OCCBCE Pt 1: Finding a Place to Live, Shipping and Packing

In this post series, “Our Cross-Country Border-Crossing Extravaganza”, I’m going to detail the cross-continent move from Waterloo, Ontario to Seattle, Washington that James and I completed along with our two kitty cats. We decided to take a road trip through Canada with our cats in tow and to ship our belongings to our new apartment once we arrived to our new home.

Keep in mind that some of the posts will be immigration-process heavy and some will be logistics heavy. If this is irrelevant and you’re just here for the stories, feel free to skip these parts. I do this as an attempt to help out those who may be planning long trips (with pets) or trips across the border. If you’re reading to learn more about the immigration process, keep in mind that this is just one small snapshot of a range of experiences out there with immigrating to the US. It is not the same for everyone and there are many, many details that can vary. Also, I’m not a lawyer so I can’t and won’t be giving out any legal advice; I will only be writing about my experience in hopes that it demystifies what is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

So, here we go…

 

A last glimpse of the view off of our deck before we packed up and moved from Waterloo.

A glimpse of the view off of our deck before we packed up and moved from Waterloo.

Finding a Place to Live

We started the moving process in May 2015 after James was approved to cross into the US after his interview at Montreal. At his interview, he was granted a window by when we needed to move to the US. We had originally planned to move at the end of July, but we decided to save money and to buy ourselves some time by extending it a month. Of course, the first thing we did was to notify our landlords. Although, the serious steps towards moving didn’t really start until mid-July.

I’d researched different apartments online over the summer to get a feel for which area we wanted to move to as well as what apartment prices looked like. There are crime maps on the Seattle.gov website that show Google Maps overlays of recent crime statistics, what types of crimes occurred where and how frequently. To find specific apartments, I used general apartment search websites that had map overlays of different areas with filters to show available apartments in specific price ranges, pet friendliness, year lease, etc.

Our budget was set at absolutely no more than $2,000 per month (including any kind of parking and pet fees), preferably with a 2-bedroom apartment if we could find it. Once we found one, we were able to put a deposit down for our apartment and to take it over.

We did wind up paying for it an extra month, prior to our arrival, but it was the perfect one and we didn’t want to pass it up. It wasn’t difficult to find a pet friendly apartment around the Seattle area, but it was difficult to find a pet friendly apartment at the price we wanted with the amenities that we wanted as well. I was happy to know that our apartment complex automated rent and lease signing so we were able to sign everything and pay everything from a distance.

I spent most of July setting up our utilities, signing apartment rental documents, establishing rental insurance as well as discontinuing services in Waterloo and making a detailed list of everything we owned that would be crossing the border into the US. Me, being me, I also had sticky notes on the outside of each packed box to detail where the items on the customs list could be found.

 

How We Changed Our Address

A little side note here about the green card address changing process. Once we found a new place to live, we knew that we needed to update this with US Department of Homeland Security. I attempted to do this online, however, the form would not submit without a specific date of when James had crossed. Well, the issue there was that we were still in Waterloo at the time that we secured our new address and had not yet crossed. So, we decided to change our address with an officer when we crossed at the border and immediately updated it online with DHS the day that we crossed. I made sure to bring our signed lease as proof of the new address in the car with us so that this could be done.

 

All of this stuff...is going to make it into the UBoxes, somehow.

All of this stuff…is going to make it into the UBoxes, somehow.

UHaul’s UBox Shipping Service

We already knew that we would be using Uhaul’s UBox shipping service and their partner, Moving Help, to handle our cross-border move, so the major questions of how to actually move our things across the country and across the border, as well as hiring movers to load and unload the box was answered. Note: This was hands-down the most expensive part of our move. We wound up requiring two UBoxes. And, also to note, because James was immigrating to the US, our UBox could not be shipped from Waterloo, Ontario, until after he had crossed the border and received his I-94 (stamp approving his entry into the US). However, once he was stamped in and the paperwork was filled out for our border crossing, the box shipped 3 days later.

It is important to note that on the UHaul website, it states that UBoxes cannot exceed a weight of 2000lbs/box. James and I were able to load our two-bedroom apartment into two boxes with room to spare in one of them, without exceeding this limit, but I did keep it in mind as our movers packed our things.

 

Important and Required Forms

UHaul will provide you with 3 necessary forms once you create an account and pay your initial payment. These forms are available online,mid-way down the page under a link in a yellow box. The link is entitled, “Customer Information and Customs Form – Canada to US (U-Box)”. This opens a .pdf including a (1) top sheet detailing what UHaul needs as far as identification. Also included in the .pdf packet is (2) the 3299 form. This form can look really intimidating, but I used this resource from the US CBP to help me complete the form. And lastly, there will be (3) a list of items that you are not allowed to ship and (4) a signature page that UHaul requires for you to sign and to give to them stating that you have read and agree to the shipping terms and conditions.

On the 3299 form, we were required to make a detailed list of all of the items in our UBoxes. It also asks for you to detail the value of the items or cost of repairs. At first, I found this task really daunting, but I also think I was overly-detailed. I made a list down to the number of women’s sock pairs we packed.

We were able to complete many of the required forms for UHaul upfront. I made out our entire list and printed it off to hand over on the day that our UBoxes were delivered to the UHaul office and also had the terms and conditions page signed to hand into them. I also had copies of identification.

