Understanding Your Move

Moving overseas can be both intimidating and exciting. There is the prospect of seeing new places, becoming acquainted with people from different cultures and learning customs unlike those of your home country. Nevertheless, there are understandable anxieties, especially about the safe handling of your household possessions.

The key to an uncomplicated international relocation is pre-planning - taking the guesswork out of moving by reducing it to a series of manageable, scheduled events. UniGroup Worldwide has prepared these international moving tips and a glossary of terms as your road map to planning a trouble-free overseas move.

Protecting Your Belongings

UniGroup Worldwide will make every effort to safely transport your belongings without damage. However, in the unlikely event of a claim, the move coverage option you choose will determine the amount of compensation for loss or damage. Take pictures of your furniture and valuables as proof of ownership in the event of loss or damage. Pictures are also useful for items that might need to be disassembled for transit, so the destination crew will know how to reassemble the items.

Preparing Appliances

Many large and small appliances moving to non-U.S. territories may not comply with voltage requirements. Make sure to discuss appliance shipments with your move manager. All appliances should be cleaned and serviced before our packing crews arrive. To prevent mold and mildew, major appliances that use water or produce moisture - such as refrigerators - will need time to dry thoroughly before being packed. Most washers, dryers, air conditioners, refrigerators, stereos and grandfather clocks have components that must be secured by a trained technician. At your request, your UniGroup Worldwide agent will arrange for the necessary appliance and equipment servicing at an additional cost.


When the packing team arrives at your residence, take the team leader on a tour of your home to ensure he or she understands which items will require special care and those that will not be packed. The packing crew will place your personal belongings in appropriate cartons or containers. Furniture will be wrapped in paper pads made of shock-absorbing fiber for protection during transit.


Once your shipment has been prepared for loading, it will be placed inside one or more containers. The type of containers selected will depend on the mode of transportation, the size of your shipment and your destination.

Steamship Container
Large shipments are loaded directly into 20-foot, 40-foot or 40-foot-high cube steel ocean containers. Containers are cleaned and thoroughly inspected for any holes or leaks before being loaded. Steamship containers are loaded and unloaded at residence unless there are access restrictions. Containers will remain sealed throughout transport unless a visual inspection is required by the customs agent in the destination country.

Lift Vans
Smaller shipments are loaded directly into a wooden or plywood container with skids. Lift vans range in size from 185 to 210 cubic feet and are lined with water-resistant paper and caulked to prevent leakage during transit. Once loaded and banded, the lift van can easily be moved with a forklift. The lift vans are then combined with other crated cargo into steel shipping containers for ocean transport.

Air Freight Container
Air freight containers are tri-wall, corrugated cardboard boxes that are used to transport small shipments. Constructed of triple-layer, wax-covered corrugate, the boxes range in size from 5 to 100 cubic feet. When sending a large shipment by air, goods are usually crated instead of boxed. The crates must comply with dimensional specifications to meet aircraft cargo requirements.

Important Move Documents

You will be asked to complete or provide several important documents to complete your international move. Your move consultant will advise you of the specific documents needed for your move. Some of these documents include the following:

  • Power of Attorney
  • Legal Passport
  • Customs Declaration
  • Application of Entry

Check with a consulate or embassy of your destination country to confirm the documentation you will need when immigrating. Some of these documents include:

  • Visa
  • Letter of recommendation
  • Residence permit
  • Work permit
  • International driving permit
  • Immunization/medical certificates

Additional questions you might want to ask the consulate or embassy of your destination country:

  • Are original documents required?
  • Do they need to be translated into the destination country's native language?
  • Do any documents need to be legalized by a consulate or embassy before departure?
  • Are there restrictions on the quantity of goods I can bring?
  • Can I bring more than one shipment?
  • Are other taxes or fees involved besides duty?
  • Are model or serial numbers of electrical items and /or appliances required on the inventory or special forms for customs clearance?
  • Are there special laws or regulations regarding women and children?
  • What is the availability of "special family need" items services (such as dietary needs, medical treatment and prescriptions)?
  • How many prescribed medications may be entered through customs?
  • Must I declare my shipment upon my personal arrival?
  • Must I arrive in my new country before my shipment arrives?

