences and how they might apply to your move. It is always recommended to ensure any choice of potential international moving company is FIDI accredited and holds the FIDI’s FAIM certification.
2. Call or contact the moving company from your short list for a quote
Once you’ve created a short list of moving companies that you can feel confident in cooperating with, you should contact a representative of the company so you can get more detailed information.
You can often use the request a quotation option on the company’s website, which is useful if it is out of hours, but I would always recommend the best approach is to make a phone call and speak with your preferred international moving company.
This will give you a chance to speak to them and get a better feel of their expertise. It is also a good opportunity to share the key details of your specific move requirements, including: the origin and destination, the date when you plan to move or arrive at your new home in your new country, an idea of the type of items you wish to move (as a quick tip, it can be easy to provide the number of bedrooms being moved and what type of property you are moving from), any specialist services you require such as classic vehicles or fine art, if you require international pet moving, whether any items need special care or disassembly, and any other details you feel are pertinent.
Feel free to ask the moving expert questions about their experience in sending goods to your destination and ask about the quality of their moving team at destination. They’ll be able to give you answers to your questions and an expectation of what the next steps are for your move.
3. Arrange for a volume estimate and quotation
By now you should have eliminated a few companies and be focusing on a very limited number that you are considering for the move. Your international moving company will need to attain a precise volume estimate of the items to be moved so they can build a move plan and provide you with an accurate price for your move requirements.
You can ask your top choices about their different ways to get this estimate, including; 1) a video survey which is a bit like using FaceTime or a video call which a lot of people find very convenient. 2) If your move is small then you can use their self-assessment calculation tool and as the name suggests involves you listing the items and sizes of what you wish to move or 3) having a professional surveyor come to your home to conduct the survey in person which is most helpful if you have a poor wi-fi /network signal or if you have items of extreme value or which require a detailed understanding and personal inspection by a professional.
During this survey is when you will share information about particular items that need special protection or are highly valuable. The surveyor should share information with you about how these items will be cared for and relevant customs clearance requirements, including any prohibited items in your country.
4. Review your move quotation and move plan
Following the survey, you should receive a price quotation and plan for your move from each company. Within this quotation look for details about the volume, the origin/destination listed, what services are included, the price or rate of insurance, and any additional charges that are to be expected due to handling costs, customs duties, or charges that come from difficult access. It’s good to have a conversation with your consultant to go through the particulars of the quotation and ensure that all charges are included. It’s also helpful to compare the different quotations to see if there are any inconsistencies in the services or charges that are included.
Important note: If a quotation feels a lot lower or higher than the others, make sure that they are providing a quotation on the same basis. For example, one company offer may look a lot lower, but this can be because they have omitted services. This can give a false impression and you want to ensure that you do not find that you are liable for additional costs later down the line that you have not budgeted for.
Once again it is always best to contact and call your preferred company to confirm all the details. If things have changed and there are any additional items to be moved, you would like help with arranging temporary accommodation, storage or anything else you may need, then your contact should be able to arrange this.
Your move quotations may contain moving terminology that is unfamiliar. If so, take a look at this article which provides a dictionary of international moving terminology to help make sense of everything.
Once you’ve reviewed your move quotations and decided on your preferred moving company, then you will want to make sure you book the move dates you want. Note that peak moving periods tend to be around the school holidays so getting in early will ensure that you get the date secured. Simply contact your moving company and arrange to book with them. It is common that they will ask for a small deposit to secure your move date.
As soon as you have booked you should receive confirmation and this will trigger the next phase of the process, which is enacting the plan for the move.
6. Prepare the international move documentation
For for international moves you will need to complete key documents relating to transferring items across customs borders. This will include filling out customs documents, submitting a copy of your passport and residence visa/work permit, and so on. If you are taking out an insurance policy, something which is always advised regardless of the distance of your move, you’ll need to complete a detailed valued inventory list that shows the value of your items. Ask your moving company consultant about what specific documentation they require and when it should be received.
