You are currently viewing A Guide To International PCS Moves: What To Expect

A Guide To International PCS Moves: What To Expect

International PCS moves are a common occurrence in military life but can be daunting for those going through the process for the first time. This type of relocation involves moving a service member and their family across international borders, often accompanied by countless forms, complex regulations, and logistical challenges.

Balancing the excitement of a new adventure with the stress of packing up your life and adapting to new surroundings can feel overwhelming. The process demands careful planning, adherence to rules, and a partnership with a moving company that understands the unique requirements of military moves.

This blog post aims to provide a comprehensive guide to international PCS (Permanent Change of Station) moves, outlining the essential steps, offering practical advice, and highlighting the support available to ensure a smooth transition.

What is the Process for an International PCS Move?

international pcs moves, privately owned vehicle

An international PCS move involves many steps, and it’s crucial to understand each part to ensure a smooth transition. Whether it’s your first time receiving OCONUS orders or you’re an experienced military mover, the following guide will walk you through everything you need to know about the international PCS move process.

1. Organize and Submit Your Paperwork

Understanding what documents are required is a vital step in preparing for an international PCS move. This initial phase sets the foundation for your move.

  • Official Order Paperwork: You’ll need your official order and personal identification information.
  • ID Cards, Marriage, and Birth Certificates: Make sure all personal documents are gathered.
  • Medical Clearance: This is essential for you, your family, and any pets.
  • Two Passports: A military-issued one before your move and your civilian passport.
  • In-Person Appointments: Schedule an appointment for a government passport and on-base doctors’ appointments for medical clearance.

2. Schedule Your Move

Scheduling your move involves coordination with your local Transportation Office and the Defense Personal Property System (DPS), a critical tool for managing relocation to your new duty station.

  • Contact Your Local TO: Register if you’re moving to OCONUS for the first time.
  • Upload Your Orders: Receive guidance to upload your orders.
  • Fill Out DD Forms: Application for Shipment (DD Form 1299), Counseling Checklist (DD Form 1797), etc.
  • Confirmation Email: Receive a confirmation from your TO with more information.
  • Pre-Move Survey: This helps determine packing crew requirements and shipment details.

3. Prepare Your Shipments

Understanding what shipments you’re allowed and how to organize them is key.

Unaccompanied Baggage (UB): Items you’ll need immediately, usually shipped by air.

  • Pots and pans
  • Clothing
  • Baby items like cribs or playpens

Household Goods (HHG): Larger items shipped by sea.

  • Furniture
  • TVs
  • Appliances

Professional Gear (PBP&E): Things needed for your job.

  • Measuring instruments
  • Field gear
  • Specialized apparel

Check Your Allowances: Confirm weight restrictions with your TO.

4. Get Rid of Extra Stuff

Deciding what to do with things you can’t take is another important aspect of your preparation.

  • Donate or Sell: Get rid of items you don’t need or want.
  • Storage Allowance: Determine if you need temporary (SIT) or non-temporary storage (NTS).

5. Be Present on Move Day

Being actively involved on move day ensures that everything goes smoothly.

  • Stay Reachable: Be easy to contact by phone.
  • Clarify Shipments: Ensure proper inventory and weight handling.
  • Keep Personal Items Separate: Important documents, medications, etc.
  • Confirm Inventory Accuracy: Pay attention to boxes and furniture; contact your TO if something is wrong.

Things to Know Before Your Overseas PCS Move

personal computers, household goods shipment

An OCONUS (Outside the Continental U.S.) move is an exciting yet challenging venture. From cultural differences to logistical complications, there is a multitude of factors to consider when planning such a relocation. Here, we will delve into some essential aspects that are crucial to understanding when embarking on an overseas move, making your transition as smooth as possible.

1. It’s All About the Paperwork

Ensuring that all paperwork is in order is the first and foremost step in an OCONUS move. Every family member, including service members and their dependent family members, should be listed on official orders for the permanent change of station, and the information should be free from errors.

These documents are essential for applying for the no-fee government passports and tourist passports required for permanent change of station (PCS) travel to your next duty station and other paperwork, possibly including visas, depending on the location.

Medical clearances must also be scheduled promptly, as the military needs to assess the ability of the overseas location to handle the family’s medical needs. This step can be tedious but is paramount in organizing a successful move.

