Moving overseas can be an exciting adventure, but also involves extensive planning. A key question when relocating from the USA to the United Arab Emirates is: how long does it take to ship my household goods? This guide breaks down the timeline for shipping your belongings, from start to finish.
Typical end-to-end timeline
The total timeline for shipping household goods from the USA to the UAE is normally 90-120 days door-to-door. This includes packing and loading at the origin, ocean transit, customs clearance, and final delivery to your new home. However, various factors can compress or extend this standard duration.
Air freight is faster at 3-4 weeks, but more expensive than sea shipment. When budgeting your move, expect an average transit of 10-15 weeks for sea freight of a full household.
Duration of key stages
Knowing the timeline for each step of the shipping process sets realistic expectations. Here are the typical durations for an international household goods move from USA to UAE:
Packing and loading
- Packing by professional movers takes 2-4 days depending on shipment size
- Loading the packed shipment into a shipping container also takes 2-4 days
- Sea freight transit from the US East Coast to UAE ports is 30-45 days
- Shipments from the US West Coast add 5-7 extra transit days
- Peak season delays can extend ocean transit; avoid July-September
- Customs inspection and clearance in UAE takes 4-6 working days for personal effects
- With a vehicle, clearance extended to 6-9 working days
- Weekends and holidays cause added delays in UAE customs
- Last-mile delivery to residence in UAE is 2-3 days after customs
- For air freight, final delivery is 3-4 days during working hours
How delays can lengthen the timeline
While the average timeline is 90-120 days, unforeseen events can slow the shipment’s journey:
- Port congestion – Coastal ports in UAE are extremely busy, especially in Dubai. Wait times at berth to offload add days.
- Peak season – Summer heat from July to September not only slows ocean transit but causes equipment shortages.
- Customs issues – Problems with paperwork or inspections can lengthen the customs clearance stage.
- Volume – Larger shipments naturally take longer to pack, load, and deliver.
- Remote destination – Outside big cities like Dubai or Abu Dhabi, delivery may take longer.
- Vehicle import – Importing a car adds steps for registration, adding days.
How you can expedite the timeline
While allowing ample time for a move is recommended, there are ways to expedite parts of the shipping process:
- Use air freight for essential or time-sensitive items, which is faster than sea.
- Book an express ocean service which guarantees space on vessels for a shorter transit time.
- Provide complete documentation upfront to avoid customs delays.
- Minimize prohibited items that may get held up in customs inspection.
- Clear out excess belongings beforehand so there’s less to pack and load.
Key takeaways on timing
Shipping an entire household internationally is complex, but you can plan better by knowing the timeline. Here are some key points to remember:
- For sea freight from the USA to UAE, expect 90-120 days total for the move.
- Allow 2-4 days each for packing, loading, customs, and final delivery.
- Peak season during summer and holidays can significantly lengthen the timeline.
- Work with a reputable international moving company to estimate and expedite timelines.
- Get started early with preparations to avoid last-minute delays.
With the right information and support, shipping your household goods from the USA to your new life in the UAE can go smoothly and efficiently.