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RQ: How Do You Get Your Stuff Overseas?

with 2 comments

The reader questions haven’t been post-worthy in a while, but here’s a question that has popped up a couple times and is a point of confusion for many prospective Foreign Service employees.

There are three main ways you get your “stuff” overseas, with two special situations I’ll explain as well.First, you have your airplane checked baggage.  Unless you upgrade on your own you’ll be stuck in economy class and the economy-class checked baggage allowance.  Don’t worry – the overage charges up to the first-class weight allowance are reimbursable (anything past that is not.  Neither are special charges like pets).  You need to bring as many clothes as you need to last you 2-3 weeks before the next wave of your stuff arrives…

…in your Unaccompanied Baggage (UAB).  Each Foreign Service employee is allocated 250 pounds for their UAB, an air freight shipment that typically arrives to post between 1 and 3 weeks after the employee arrives.  UAB is more for everyday things:  pots, pans, silverware, clothes you didn’t bring in your luggage, sheets, Xboxes, toys, etc.  In between the time you arrive and the time your UAB arrives you are living off of what’s known as the “Welcome Kit” – several large boxes full of well-used household items that are (usually) functional enough to last.  The welcome kit is returned when your UAB arrives, so you have to make sure that you won’t be left without sheets or cooking utensils.

2-4 months after your arrival at post your Household Effects (HHE) show up.  HHE is sea freight (yes, you should buy insurance that will cover your losses if there is damage or loss of items enroute) that typically holds the large items.  Although most posts are furnished (those that aren’t get extra HHE) sometimes people want their own couch or their own mattress.  Bulk, non-perishable food often goes in HHE.  Foreign Service employees are allotted 7,200 pounds in their HHE.

Shipment of Personally Owned Vehicles (POVs) typically takes between 2 and 4 months to arrive at your post.  POVs are obviously shipped by freighter, so again you’ll need good insurance.  If the post allows it, each Foreign Service family unit is allowed one POV (sorry tandems, you still only get to bring one of your cars).

The last type of shipment is called a consumables shipment.  Some posts in which the food quality is far below what you’d find in the States are allowed 2,500 pounds of food (per 2-year tour) separate from UAB and HHE.  Shipping time is typically somewhere in between UAB and HHE.

Finally, everything left over that you don’t want shipped (due to having a furnished residence at post or you just don’t feel like bringing it) can be stored in the State Department warehouse facility.  Note that all of your stored items will be returned to you if you are posted to Washington D.C.- you do not have the option to keep items in storage if you are posted to D.C.

This is a very high-level overview of the shipping situation for Foreign Service employees.  Fellow FS – chime in if I’m forgetting something important.

Be sure to check out past Reader Questions in the Archives.


2 Responses

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  1. So if you are going to a post with a consumables shipment, but the shipment does not get there for a month, what do you do for the first month? Do you bring some with your luggage?

    Patrick Rice

    15/09/2011 at 08:50

    • You make do on the local economy until it arrives. It’s an imperfect world.


      15/09/2011 at 12:00

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