In all honesty, I’m already in Australia; I arrived a week ago. Moving day actually occurred back in mid-April, however, many people have asked me, “How’s the move going?,” so I thought it best to take a step back and record those details. Also, during my last few weeks on campus in Texas, a few colleagues approached me to say they were thinking, “Moving abroad sounds like fun! I think I’ll do it too. Tell me what I need to know.” Well, you asked and I have answered. May this (and the next few posts) be your guide.
The first thing to know about moving abroad is: Moving abroad SUCKS! If your first major move is a move overseas I highly advise against this. You need to start small and build up your tolerance to frustration, irritation, impatience and disappointment. First you need to (1) move across town, then (2) move somewhere else in your state, if you can stomach that (3) move to another state, then (4) move cross country, and finally (5) do a “test” international move by doing a one-year sabbatical overseas, such as a Fulbright. There is actually more information related to step #5, but I’ll get to that in a future post.
Once you’ve completed steps 1-5 and you’re confident you want to go all in and “permanently” move overseas, there are a few things you need to do. First you need to get a job, a sponsorship, and a visa of some sort. Then you have to decide what you want to do with all your stuff. This is where living a minimalist lifestyle is helpful. The funny thing is, a few years ago there was a flood in my house, and all the furniture was destroyed along with plenty of other personal belongings. I never replaced those things because I knew I was going to be in Africa for over a year. And then I still didn’t replace them when I returned to the U.S., so in all reality, I don’t really have much to my name. Nevertheless, I still culled a large portion of my belongings for this move.
Whether you are a minimalist or not you have to find a company to ship your things. This is where the headache really begins. UQ required me to obtain three official quotes. The problem was no one wanted to do a “small” international move, so it took over a month of emails to more than two dozen companies to finally find three which would actually give me quotes. In general, companies want you to do a full container shipment for an overseas move, which costs approximately $30,000 (to Australia). Half container shipments are also possible, but less preferred. A full container (see below) can pretty much fit all the contents of a normal four bedroom-house. If you can’t fill a full (or half) container you can in ship smaller cartons called lift vans.
The contract you sign with the moving company is only the beginning. After you do that you have to apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) through the IRS. An EIN classifies you as a business entity, which of course you don’t need. But it is the only way you are allowed you to export things overseas.
You also have to fill out an Unaccompanied Personal Effects Statement. This is an inventory of everything being shipped. You also have to sign all kinds of statements swearing you haven’t sent prohibited items. Some items prohibited from being shipped to Australia include: drugs of any kind (Ok, that doesn’t seem so bad), weapons including martial arts equipment (What if I’m a pro MMA fighter?), articles manufactured from wildlife (What about my cheetah skin rug? Apparently that is a no.), and “material which may be cause offence to a reasonable adult” (which includes a VERY long list of things ranging from child porn to bestiality. Yes, those were all listed on the form.).
Other fun forms you have to fill out include your power of attorney, client contact form, transit protection application, and proof of insurance. In case you weren’t keeping track that’s nine different documents before the movers have even set the appointment to come to your house to pick up your stuff.
I will give myself a little pat on the back because apparently I am a “master mover” as claimed by both my friends who stopped by on moving day for emotional support and the movers themselves. Oh! One more thing… when moving abroad, you can’t pack your belongings yourself. I’m not 100% sure I understand the logic of that rule, but that is the policy. Despite knowing this I did pack my things before moving day and then the movers promptly took everything out of my boxes and repacked them in their boxes. But, because I was already organized my moving day took… drum roll please… two hours and 43 minutes. That’s right folks! Record time. It may have been due to this:
Blue signs with red tape which meant “Do NOT move!”:
Pink signs grouped like items together (books on left, clothes on right) to be moved:
Here’s some of the professional packing in progress:
One full lift van on the right and one lift van being loaded on the left:
And… boarding up the second lift van:
At the end of moving day I breathed a sigh of relief thinking I had one major hurdle toward immigration checked off. Little did I know it would not be that easy. Of course, the mishap that was to follow will have to be saved for another post.
I do hope this little vignette has been helpful if you are considering an international move. Of course, you might want to wait for Moving-Part 2 before booking your own adventure!