Every summer, the end of the international school year marks the departure of many expat families, making the first two weeks of June a peak period for moving and relocation companies. Another, smaller peak period happens in winter at the halfway mark of the academic year. If you’re planning to leave Beijing with your family, be sure to get in touch with a relocation company well ahead of time to spare yourself potential delays and higher costs.
First, a word on terminology. The main difference between a relocation company and a moving company is that the former offers help with everything from closing bank accounts to post-move support, while the latter is chiefly concerned with moving the client’s belongings from point A to point B. For more on this, see p72.
Moving can be classified as local (within the same city), domestic (within the same country), or international (to another country). In this article, we’ll be looking at international moves, which require more research, planning, and coordination.
For expert advice, we sat down with Chad Forrest, general manager of Asian Express International Movers. Forrest first came to China in 1995 to learn Chinese and hasn’t left since; he has been working in the relocation industry for 18 years. We spoke to him about the ins and outs of the moving process, including timelines, budgeting, and handling antiques and other fragile items.
Working parents will usually get a relocation allowance from their company; the exact sum depends on the terms of their employment contract. Forrest says that a number of considerations depend on the funds available. Some professional expats are entitled to two relocation allowances: one from their current employer and one from the company they’re going to next. Conversely, some expats have no relocation allowance to rely on.
Assuming that a family intends to leave towards the end of June, Forrest recommends that clients start their planning no later than March or April depending on their destination country. “You want to get booked in as early as possible to get the pre-survey done earlier,” he says. During the pre-survey, a relocation agent comes over to assess the client’s needs and document their belongings. They then provide a quote – a rough estimate of moving costs – and discuss additional considerations such as certificates, art valuation, and transporting fragile items.
The estimates below are intended as guidelines only.
10 Weeks Before Departure
• Take two weeks to research moving and relocation companies, as well as ensure that the company meets your needs.
• For families with cars, start researching how to sell or relocate with the vehicle. Double-check policy changes with your insurance company.
8 Weeks Before Departure
• Contact the moving or relocation company for a pre-survey. You’ll be given a quote that factors in the value-added tax or VAT (which is applied to the entire shipment), insurance, and transportation for fragile items.
• Start a folder for your relocation paperwork and get into the habit of putting everything in other. For added security, save digital copies in a notebook app like Evernote.
• Start tagging your belongings with Post-It notes to determine what will be thrown out, sold, or donated. Be very aggressive at this stage as this might lower the initial cost done at the pre-survey.
7 Weeks Before Departure
• Start getting rid of your belongings. For more info on where to sell or donate, turn to p76.
6 Weeks Before Departure
• Make the final decision on your moving or relocation company. Book an appointment to further discuss of the moving date, time, and details.
• Six weeks out is the latest you want to inform your landlord of your intention to leave; the earlier, the better. Share your moving date and time with them, and discuss issues like getting your deposit back.
• Start getting your hospital and school records in order in case you need them for an application or intend to continue treatment for an ongoing medical condition in your destination country.
5 Weeks Before Departure
• Get packing materials from your moving or relocation company. Start putting away non-essential items and clearly label the moving boxes.
• Start making sure utilities and other bills are paid for or will be paid for by the time you leave.
4 Weeks Before Departure
• If you have pets, start planning for their relocation if you don’t intend to take them into the plane cabin as carry-on. Research policies and conditions for different airlines, as some will refuse to take animals as cargo in the summer to prevent them from overheating. For more on pet relocation, see p26.
• Make a weekly food plan to minimize waste and make sure you have nothing left in your fridge or pantry by moving day.
• For those with cars, make sure that the proper documentation for selling or moving the vehicle has been finalized.
3 Weeks Before Departure
• If you wish to take Chinese antiques out of the country, you’ll need a certificate from the Beijing Committee of Cultural Relics Administration to pass through customs. The relocation company will take photos of the antiques, then send them to the Cultural Relics Administration for inspection. If the authorities say they want to see the antique(s), you can either take them there in person or request someone from the office to perform a site visit, which requires at least one month’s notice.
• Do not take any chances. If you don’t obtain an export certificate for your antiques, your entire shipment will be halted at customs, after which the authorities and the anti-smuggling police will be called in to inspect the items.
• If you have fragile items such as glass-top table, they must be transported in specially-crafted crates. Depending on the country you’re moving to, unpacking a crate may carry an additional cost. In the US, for example, the moving company must hire a specialized third party to unscrew the crate.
2 Weeks Before Departure
• Work out your budget for the two weeks leading up to the departure date, then go your local bank and start transferring funds to your home bank account. For any transfers equivalent to USD 10,000 or more, you’ll need to prove that you’re leaving to take up a new post in another country; this regulation is designed to prevent fraud and money laundering. International bank transfers take around seven working days to finalize.
• Before going to the bank, arrange with your landlord to have your deposit refunded to your Chinese bank account. That way, you can get all your transfers done in one go.
• Provide your current company with the details of the bank account that you want your last paycheck transferred to.
1 Week Before Departure
• Confirm your moving details with your current employer.
• Prepare a “survival kit” with the items you’ll need right away upon arrival in your destination country. Factor in weather conditions when choosing clothes. A survival kit with favorite toys, books, and more should be prepared for each child.
• Clearly mark your belongings and make sure that you separate them from the landlord’s to avoid confusion on moving day.
1 Day Before Departure
• Create a checklist of important documents you’ll need during the move, such as passports and export certificates for antiques and other valuables.
• Come up with a plan for the order in which the movers should clear out the house. Even if you trust in the professionalism of your relocation company, this will save time and make the whole process smoother.
• Defrost and clear out the fridge, and scour the cupboards for any leftover food.
• Call or text your landlord or agent to remind them of your moving date and time; they’ll need to come over to take the keys and inspect the house or apartment.
• Plan out breakfast, snacks, and possibly lunch for the next day.
• Even if everything is labeled, work with movers to identify which things are going and which aren’t.
• Perform a sweep of each room and box before it’s closed. After verifying the contents, sign the bill to make sure that everything’s accounted for.
• When all the boxes have been moved out, perform one final sweep with the landlord or agent to make sure everything is in order. Hand over the keys.
• Breathe a sigh of relief and bid goodbye to Beijing. Good luck and safe travels!
This article originally appeared in the 2015 beijingkids Home and Relocation Guide. Click here to read the issue for free on Issuu.com. To find out how you can get your own copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Robert S. Donovan (Flickr)