Personal goods shipment can represent a significant expense for companies and a significant source of stress for expatriates. Careful counseling is important to ensure employees do not move goods they will not be able to use in the new location (e.g. televisions; excessive or very large furniture that will not fit in the destination housing; and very heavy and bulky items, like pool tables).

Most goods are typically shipped by sea, with a small air allowance for items that will be needed immediately.

Air vs. Sea/Ground Shipments

In general, the amount of goods to be shipped by air should be kept to a minimum. While air shipments are faster, they typically cost far more than ground or sea shipments and the costs can fluctuate wildly by weight. It is common for a single individual to be allowed up to 500 lbs. of air freight with an additional 250 lbs. for their spouse and 150 lbs. for each additional dependent.

On the other hand, sea shipments are broken into only two categories. A single individual is typically entitled to one 20-foot shipping container for their international relocation. If the employee has a spouse/partner or family, the entire family will be granted a single 40-foot shipping container. This is a much more cost-effective method for the company, and it gives the family time to arrive at their destination before their household goods arrive. The company should cover all customs duties and taxes related to international shipments.

Sea shipment and shipping containers should be the default shipping method. For items needed immediately, primarily clothing and personal effects, air shipment can be utilized. The most cost-effective way to manage these small air shipments is pay an excess baggage fee for an extra bag or two. This allows the assignees to begin life at the destination until their sea shipment arrives.


If sea shipment and an excess baggage air allowance are used, destination storage is usually not needed, due to the long lead time for sea shipments. If household goods do arrive in the destination country prior to the family arriving or finding a home, short-term storage may be required. If short-term storage is needed, it should match the amount of time the family has in temporary housing, so they can find a new home and begin moving in immediately. Given the costs and risk of damage, household goods should not remain in storage any longer than necessary.


While pets are an integral part of many households, most companies do not cover international pet relocation. Many countries require a separate set of vaccinations, quarantine time, and other fees to move pets in and out of their borders. Companies can gather useful information on this topic and direct their employees to the resources they need if they choose to bring their pets along. They may also use their miscellaneous allowance to cover these charges.

Careful counseling and planning should ensure that your employees begin their assignment with enough clothing and personal effects to get through the interim living period. It will also ensure that they ship only those items that they can use in their new location. This will reduce costs for the company while making sure the employees are well-prepared for their new home.

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