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Blog, How to Move to the USA, Tips & Information

Shipping your belongings from the UK to the USA 2021- What is the Process?

So you are moving to the USA, congratulations! Now the hard works starts with sorting all the various logistics of the move.

Shipping your belongings from the UK to the USA is definitely an essential part of the relocation.

You might be thinking, where to start? Who do you need to contact?  How much will it cost? What is the process and how to prepare?

Our personal experience was based on moving to the USA from the UK. If you are moving from another country, I imagine the process is pretty similar.

This post will cover:

  • Choosing a shipping company
  • Shipping Costs
  • What to ship? What about UK Electrical Items?
  • Shipping timelines
  • Forms and Documentation
  • How to prepare for the pack and load date

Choosing a shipping company

At this point you do need to know the exact address but you will need to know where in the USA you are going.

Choosing the company should be based on 2 factors – ensuring they are reputable with good reviews and then the best pricing.

As for picking a reputable company, I have read many stories online where belongings go missing, there are breakages and unreliable packers. At the minimum only contact companies that have a great reputation.

Narrow down to 2 or 3 companies and get them to quote you for their service. To do this they will need to survey your home. Before the pandemic, this survey was done with someone coming to our home. During the pandemic, the home surveys were happening via video call.

Shipping Costs

We have been asked this particular question a few times now. How much does shipping cost? Can we give an estimate or average? Whilst we can share a quote WE received for shipping, this is in no way representative of the costs you will have.

Your shipping costs will be depend on how many items you have, the type of items, and whether you need a full shipping container to yourself or if can you share. Also, where you are going from and to in the USA.

The other factor on overall shipping costs is whether you will send certain items via air too. We do recommend sending items that you need quickly via air. It is more costly but worth it. In our case, it turned out to be super helpful as our shipment was really delayed.

Another factor on price will be insured value of your belongings.

With international shipping it typically comes with a pack and load service. This is AMAZING! This is where the shipping company send packers to your home and literally pack everything for you. I believe for insurance purposes they have to do the packing for you.

Once you have your quotes, pick whichever company you feel you are getting the best price and service for.

We had 3 companies come in total. In our case the shipping was handled via my relocation package from work.  Our total shipping costs also ended up being quite complex, as with needed storage, then needed belongings taken out of storage and then another pack and load, as we moved homes twice due to the delays caused by the pandemic. Therefore we cannot share the costs as we never got to see the final cost. If you want to learn more about this wonderful story – check out our youtube channel where we shared our journey.

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March 2021. Our second and final Pack and Load – when we finally had our travel to the USA approved!

However, we can share a separate quote we got that would have been accurate had we have just done pack and load and moved to the USA without complication. This was from Matthew James removals.

Sea Shipping – £7000 plus 3.5% insurance for 20ft container

Air Freight – £2500 + insurance for 1.3 meters cubed

Do you need to ship everything?

That is really up to you and ultimately the living situation of where you are going. As an example, if you will have to down size your home when you move to the USA, then it may make sense to sell or get rid of most items before you leave.

In our case we knew we would be getting at least an equivalent sized home. – Little did we know originally it would be MUCH bigger!


  • Clear out general junk and things you are not using anymore – if you have not used it or needed it in the last 6 months, get rid.
  • Sell or give items away. We sold bags, practically new trainers, gave away our sofa, bbq set, garden furniture etc.

There are some things you cannot ship – e.g food, perishable items, anything flammable, plants. Check with your shipping company as they will have a full list of what you can sent ship. There are also more restrictions with air, as an example eBikes can not be shipped via air due to their lithium batteries.

Do you need to get rid of your UK electrical items?

In short no. You can continue to use your items buy purchasing a step up step down transformer.

Moving to the USA is costly, not getting rid of all your electricals can save you some money. You can then buy new electricals as and when needed. You need to ensure you buy the right size based on the total watts. At time of writing, the transformers range from $70-$110 depending on the size.

Watch our video on using UK Electronics in the USA

Shipping timelines

The shipping company should assign you a moving specialist. A good moving specialist is really important. You want someone who is going to be on top of things and be responsive.

Next is setting a date for the shipping. These will be estimated dates until you have all your plans finalised, such as visa, flights and accommodation.

One thing to factor when choosing the date is the timing of things. Sea shipment estimates are normally 8 – 11 weeks.

Be aware! 2021 has seen very long delays with shipping. Really consider this and send more things via air if you can. Our shipment took 3 months!

Anything going via air can take from 10 days to 20 days. Our air took 3 weeks to arrive exactly.

In our case we left a few days after our pack and load.

Forms and Documentations Needed

Be prepared to fill in LOTS of forms and provide documentation. This was probably the worse part of the process for me.

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Get used to filling in many forms as part of your relocation to the USA!

You will need to:

  • Fill in an Insurance Form – very important. In our case we listed everything in an excel with the price. Speak to your shipping company about options.
  • Complete the Destination sheet – details of where you are going.
  • Provide copies of your visa and passport.
  • Complete US Customs forms (CBP 3299, Supplemental Declaration, Power of Attorney) – the most complicated. You will only be able to fill this is once, you know where you are going. Your moving specialist should be helping if you have any questions.

How to Prepare for the day of the Pack and load 

First! Before you leave, is there anything you need to take with you before you leave? Think about all those British things you might miss. In our case the only thing we ordered was PG Tips. We ordered about 1000 tea bags on Amazon.

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Stocking up on essentials in the USA. PG Tips – Bought from Amazon UK.

For the pack and load day, put aside all the things you are keeping with you and keep this separate during the pack and load. These are the things you will pack in your suitcases and physically carry with you to the USA. We had 5 large suitcases, and 2 carry ons.

We highly recommend utilising the suitcases to carry the things you really want. In hindsight we would have taken more had we have known how delayed our sea shipment would be.

Make sure to keep anything of sentimental value, jewelry, important documents with you. Keep these things in your carry on, not in hold!

Do not leave anything with personal information – such banking details in your belongings for the packers to see. We shredded A LOT of paperwork before we left.

Next, be clear on what items will go via air versus sea. You do not want to be sorting things whilst the packers are there.

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June 2020 – First Pack and Load.

The packers will do all of the hard work on the actual day but you will need to be around to ensure they pack the rights things, plus make tea and coffee.

And that’s it! Now sit back and enjoy the ride… as your life is about to change! These last few days is where it all becomes real…

You will feel excited, overwhelmed, and perhaps anxious but overall excited for the new life ahead! And it is totally worth it.

Watch our Vlog – Shipping your belongings from the UK to the USA

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