2) Up-to-date U.S. Driver’s License

Keeping your stateside license valid is vital for acquiring a driver’s license overseas, like the USAREUR license in Europe. Having both licenses is mandatory while driving overseas.

Licensing test guides can be obtained beforehand to study, and insurance policies must be updated accordingly. Investing in additional roadside assistance might be advisable, depending on the country you’re moving to.

3. Insights From Your Overseas Sponsor

An assigned overseas sponsor from the military can provide invaluable insider information about the area. The more you can learn about housing, schools, and activities for children, the smoother your transition will be. A good rapport with your sponsor can significantly ease the moving process.

4. Downsizing is Essential

Since overseas housing, including government-leased housing and privately owned homes, is typically smaller, and the overseas housing allowance may vary, it’s wise to downsize and purge belongings before the move. Consider storing larger items or those that can be lived without for the next few years, including oversized furniture. Leaving room for unique overseas purchases also adds to the excitement of the move.

5. Dealing With Packing Crates

professional license, temporary lodging

The crating and sealing of boxes for an overseas move is unique and requires the sponsor’s signature. Inspecting each crate and seal on the receiving end and noting any broken or cut tape is essential for potential claims. This process ensures the safety and integrity of your belongings during transit.

6. Preparing Your Pets

Just like the family, pets require medical clearance and up-to-date vaccinations before being approved for travel. Checking with the Veterinary Treatment Facility at your new base on arrival is crucial, and understanding quarantine requirements for certain countries is essential to avoid surprises.

7. Traveling With Kids

Long overseas flights can be taxing, especially for young children who may not be accustomed to air travel. Emotions can run high, and preparing in advance with tips and practical advice can make the journey more comfortable.

8. Parting With Your Belongings

You may be separated from your household goods for an extended period, depending on your housing situation and whether you’re utilizing government-leased housing, contacting the housing office to secure a place at your next duty station.

Planning for the upcoming season and having a strategy for clothing and essential items can save money and frustration. Renting insurance to cover belongings during the move can also be a prudent decision.

9. Learning the Local Language

Simple greetings or commonplace phrases in the local language can foster goodwill with new neighbors. Efforts to communicate, even if imperfect, will generally be appreciated, and locals may reciprocate by trying to communicate in English.

10. Connecting With Newcomers and Briefings

Though jet lag and fatigue may be factors, attending newcomers’ and in-processing briefings can be immensely valuable. Making connections with others in similar situations can ease feelings of isolation and provide essential information about the new location.

11. Embrace the Experience

The logistics of an OCONUS PCS move can be overwhelming, but remembering the incredible opportunity that it represents is vital. Embracing the differences, trying new foods, traveling, and being adventurous can turn the move into a dream come true.

Overall, an overseas move represents not just a change in location but a shift in lifestyle. By paying attention to these critical aspects and maintaining a positive outlook, you can make the most of this thrilling and life-changing experience.

Why Choose Military Movers for Your International PCS Move?

military pcs, continental united states

Service members often find themselves relocating to a new duty station due to duty requirements. This process can be both challenging and costly. Recognizing this, Military Movers provide unique services and discounts tailored specifically to the needs of military members and their families.

These specialized offerings alleviate some of the stress and expenses involved in the moving process. Let’s take a closer look at some of these particular services.

1. Customized Moving Plans

  • Understanding Specific Needs: Military movers are aware of the unique requirements of military families. They often provide personalized consultation and design moving plans based on individual needs.
  • Coordination with Military Regulations: Compliance with specific military guidelines and rules can be ensured by employing a moving company familiar with military protocols.
  • Flexible Scheduling: With short-notice deployments or relocations being common, military movers often provide flexibility in scheduling.

2. Discounts and Special Pricing

  • Military Discounts: Special reduced rates for active duty, veterans, and their families are typically offered to make the services more affordable.
  • Bundle Offers: Some movers may provide bundled services at discounted prices, which can include packing, shipping, storage, and even cleaning.
  • No Hidden Fees: Transparency in pricing without hidden fees is something that military movers often pride themselves on.

3. Comprehensive Packing Services

  • Full-Service Packing: Military Movers often offer full packing services, including specialized packing for fragile items.
  • Packing Materials: Providing packing materials such as boxes, bubble wrap, and tape at no extra cost or at discounted rates can be part of the service.
  • Unpacking Services: Unpacking at the destination and arranging the items can also be included in the package.

