You are currently viewing Relocating Across the Pond? Check Out This PCS Overseas Checklist

Relocating Across the Pond? Check Out This PCS Overseas Checklist

The order has come in.

You’ve been told you have to prepare for a Permanent Change of Station (PCS). But that’s not all. You’re moving outside the contiguous United States (OCONUS), which gives you the opportunity to experience a brand-new culture.

This may be one of the reasons you joined the military in the first place. And you’re probably thrilled about the opportunity.

But you’re also a little worried.

PCSing overseas means you’ve got to pack up the life you’ve built in the United States and move it thousands of miles away. This is a huge moment in your life and you need to ensure you’ve ticked all the right boxes for your OCONUS PCS. If you’re not careful, it can start to feel a little overwhelming.

That’s where this article comes in.

We’re going to focus on the key things that you need to prepare before PCSing overseas. This is your PCS readiness checklist and it’s going to ensure that you’re ready for whatever your new adventure has in store for you.

Item No. 1 – Do Some Research

You want to know as much as possible about the country you’re moving to before you leave. For example, what if you have to PCS to Korea? Checklist items can help you with the practical elements of the move. But they won’t necessarily prepare you for the culture shock that comes with moving to a new country. The more you know about your destination, the better prepared you are to take on whatever comes next.

Head online and start some research. If you know anybody who’s lived in the country you’re moving to, ask them questions. Gather as much information as you can about the family services, bases, and possible locations for your move ahead of time so you know exactly what you’re getting into.

moving my wife to my duty station

Item No. 2 – Get Current on All Documentation

Whether you’re PCSing overseas with family or shipping out alone, you need to make sure all of your documentation is current. Your family has to be taken care of if something happens to you overseas. Plus, your documentation must be in order to ensure the move goes as smoothly as possible.

With that in mind, get current on all of the following.

Identifying Documents

Get copies of all of your identifying documents, such as your birth certificate and Social Security card. Do the same for any family members making the move with you.

Driver’s License

Renew your driver’s license. This may seem like a strange idea until you realize that you may be overseas for several years. If your license is set to expire within that timeframe, trying to renew it while you’re abroad is a huge hassle. Getting it done when you’re still in the United States is a lot simpler. Plus, it ensures that your overseas driving license (SOFA) stays valid. After all, some countries require you to have a valid United States license before they’ll grant a SOFA.

Wills and Power of Attorney

It’s never pleasant to think about the worst-case scenario. But you’re in the military and need to prepare for every possibility. Sorting out wills for you and any other family members who are PCSing overseas with you is a priority before any military move.

There’s also the power of attorney to consider.

You want somebody that you trust in the United States who can handle your affairs on your behalf. If you’re PCSing overseas alone, your spouse is likely the best choice to have power of attorney. Otherwise, grant the power to a trustworthy family member who will always act in your best interests.

Personal Passports

You need both a personal and military passport for your OCONUS PCS. The military passport gets handled as part of the move and covers you for any traveling that you do on orders. You need your personal passport for any personal travel while stationed overseas. Anybody who accompanies you needs a valid personal passport as well.

Start the application processes for these passports early.

It takes between eight and 11 weeks to process a passport application. Even if you pay for expedited processing, you still need to wait between five and seven weeks. Waiting until the last minute could mean you have to ship out on orders without your personal passport, creating complications when you arrive at your new location.

Item No. 3 – Organize Your Documents

Once you’re current on all your documentation, you must ensure you don’t lose any of it. A binder is a great way to organize documents. Create binders for each person making the move that contain the following items:

  • Birth certificate
  • Copies of your orders
  • Power of attorney
  • Marriage license
  • Vehicle shipping information
  • Overseas movers’ information
  • Car titles
  • Insurance policy documents
  • Flight and hotel reservations
  • Children’s school records
  • Passports
  • A list of contact numbers
  • Veterinary information for any pets you bring

Creating a binder keeps all the key information in one place, making it easy to access quickly when you need it.

Item No. 4 – Obtain Command Sponsorship

This item applies if you’re PCSing overseas with family. You need command sponsorship (also referred to as “accompanying orders”) to bring your family along. You should apply for this sponsorship, assuming it isn’t included in your original orders.

Make the request to your immediate superior and you’ll receive specific instructions on how to complete the sponsorship process. Once completed, your orders will change to state that your family is authorized to move with you. Command sponsorship leads to a larger reimbursement for travel expenses and housing allowance, along with medical services and legal protection for your whole family.

Be aware that command sponsorship can be denied.

If that happens, you receive “unaccompanied orders”, which means you’re only reimbursed for your own moving expenses. You can still move your family overseas with you. But you have to pay for their travel, moving, and living expenses. Additionally, your family must handle visas and residency documentation independently if you don’t receive command sponsorship.