However, we did encounter two things that we had to send or change once we were over the border. On the 3299 form, it requires that we list the crossing of where James was approved. At the last minute, we took a shorter route across the border and had to revise this on the form and send an updated copy to the office. We also were required to send the UHaul office a scan of James’ I-94. Otherwise, we were able to handle everything beforehand. Important to note, UHaul would not ship our items until every piece of paperwork was updated with them.

 

What We Couldn’t Pack

Items we could not pack in the UBox included (as listed by the UHaul form we recieved):

  • Food products (canned, fresh, loose or packaged)
  • Spices
  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Condiments
  • Medicine
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Plants, Seeds or Bulbs
  • Firearms
  • Firewood
  • Hunting Trophies
  • Any living creature or organism
  • Narcotics
  • Motorized Vehicles

This list hadn’t messed up my packing too much. I had run into a great deal on “Buy 10 bags of cat food and get the 11th free” from a near by pet store earlier in the year and had a few bags left over. I wasn’t sure if I could put these into the UBox, so I asked on the UHaul chat. I could pack the food (dried kibble) so long as the seal had never been broken on the bag. This was nice due to the room restrictions in my car.

Admittedly, I was very excited about moving to our new place and wanted to be able to bring my favorites with me in case I couldn’t find them nearby. I over-bought a few tins of coffee that couldn’t go in the UBox and couldn’t go in our very-packed car. So, I shipped them to myself via the post office. The shipping was expensive, but it would cost about the same to find the coffee on somewhere like Amazon and to have them shipped to our new address. To my surprise, they arrived the day after we landed in our new apartment. Hooray! It was also a nice way to get familiar with how our new apartment handles over sized packages (that won’t fit inside of a post box). In our case, we just receive them at the main office.

Our two UBoxes required two weeks of shipping time to go from Waterloo, ON to Seattle, WA. So, if you are planning a long distance move and do decide to ship a UBox, be sure to ask how long it will take them to ship your items to you.

 

Payment

Payment for UHaul came in three waves for us. Initially, on the day we signed up, we payed for the Moving Help services, both loading and unloading, trailer rental, etc. Then, when we delivered our packed-up UBoxes to the UHaul office in Waterloo, we paid for the rental of our two UBoxes. Then, we made one very large payment for shipping once the two UBoxes had been shipped from the Waterloo location (for clarification, the boxes weren’t shipped until we arrived to Seattle).

 

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Moving Help

Moving Help is a partner of UHaul and we decided to go through them to hire local movers to pick up the UBoxes and trailer, drive it to our residence, pack up our belongings into the boxes and drive it back to UHaul. On the receiving end, other movers would pickup our boxes, deliver them to our new address, unload them and return the boxes/trailer back to UHaul. UHaul also offers that you can do the transporting yourself; You also are not required to hire movers whatsoever. We just decided to do it to make things more simple. Movers are expensive overall, however, I will note that the Moving Help option was much more expensive than I thought it would be. We considered renting our own truck to haul the UBoxes ourselves, however, we read that if we chose to do this option, we would only be allowed to fill the UBox 2/3 of the way full, which is why we opted to choose Moving Help.

All packed up except for the furniture!

All packed into boxes except for the furniture!

Our Moving Experience

After I chose the available moving company online, I immediately received a call from the company in Seattle. They scheduled a projected day and we set a time to do the unload. Spoiler: This later changed again because our UBox shipped a few days late, and therefore arrived a few days later than the projected time.

On the loading end, in Waterloo, we struggled with one company that seemed to be overrun with moving orders that week and decided to switch services within Moving Help. We did eventually hear from that first company that we chose, but we let them know that we’d changed service providers.

We were able to get in contact with another local moving company through Moving Help, thankfully. There were only two moving companies that were available for our area under Moving Help so we’d hoped this second option was going to be the ticket. They were available by phone very early on, however, we had some added stress on the actual day of loading.

Loading…

We’d received a call the night before our scheduled appointment, letting us know that they had another job and would need to postpone our job from our scheduled time of 12:00 noon, to “no later than 2:00pm”. However, the next day, the movers did not arrive until 5pm. This would have been okay if UHaul had not been due to close at 7:00pm. We had to get everything packed, loaded and across town to complete paperwork within two hours.

We later found out that when they arrived around 3:30/4:00 pm to UHaul, they had to drive across town to get the truck necessary to haul our UBoxes to our address because it wasn’t available at that site. I was impressed, when they showed up, that everyone was professional and fast. In the end, we actually made it to the UHaul site right at close and were able to hand over necessary documents that went with our UBox. We were to the wire though, because we were due to vacate our apartment the next morning. So, there wasn’t any margin for error there.

 

What I loveingly named "Camp Kitty" aka the things we had to pack into the car the night before departure.

A quick snap of what I lovingly named “Camp Kitty” aka the things we had to pack into the car the night before departure.

With our moving services confirmed, destination secured and bulk of belongings ready for shipment once we crossed the border, we were ready to go. In my next post, I’ll discuss our kitty border-crossing prep experience, necessary exams, products we found useful, and how they traveled for a week and a half.

 

As always, feel free to leave any questions or comments below!

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