Customs Regulations

Some items you intend to ship to your new destination may be regulated by customs. Your move consultant will help you determine which items may be subject to special permissions. The most common items that often fall in this category include the following:

  • Pets
  • Medication
  • Money
  • House Plants
  • Motor Vehicles
  • Firearms
  • Antiques

Arriving At Your Destination

When you reach your destination, you will undergo a transition period while adapting to your new surroundings. The more you have pre-planned and prepared for your move, the easier your adjustment will be. Some details to follow up on include the following:

  • Register with the nearest consulate or embassy, even if not required to do so.
  • Contact your UniGroup Worldwide representative at destination to let them know where and when you can be reached.
  • Determine if there are any additional charges for customs clearance, extra handling or storage, and be prepared to pay when your household goods are delivered.
  • Be on hand to accept delivery when your household goods arrive.
  • Check the goods thoroughly for any missing or damaged items or boxes.
  • Immediately report any loss or damage in writing.

Settling In

Life in an unfamiliar country can be exhilarating or frustrating, depending on your expectations and preparations. Information and organization are essential when "starting over" in a new country. Acquaint yourself and your family with the lifestyle, currency and language of the destination before you go. This will put you at ease and give you greater self-confidence as you settle into your new surroundings.

If you have trouble adjusting to your new country, the following tips might help:

  • Allow time off work for activities that help you cope with the stresses of adjustment, such as sports, outings or just curling up with a good book.
  • Maintain ties with family members and friends in your home country and build a support system in your new one.
  • Resist the urge to make snap judgments of your new country and its people (including applying stereotypes), and to make comparisons to home. Appreciate and be sensitive to cultural differences.
  • Above all, have a positive attitude and realistic expectations. View the experience as an adventure that will broaden your horizons.

Other Resources

Below are links to important resources to keep at your fingertips while you are traveling or preparing for your upcoming travels. These links are provided to help you prepare, understand and plan for your international move.

International Moving Terms

Accessorial Services
A statement of loss or damage to household goods.

Work performed other than routine transportation service performed at your request, such as appliance servicing, extra pickups and storage. Charges for these services are in addition to transportation costs.

Destination Agent (D/A)
The agent in the delivery city or locale that provides delivery services.

Door-to-Door Service
The agent in the delivery city or locale that provides delivery services.

The fees imposed by a country's sovereign laws on imports or exports.

An approximation of moving costs, size and bulk as determined by an agent's physical survey of a shipment.

A detailed list of your household goods, describing each item and its condition at loading. The inventory is prepared for you as your goods are professionally packed. The owner or designated representative must sign the inventory confirming the description and condition. It is used as a customs document for clearance of the shipment. Upon delivery, you also can use the inventory to check for any possible loss or damage.

The maximum amount for which UniGroup Worldwide Moving is normally liable in connection with loss or damage of cargo while in transit or storage.

Lift Van
A wooden or plywood container used mainly on overseas removals, built specifically to transport household goods.

Order for Service
The itemized receipt for your household goods and agreement for their transportation, including the terms and conditions under which the goods are moved. Your signature acknowledges the household goods have been "released to the carrier."

Order Number
Used to identify each shipment, the number appears in the upper right-hand corner of the order for service. You will need this number as a reference whenever you have a question about your shipment.

Origin Agent (OA)
The agent who provides services at origin, such as packing and loading.

Storage-in-Transit (SIT)
The temporary warehousing of your household goods. If you request storage, check with your agent to see what kind of transit and storage protection you have. Depending on how long your goods will be stored, you might need to apply for an extension of your protection policy.

Where are you moving?

If you’re moving to the United Kingdom, China, Germany or the United States, check out our country-specific destination guides here!