Item No. 5 – Secure Your Military Passport

You need a military passport in addition to the personal passport mentioned earlier. Thankfully, you don’t have to pay a fee to obtain this password. Your military branch’s Travel Management Office (TMO) will help you through this process. Contact your TMO upon receiving your orders and follow the instructions you receive to secure your passport.

This is a vital step.

You need your military passport to travel on orders. Without it, you won’t be PCSing overseas any time soon. You can also apply for these passports for your family members. But in such cases, the military passport is only good to get them to and from your PCS location. Any other travel your family undertakes requires personal passports.

Item No. 6 – Request a Sponsor

A sponsor is a military family already stationed in the location you’re moving to. They’ll help you to get set up in your OCONUS host country by helping you secure cars, cell phones, and the temporary lodging you’ll stay in until you’re placed in out-of-town or base housing.

Your sponsor may help you to find your way around your new location during your first few weeks there, which can help you acclimatize to the new culture quickly.

Item No. 7 – Schedule Overseas Screening for Family Members

Service members generally complete their screening through their command.

But if your PCSing overseas with family, every person accompanying you needs to go through a separate screening process. You’ll likely get the paperwork for this process from an overseas screening office, such as a local Naval Office. With paperwork in hand, call your care provider to schedule the screenings. Each dependent needs their current medical and vaccination records for the appointment.

Item No. 8 – Start Your Search for Military Housing

This search starts with a choice between living on-post or off.

The choice you make depends on your family’s needs. If you’re moving alone or solely with a spouse, on-post housing is likely more cost-effective and should be suitable for your needs. But if you’re taking children along for the ride, you may need to look further afield to find housing that’s suitable for an entire family.

Starting your search early helps you get ahead of problems as they arise. Your sponsors may also help you to make a more informed decision based on their experiences.

Item No. 9 – Take a Household Inventory

It’s not just you and your family that are PCSing overseas.

Your stuff is coming along too. Or at least, a good chunk of it will be. You have to decide what you’re taking with you and what you’re leaving behind. These decisions are made much easier if you conduct a household inventory.

Grab a camera and take photographs of everything you own. It also helps to document items in a spreadsheet, along with any relevant warranty information or serial numbers, so you have a detailed inventory.

From there, split your inventory into items you’re taking with you and things you can leave at home. This process ensures you don’t spend more than you need to on moving items that you’re not going to use. Plus, having a detailed inventory means you can demonstrate the condition and existence of items that get damaged or lost in transit.

Item No. 10 – Pack and Categorize Belongings

Once you know what to take, it’s time to start packing.

Categorization is key here. Keep different categories of items together so you have easy access to what you need when you need it. Break your items down into three categories:

  • Professional Items – Anything you need for your work goes into this category. This includes documentation, uniforms, and equipment.
  • Household Goods – These items travel separately to your professional items. They’ll arrive at your location several weeks after you do. Generally speaking, most of what you can’t pack into the suitcases you take with you goes into this category.
  • Unaccompanied Baggage – Think of this as the express category for any household items you want to receive quickly. Unaccompanied baggage tends to arrive about three weeks after you’ve made your move.

Item No. 11 – Decide What to Do With Your Current Home

If you’re leasing a property, this decision is usually pretty easy. End the lease so you’re not stuck paying rent while you’re PCSing overseas.

Things get more complicated if you own a home. Assuming you’re moving your family with you, the property could sit vacant while you continue paying the mortgage. That may be an option if you’re willing to absorb the financial hit. However, you could lease the property for as long as you’re stationed overseas. This allows you to generate some income and ensures your home is occupied while you’re away, meaning you don’t have to worry as much about security.

There are several things you need to do if you choose to lease:

  • Secure a dwelling policy for home insurance
  • Provide any relevant warranty information for your new tenants
  • Provide tenants with a contact person who’ll handle any maintenance issues while you’re away
  • Create a public liability policy that covers you in cases of property damage or injury to your tenants

And the Final Item – Work With the Right Military Movers

With this OCONUS travel checklist, you ensure you handle the administrative and practical sides of PCSing overseas. You’ll get your documentation in order to ensure a smooth transition into carrying out your orders when you arrive. Plus, you’ll handle all of the administration involved in PCSing overseas with family, assuming your dependents are coming with you.

Your final step is to arrange the move.

That’s where Military Movers comes in.

We’re specialists in helping military members pack up and ship out overseas. We also understand that military life requires flexibility and sacrifices, which is why we aim to make your move as simple as possible.

At Military Movers, we offer active-duty members of the military a discount when shipping vehicles or household items overseas. We have over 30 years of experience shipping goods around the continental United States and to OCONUS locations. Rest assured. You can trust us to make your transition easy.

You’re ready for a new stage in your life.

Trust Military Movers to handle the shipping of your items overseas. Get in touch today online or call us at 866-226-1441 to secure a quote.

Leave a Reply