If you have selected a reputable international moving company, they will help you with the documentation process. This help will be invaluable as the paperwork for some countries can be particularly detailed and in some cases a little unclear as to what they require, or which is the correct box to check. Ensuring that your documentation is complete and accurate will help to ensure that your move is not delayed and does not incur unnecessary charges.
7. Prepare for the packing day
In the build up to your move, your moving company should provide you with regular progress updates as tasks are checked off and confirm details for your packing day. The moving company should arrange with you the details and time of the professional packing crew arrival, provide you with information on what you need to prepare in your home, arrange for parking of the packing vehicle (some of the trucks they use can be the size of a London bus) and anything else that is relevant to your move. As the moving day approaches you may also want to call your moving company company if you have any questions, in which case they should be willing and able to answer your queries.
Your moving company should also establish with you an estimate of when they expect the pack to finish, and who the packing team leader will be. You may also want to make preparations to make it easier for the professional packers and to make it safer by arranging to take pets to another location and for your children to be looked after by family or close friends as you will probably want to be on site on the day. Always make sure that they have all the documents and details they require for the shipment and customs clearance, as well.
Although the moving company will do most of the work, you will still have some responsibilities. To help you in preparation for your move, you can also download this guide and checklist for your international move here.
8. Let the professionals pack your possessions in your home
If all has been planned out with care and attention to detail, you can expect the packing day to go smoothly. You will normally lead a walk through the property with the packing team leader and point out any items that need special care. You should feel encouraged to ask questions or point out any concerns with packing, but otherwise you are free to sit back and let the professional packers do their job while you use the time at home to prepare for your departure. Once the packing has been completed, you will receive a packing inventory list from the team leader detailing everything that has been packed. You should hold onto this until your goods have arrived and been unpacked in your new home. As an extra precaution, I’d recommend taking a photo of this on your phone or scanning this document, so you have another copy in case you lose yours. Your moving company will also have a copy.
If you have items for storage, they will be taken by the moving company to be stored securely. Everything else that is to be transported will be prepared to be sent by air, sea or road. Your moving company will arrange the details and provide you with updates on departure dates and arrange for any additional documentation that is required prior to transportation. Air shipments can be used in conjunction with sea shipments to ensure that you have the essentials available for when your main shipment is “on the sea”.
10. Track your move during the transportation of your goods
Once your goods are in transit, your move consultant should provide updates on the progress of your shipment. If it’s a transoceanic sea journey, then it can take weeks to arrive and they should inform you of key sailing dates and details of the vessel. The date of arrival at the port of arrival is important, as this is when they have a solid idea of the date of delivery, so make sure that your move consultant is keeping in touch with you as the shipment progresses. Delivery by land (i.e. road) and air is usually more predictable in terms of scheduling, but again your consultant should keep you updated on the arrival date for your shipment in order to maintain an accurate delivery date and time.
11. Customs clearance of your household goods
Your moving company will manage the customs clearance process for you and update you when this process is complete. Once the date of arrival of your shipment at destination has been established, you can begin planning the delivery of your goods at your new residence. Should the shipment be arriving before you do, there is always the option of storage, so be sure to speak with your consultant in order to arrange this as necessary. To set up your delivery the moving company at destination will ask for your address, ask if there are any difficulties for bringing the goods from the truck to your residence, and confirm which items need reassembly or hanging on the wall. Once they have all the info they require they’ll work with you to establish the delivery date and time, as well as give you the name of the team leader who will manage your delivery and unpack in your home.
12. Deliver and unpack your possessions into your new home
What happens on delivery day is similar to what takes place during moving day, but in reverse and typically takes half as long (provided access to your residence is easy). Before starting the delivery, you will give the team leader a tour of your home to establish where you’d like each box placed and confirm the items that need to be reassembled or hung up on the wall. Upon completion of the unpacking they will confirm that all items have been delivered by referring to their copy and your copy of the packing list.
I have covered the major steps and key stages of an international move, something which I hope you will find to be useful. You can also refer to this handy international moving guide checklist which will help you keep track of each step. Once you’ve checked them all off the list, you can start to settle in to a new home and enjoy a new chapter of your life in your new country.