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International Moving

 

Planning an international relocation from the Washington D.C. area is a thrilling opportunity. Perhaps your career leads you to a far-off country for a compelling assignment, or you have decided on your own to move to a region you have always dreamed of. Whatever the catalyst for your journey, it will take a great deal of planning to ensure that everything goes well. International moving is more complicated than domestic transfers and definitely requires more time and attention.

How do I find an international mover in Washington, D.C.?

Where to start depends in part on why you are going and for how long. If your employer (public or private) is assisting with your move, start with the human resources department to find out what resources the company will offer to support you. If nothing else, they may have some recommendations for international moving companies for you to consider engaging. If you are relocating on behalf of the government, there are rules and allowances you need to be aware of.

If you are on your own, or free to choose a vendor with reimbursement for the costs, then start your search for the right service provider early. Also, think about how big a move you want to undertake. Often, U.S. citizens going abroad for a period plan to return to their homes in a few years, so it may make sense to leave some or even most of your household goods behind. In D.C. diplomatic circles, there is a cohort of people who may want to rent a furnished home while they complete a tour of duty stateside at the same time you are doing yours elsewhere. You may also want to investigate home exchanges before you decide to make a big move.

International shipments are slow and expensive, so it’s a good idea in most cases to minimize what you transport. In many parts of the world, you can expect to move to a smaller residence than the one you leave behind. This isn’t always the case but is a factor to explore before you start packing. Once you have an idea of how much you are taking with you, it’s time to begin getting estimates and choosing a vendor. Remember that with any relocation, selecting a mover is an important task. You are placing your trust in this company. It is even more essential in an international move to choose the right one because the project is more complicated than loading a truck and driving to another city or state.

How does an international move work?

Because an international move has more steps than domestic transport, there is usually a move manager. This individual might be the origin agent, usually the local representative of the international movers you chose to handle the move. For sponsored moves, the corporate or government procurement or human resource department may act in this role.

In the first step, the origin agent will conduct the survey of items included, and if applicable, will complete the packing.  Experts and consumer advocates recommend that you obtain at least three estimates before you choose this origin agent. The mover you pick needs to be registered with both FMCSA, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and the Federal Maritime Commission for the overseas portion of the journey. The mover will visit your residence and perform a visual survey of what you plan to ship and provide you with an estimate of the total cost.

In an international move, your shipment is not likely to be isolated from others’ goods during the entire journey. The move manager (whether that is the origin agent or someone else) is responsible for keeping track of your goods and ensuring their safety. The move manager coordinates with the freight forwarder to arrange for the actual shipping, which will usually be contracted to a consolidation warehouse, depending on the shipment’s size. In most cases, the shipment will be less than a full container load (FCL). In this case, the consolidator will combine it with another shipment.

Unlike domestic move shipments within the U.S., most international shipments are packed by the moving company. This typically occurs because the insurance companies want the goods to have the protection offered by professional preparation. The movers will shrink-wrap your shipment and put it in a pallet, which will increase the cubic volume of the shipment. In contrast to long-haul highway transportation, which is usually priced by weight, overseas shipments are typically charged according to the space required.

Once the container is full, it is transported to your departure port and loaded onto a ship. The departure port selected is determined by the destination country. The distance from Washington to the departure port will vary considerably and make a notable difference in your ground transportation cost.

Shippers have many rights regarding their lack of liability for loss or damage of cargo, so verify that you obtain adequate insurance in case your belongings suffer any delays or other incidents. Marine insurance is often effective only if the entire vessel is lost and offers no protection for damage sustained due to less severe incidents. Double-check to ensure that you have the level of protection that you desire and that you receive a copy of all insurance documents that your moving company may obtain on your behalf.

The ship will then travel to the arrival port, and the cargo container load will be distributed to the customs warehouse. Your origin agent will advise you whether you need to contact the destination agent for the customs process to take place. In some countries, you will need to be present for your shipment to be processed, but in others, customs will process the entire container without sorting. Verify with your moving company what you need to do to get through customs. The mover should be able to provide you with a list of requirements for the country you are entering, as well as U.S. exit conditions. You can also check the U.S. Customs Department website for information before you go.

Finally, the destination agent will move your possessions to your new residence or into storage, depending on the timing. The original quote you obtain from the moving agent should itemize all stages of the journey. Don’t hesitate to ask questions when you are reviewing the estimates with the vendors. There are numerous parts to the cost, and you want to choose a mover who is willing to ensure that you understand all the processes and the pricing before you sign up.

While planning the move and researching your intended destination, don’t forget to check the U.S. consulate, which is also an excellent resource after you arrive in your new home. Unlike the U.S. Embassy, which interacts with the host country government, a consulate aims to assist ex-pats from the U.S. The consulate’s resources may include renewing or replacing passports, helping with emergency medical or legal assistance, making arrangements in the event of a death, registering births to nationals, assisting with notarization or absentee voting, and arranging for evacuation in urgent situations.

 

 

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