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Blog,  Expat Life

How to Ship Your Belongings Overseas

Our boxes have arrived! All 63 of them…

Yes, we packed WAY too much. The kitchen stuff alone was 42 boxes. No, we didn’t bring our own stove and refrigerator, but Tom is a self-made chef, so he has plenty of “toys.” We shipped a cryovac machine, 22 cutting boards (I don’t know why we need that many), the Vitamix (that’s for me), mixer, food processor, 2 crockpots, special pots, pans, ceramic cookware, and even an espresso machine.

When I moved to the Dominican Republic, I had 3 suitcases and 2 dogs. That was a much easier move.

Overstuffed kitchen with supplies

Couldn’t we get that stuff down here?

Yes, of course we could, but some of these things he has had forever, and the cost to replace some of them would be astronomical (much like our shipping bill). Mixers and cast iron costs more in Mexico, Ball jars for pickling are 5 times as expensive, and storage containers are way too tiny.

The other boxes were mostly clothes, shoes, linens, books, some pictures, Tom’s bike (custom) and tools. Again, did we need to ship all this stuff? No. We could have gotten rid of about half of it, but we had a 5×5 ft. space on a shipping truck, and we filled it up.

What are the requirements to ship to overseas?

Anyone who is thinking of a big move overseas should check with that country’s Consulate. They have certain restrictions on what can and cannot be brought in. If you’re lucky enough to fit everything of value in your checked luggage, more power to you.

Country guide on laws for expats, passports and visa paperwork pack

Here is the process we went through to ship our belongings to Mexico:

When we applied for our visa at the Mexican Consulate, we also received information on what we could and could not ship.

Some of the items we could not ship:

  • Firearms
  • Ammunition
  • Anything Made in China

We had to make a list of what was in every box called a Menaje de Casa. The most important thing to list on the Manaje de Casa were serial numbers for anything electric. Tom has owned some electric items since before serial numbers were etched into devices.

Being the expert packer that I am, I was tasked to pack the entire kitchen. This was no easy feat. Some items were so large that they took up all the room in one box. Other items were just shaped weird. How are you supposed to fit triangular cutting board holders in with a mixer?

For packing tips check out my post on How to Master the Art of Packing

The Manaje de Casa

The Manaje de Casa needs to be approved and stamped by the Consulate in order for the shipping truck to cross the border. It also needs to be typed out in English and Spanish. Luckily, generic descriptions were accepted except where an item had a serial number. Translating the list was the hardest part of the process, but I have wonderful bilingual friends who helped me out.

TIP: if you are one of those people who saves the box of an item because you know it will be hard to repack later, beat up the box, tear it, crunch the corners, etc. Anything new may be confiscated or you will be charged a “repacking fee”.

  • Make at least 4 copies of the Manaje de Casa once it’s approved by the Consulate.
  • Leave a copy with someone you trust, plus the key to the storage unit (unless you plan on coming back for this part).
  • Send at least one copy (they may request two) to your shipping company.
  • Once you have an address in your new country, you can start the process of arranging the shipment.

For us to ship from Florida to Mexico it took 6 weeks.
The trucks picked up our boxes from the storage unit and drove them to the Mexican border. The Mexican custom officials went through each of the boxes to make sure what we listed was accurate. Then they repacked it and let it go through.
If they find anything that is in a new box, they may confiscate it or fine you for it.
Again, if anything is Made in China, they will confiscate it.
If they feel you didn’t list things correctly, or the weight was more than they estimated, they will charge you more money.

Room filled with our shipped boxes

Notes to others thinking about a big move:

Visit your new country before the big move. Check out prices to replace items you already have (like a coffee maker) and see if its worth dragging down with you before you move. Most of the stuff you need like clothes and plates can be bought in your new country.

You really don’t miss as much of your “stuff” as you think you will. Once it arrives, you may wonder why you packed it in the first place. Try to downsize as much as possible before you go. Pack what you can into suitcases, and see if you even need a shipping company.

Shipping your belongings takes time and research. Your pre-planning will pay off and reduce the stress of moving.

 

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