4. Secure Storage Solutions

  • Short-Term Storage: If there’s a gap between moving out and moving in dates, military movers can offer short-term storage solutions.
  • Long-Term Storage: For those deployed overseas, long-term storage may be provided at discounted rates.
  • Climate-Controlled Facilities: Specialized storage facilities to protect sensitive items from weather conditions may be available.

5. Vehicle Transportation

  • Car Shipping: Moving personal vehicles, such as privately owned vehicles (POVs), especially during overseas deployments, can be handled by military movers coordinated through the Defense Personal Property System.
  • Special Handling for Motorcycles: Transporting motorcycles requires special care, and many military movers offer services for this as well.

6. Insurance and Liability Protection

  • Comprehensive Insurance Options: Many military movers offer various insurance options to cover potential damages or losses during the move.
  • Liability Coverage: Ensuring that there’s sufficient liability coverage to meet military standards is a part of the specialized service.

7. International Moving Support

  • Customs Clearance: Handling customs paperwork and ensuring compliance with international regulations can be a complicated process. Military movers often offer support in this area.
  • Multilingual Support: For moves to non-English speaking countries, having a multilingual support team can be invaluable.
  • Cultural Orientation: Some movers even provide guidance on cultural norms and practices of the destination country, making the transition smoother.

8. Child and Pet Relocation Services

  • Child-Friendly Moving Solutions: Tailoring the moving experience to minimize stress for children can include providing special care for their belongings and comfort during the move.
  • Pet Relocation: Special arrangements for pets, including compliance with international quarantine regulations, can be handled professionally.

9. Assistance with Temporary Housing

  • Finding Temporary Accommodation: If permanent housing isn’t immediately available, assistance in finding temporary housing can be a significant relief.
  • Furnishing Temporary Homes: Some movers offer furnishing services for temporary accommodations, easing the transition phase.

10. 24/7 Customer Support

  • Constant Availability: Having access to support at all hours can be vital for military families, especially during overseas moves.
  • Personalized Support: A dedicated support team familiar with the individual’s moving plan can make the process more comfortable.

Military Movers offer a wide array of specialized services designed to ease the often complex process of relocating for military personnel and their families.

From customized moving plans to discounts, international support, assistance with overseas housing allowance, government leased housing, coordination with the accounting service, and around-the-clock customer service, these comprehensive offerings aim to provide a seamless transition to your next duty station.

By understanding the specific needs and challenges of military relocations, these movers demonstrate a commitment to supporting those who serve their country.


Relocating can be a strenuous task, especially for military personnel who frequently move due to their professional commitments. With the specialized services and discounts tailored for military families, the process can become much more manageable and affordable.

From personalized moving plans to assistance with international moves, vehicle transport, pet relocation, and constant support, military movers are equipped to handle the unique needs of those who serve.

Are you in need of military moving services? Contact us today to learn how we can make your next relocation smooth and stress-free. Our team of professionals is well-versed in the specific requirements of military moves, offering the best in class service at affordable rates. Let us take the burden off your shoulders.


What kind of discounts do military movers offer?

Military movers often provide special reduced rates for active-duty personnel, veterans, and their families. These may include bundle offers, discounts on storage, and transparent pricing without hidden fees.

Are there services to help with international relocations?

Military movers frequently offer support for international relocations, including handling customs paperwork, multilingual support, and even cultural orientation to ease the transition into a new country.

Can military movers handle vehicle transportation?

Many military movers are equipped to handle vehicle transportation, including special care for motorcycles. This can be particularly helpful for overseas deployments or long-distance moves within the country.

How do I know if a moving company offers specialized services for military personnel?

It’s advisable to ask the moving company about their experience and offerings tailored to military moves. Look for reviews from other military families and inquire about their specific services, such as discounts, insurance options, and international moving support.

Do military movers commonly provide temporary housing assistance?

Some military movers offer assistance with temporary housing, including finding accommodation and furnishing temporary homes. This service can be a significant relief when permanent housing isn’t immediately available at the new location.

Mia Miller

Mia Miller, a true wordsmith, documents the journey of Military Movers through her engaging blog posts. She ensures that our stories, mirroring our commitment and dedication to facilitating military moves, reach a broad audience.