Like any other move, planning an international move is not a walk in the park. However, moving overseas requires even more advance planning and preparation than your average domestic relocation. You’ll be faced with a lot of challenges that you wouldn’t otherwise have to plan for when making a regular move. In addition to planning, you’ll also have to be prepared with the proper documentation and requirements necessary to clear customs once you arrive in your destination country. But before all of this, you’ll need to find an international moving company to handle your move. If you’re new to the overseas moving process, you might have quite a few questions that you will want to have answered before you make your choice.
Knowing the right questions to ask any international moving company will ensure that your move is pulled off smoothly and without incident. Be sure inquire about the following:
1) How long has your company been in operation and what is your background in overseas relocations?
Not every moving company handles international moves or offers overseas shipping services. Likewise, not every international moving company is a trustworthy and dependable one, despite what they may claim. Before you make your decision, take some time to vet the overseas shippers that you want to use and make sure they have a solid background and plenty of experience in handling international moves. It’s usually best to hire a company that strictly specializes in international relocations.
2) Does your company provide in-house estimates?
Always be wary of moving companies that don’t provide their customers with in-house estimates, as they can be fraudulent companies looking to take advantage of you. Make sure to ask over the phone if the company will be sending a representative to your home to assess your goods, as those estimates will be most accurate. Make sure that representative actually works for the company itself and is not a broke. An employee of the company will also be better able to answer any important questions you may have about the move.
3) How will you determine the price?
The purpose of receiving an estimate prior to your move is to give you an idea of how you’re your move will cost; however, there will often be additional charges levied on top of the primary cost of shipping your goods. So be sure to inquire about how the company charges for extras. Make sure to ask detailed questions about your shipment and remember that the cost of international moves is usually calculated by the volume and weight of your shipment. Other fees can include destination port fees, custom inspection fees, delivery charges, packing material costs, and terminal handling charges, among others.
4) Do you have the proper licensure and insurance required of international movers?
International movers are required to be licensed and registered to perform overseas relocations. Every overseas shipping company should be registered with the Federal Maritime Commission and have a FMC number. This will ensure that the company is a professional and reliable moving company and is subject to regulation. Also remember to inquire about memberships with other reputable overseas moving organizations such as the Fédération Internationale des Déménageurs Internationaux (FIDI) and the Registered International Mover Certification (RIM) through the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA).
5) Will be belongings be shipped door-to-door?
Some international moving companies offer door-to-door shipping services, meaning that your belongings will be transported directly to your destination, without changing vessels. If your goods are moved around from ship to ship during the move, there is a greater risk that some of your shipment may be damaged or misplaced, so inquire about what kind of shipping services the moving company offers its customers.
6) Who will be responsible for unloading and picking up my shipment at the destination port?
While you may hire one international moving company to load and transport your goods to the nearest port to be shipped overseas, there will usually be an entirely different company waiting at your destination country to receive your shipment. This company is typically referred to as a Destination Agent in the overseas shipping industry, and you should ask your Origin Agent what company will be responsible for receiving and handling your shipment once it arrives at its destination. This way, you can do the necessary background research to make sure that they are a reputable and trustworthy company. It is also a good idea to prepare any questions you may have for the Destination Agent regarding the import duties and customs regulations currently in place in the country you are moving to.
7) Does your company offer any customs brokering services?
A common service that many international shipping companies offer their customers is a customs brokering service that will guide you through the customs process when you arrive in your destination country. In many countries, clearing customs requires a lot of paperwork and documentation and if this is your first experience with international moving, it can be very overwhelming. However, your customs broker will help you by preparing your documents, calculating your taxes and duties and making sure that your shipment is ready to clear customs when it arrives.
8) Do I have to be present for my goods to clear customs?
This will vary from country to country, so it’s a very important question to ask prior to your move. Some countries will require the customer who is responsible for the shipment to be present at customs in order for the goods to be cleared. If the customer is required to be present and fails to show up, they will often keep the shipment at the port until it clears customs, which can potentially cost you hundreds more dollars in port fees.
9) What kind of storage options do you offer?
When moving overseas, you may need to store some of your goods, even if only temporarily, while you get settled in and find a place to live. Some international moving companies will offer storage services, but it’s always a good idea to ask about this beforehand, even if you’re not sure you will need storage – it’s always good to have a backup plan.
10) What kind of moving insurance policies do you offer?
This is one of the most important questions to ask, since moving your belongings overseas will put them at a greater risk of being damaged. It is imperative that you have adequate insurance coverage for your goods. Before you plan for your move, make sure that the international moving company you hire offers a comprehensive insurance plan to cover your goods and protect them in the unfortunate event that they are lost or damaged. While purchasing insurance for an international move can be quite costly in comparison with a domestic move, it’s well worth it in the long run. Make sure you also inquire about the extent of the coverage and the conditions of liability.