International Military Moving Checklist
U.S. Military members can be subject to PCS orders (Permanent Change of Station) involving relocation. OCONUS orders (Outside of Continental United States) specifically designate moving to an overseas station.
The prospect of moving overseas can prompt both excitement and anxiety. Knowing that you're relocating to another country is a unique opportunity to see a new part of the world, but you have to take steps to pull off the move successfully.
We're writing this article to provide military members with an overseas PCS or OCONUS checklist to mitigate the relocation process. Preparedness is vital for any move. The more knowledgeable you are about moving overseas as a military member, the more prepared you'll be.
Let's begin by introducing and answering the most fundamental questions that relate to an overseas military move.
How Will I Know When It's Time to Move Overseas?
The process of initiating an overseas move usually begins with an assignment notification. Supervisors tend to send out assignment notifications through phone calls and emails.
Orders are different from assignment notifications as they're official directions that designate your
- Duty station
- Dependent information
- Report dates
It's essential to verify that all of the above information is correct before moving forward. If you plan on relocating overseas with your family, make sure your orders list your family as dependents. In cases where your orders don't contain dependents, you'll need to submit a request for "Accompanied Orders" or "Command Sponsorship."
While gaining Command Sponsorship isn't assured; what you'll receive is:
- The ability to live in your ordered country without a visa
- Increased housing allowance
- Medical and legal services for your dependents
- Higher weight limits for moving household items
The above Command Sponsorship perks are valuable.
Without Command Sponsorship, you might:
- Have to help your dependents apply for visas
- Pay dependent expenses yourself
- Limit your dependent's ability to move in with you immediately
- Lower your basic housing allowance
After you receive your official orders and verify that all the listed information is correct, make sure that you make multiple copies of the records. It'll be essential to have multiple copies on hand as you navigate the various steps that an OCONUS move involves.
So, what's next?
How Do I Gather Resources for My Military Overseas Move?
As you proceed through your overseas PCS move, you're probably going to have questions and need more assistance. Having a go-to list of resources will help you streamline the moving process.
While utilizing resources for help seems like a no-brainer, you're probably wondering where you should look. Luckily, there are plenty of resources that assist military members in their overseas move.
Reputable resources for OCONUS moves include:
The resources list above will help you navigate all of the essential components of an overseas military move, including:
- Moving finances
- Healthcare options
- Shipping and storage
- military car shipping
Moving finances are going to be a vital component of an OCONUS move. If you keep track of your financial records during the move, you'll increase your opportunity to receive full reimbursement.
Now let's talk about passports.
How Do I Secure My Passport?
Getting your and your dependent's passport information in order is an essential step in an overseas move. Putting off securing your passport(s) can be detrimental to the entire moving process. You'll be required to possess both an official and personal passport. A military branches' TMO office tends to offer assistance for military members working to secure their passport information.
Personal passports are your typical blue passport booklets while official passports are brown and issued to members of the government traveling for specific purposes. Unlike personal passports, official passports are not used for casual travel.
We recommend starting the passport process once you receive your PCS orders.
What Medical Eligibility Do Dependents Need to Relocate?
When planning to bring your wife and kids for your overseas military move—make sure each member of your family gets medical clearance to move through a physical evaluation. Once your family is clear to travel, it's essential to submit the medical office's paperwork and store copies of the records.
Do I Need to Request a Sponsor?
Experts recommend that you request a sponsor for your overseas move. An overseas sponsor is another military family that already lives within the country you're moving to. Sponsors assist new military families by giving directions around the area, providing transportation, and ensuring the cell phone lines are established for accessible communication. Sponsors tend to be assigned through the military member's unit and can also be found by contacting the installation's Military and Family Support Center relocation assistance provider.
Sponsors tend to be chosen based on their similarity in rank and family status with the relocating family. You can expect your sponsor to be one of the first people you meet up with after touching the ground in your newly assigned country.
When working with a sponsor, it's crucial to spend some time talking and getting to know each other before moving. Ask them about their experience when they were in your shoes.
What Is Temporary Lodging?
Temporary lodging refers to the housing you'll stay in for several weeks before relocating in military base housing or moving into the area's town. The typical course of action for temporary lodging is paying the expense out of pocket, and then applying for military reimbursement.
TLA (Temporary Lodging Allowance) is the program that you need to be aware of when seeking temporary lodging. Through utilizing TLA, you'll have part of your meals and lodging paid for both you and your dependents.
Typical timelines for TLA include 60 days upon arrival and ten days after the departure of the station. You'll have to check in with your command every 15 days to verify that you're actively searching for more permanent housing to have access to TLA payments.
How Do I Decide What to Bring?
It's essential to note that you'll be given a specific weight allowance indicating how many personal possessions you can bring for your move based on your rank, the length of time you've served, and your dependents.
Here are a number of everyday household items that are allowed to be shipped:
- Household appliances
- Privately owned vehicles
Your belongings will fall into the following three categories:
- Professional items
- Unaccompanied baggage
- Household goods
Professional items are the most essential as they help you perform your job and won't go toward your weight limit. Unaccompanied baggage is the second most fundamental category of items and will arrive a few weeks after moving. Household goods arrive several weeks after you land, so it's good to organize non-essential items under this category.
Any items you still wish to hold onto that go over your weight limit should be stored.
How Do I Ship More Complicated Items Like Pets and Cars?
While shipping pets and cars require more planning than shipping professional items or unaccompanied baggage, it can be accomplished. Some services focus on overseas car shipment as well as live animal overseas shipping.
Sea freight shipping is your best bet when it comes to shipping your car, as this method costs far less than air freight shipping.
If you're interested in shipping your animal overseas, make sure that they have up to date medical records and vaccinations. All animals being sent overseas require microchips.
How Far in Advance Should I Plan?
Waiting until the last minute to coordinate an overseas move is something you should avoid. You should generally start planning three-six months before you move.
Written By:Joe Webster
Joe Webster began his journey in the auto transport field by attending the University of Southern California (USC), where he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Marketing.
After college, he started his career in the auto transport industry from the bottom up and has done virtually every job there is to do at A-1 Auto Transport, including but not limited to: Truck Driver, Dispatch, Sales, PR, Bookkeeping, Transport Planner, Transport Manager, International Transport Manager, Brokering, Customer Service, and Marketing. Working with his mentor Tony Taylor, Joe Webster has learned the ins and outs of this industry which is largely misunderstood.
With over 30 years experience in the industry, we've been helping people ship their vehicles, motorcycles, RV's, heavy equipment, household goods and more across the country or overseas without a hitch. Ask us anything.