Moving can be the most difficult part of an expatriot’s journey. A bad transfer of goods (delays, damage, and other problems) can complicate an already tiring trip, and make your first experience in America an unpleasant one. Here are some tips on how to simplify the experience:
Choosing an Agency
The first step in a successful move is to choose the right moving agency, since a good mover will take much of the responsibility for the move off your shoulders and ensure that it is a calm process. Choose an agency accredited by an international organization (La Fédération Internationale des Déménageurs Internationaux or L'Association Française des Déménageurs Internationaux are two good examples) – these organizations require certain safety standards of their members. Also, look out for agencies that advertise “NF service” or “ISO 9002” – these are marks of quality and reliability. It is also important to choose a professional mover (un “déménageur professionnel”) and not a cargo agent (un “agent de fret”), unless you want to see your possessions stopped at customs for up to several weeks.
The International moving sector is very competitive – it is a good idea to get an estimate from several different agencies to compare their costs and benefits. The more detailed the estimate, the better choice that you can make. To make the moving process easier, ensure that your agency has “door to door” service (de domicile à domicile). Prices vary depending on the volume and values of your items, and also on the distance and time of service, but don’t trust offers with huge price cuts – the quality or reliability may suffer. The detailed estimate from the moving company will include the volume, proposed benefits, date, and price, in addition to possible methods of payment and general conditions of purchase. By signing it, you are agreeing to use the agency and will have to pay a deposit.
Ask to speak with a representative, who will be better able to warn you about space issues, precautions to take, and necessary resources. You must make a written declaration of the global value of your furniture, in addition to individual declarations of value for certain objects that are beyond an indicated threshold. This is a very important though somewhat fastidious task – you must evaluate the value of all of your possessions: books, DVDs, furniture, clothing, toys. As a rule of thumb, subtract 10% of the purchase price for each year following the acquisition for large appliances, televisions, and stereos, 15% a year for furniture (excluding antiques) and exercise equipment, 20% per year for small appliances, outdoor furniture, or fur and leather coats, and 30% a year for clothing, computers, toys, and books. Make two copies of the declaration: one for customs and one to insure your possessions. Take great care with this evaluation – it will be your claim for reparations in the event of unforeseen damages.
In the Boxes
Depending on your situation, the amount of time you plan to spend in America, and the fixed limits of the moving agency, not all of your possessions may come with you. Sometimes it is a better choice to buy certain things when you arrive, rather than crossing the Atlantic with your entire house on your shoulders. In addition, the differences in electric current is a good reason to buy in America – it is useless to bring a large appliance, television (except to go with a video-game console), microwave, or iron. However, if the appliance is below 2000 watts and in good condition, it may still be better to bring it and buy a large transformer.
The moving agencies are not responsible for the goods that were not packaged by their service – if you choose to wrap your furniture and items yourself to cut costs, make sure to carefully protect your most fragile items. Also, the moving agency is generally covered by a contractual guarantee of responsibility that may prove to be insufficient; it is a good idea to get additional insurance (check against real version).
You must give a photocopy of the carte grise (car registration) of your vehicle to customs and verify that it conforms to the standards of the state in which you will live. These standards can be quite different from European standards and conversions can be costly. With the addition of shipping costs, it is therefore usually advisable to sell your vehicle before leaving. Cars, both new and used, are not expensive in the U.S. and, depending on the exchange rate, can be cheaper than in Europe.
Verify the package number and the state of your furniture. The Declaration of End of Work will confirm the receipt of your items or serve as a record in the event of future complaints. From the day of receipt, you have three days to send the mover a detailed letter of complaint. If your mover does not provide compensation, you have up to a year to press charges or to take legal action.
Don't forget to send change-of-address notices to the post office, insurance companies and banks, schools, family and friends. Make arrangements to safely transfer administrative documents such as medical and dental records, and important legal papers. Terminate all contracts you have with service providers such as telephone, cable, and internet companies, and electricity, gas, and fuel suppliers
Provides a price calculator to help you approximate your moving costs
The site of the National Federation of International Movers (a.k.a. La Fédération Internationale des Déménageurs Internationaux )
This website designed to provide the user with information to help make informed decisions when moving, including housing, schools, insurance, clubs and organizations, etc.