Whether you were hoping for this assignment or you winced when the PCS orders hit, an OCONUS move is not for the faint of heart. You have a lot of things you need to do and you need to do them all right now.
Don’t stress. Just follow our handy guide to rock this PCS!
How to Handle an OCONUS Move in 25 Steps
Why? Because there are no official orders, just the “word” that these documents are coming. While you have tons of things to do, very few things can proceed without at least web orders.
Planning to travel while OCONUS? Apply for tourist passports for your family now. During peak times, passports can take up to 8 weeks to process. You will want to have these well before you leave, just in case. Take double passport pictures now, and only use one set for the tourist passports. Keep reading to find out why!
Have a pet? Great! Just make sure that you read up on the import requirements for your OCONUS duty station. Most overseas countries require additional vaccinations and quarantine periods.
Book your vet visit now. Be sure to bring hard copies of the animal import requirements to all future vet visits. Also, record all dates related to quarantine in your phone or planner.
Schedule a visit with your PCM even before web orders hit. Let your doctor know where you are headed and when you think you will be leaving. Ask that they review your medical record off-the-books and alert you to any bumps in the road. Do the same for your children.
Shots, Shots, Shots
Everybody gets shots! We’re talking HepA, B and C. Let’s add in a little TDAP and MMR for good measure. When your PCM checks your records, ask them to confirm your vaccinations and compare your records to the requirements for your next duty station. Then head to immunizations and roll up your sleeves.
Still no orders? No problem! Check out housing while you wait. Be sure to investigate all possible options, but remember that you probably won’t get to choose where you live. Do a double take when you see how much space the OCONUS houses offer. (Hint: it’s smaller than American base housing.)
Have a Yard Sale
After seeing how much space you might have, hold a yard sale! Try to sell your bulky or rarely used items. Put all of your profits into your pet travel fund.
Join Facebook Groups
There are Facebook groups for every duty station. Go find yours now. Then ask:
- How does housing work?
- How do I get a pet over here?
- Will my family survive this?
- What happens on the medical clearance boards?
Wait for answers patiently. After all, orders are still not “official” yet.
Research Pet Travel
After checking with Facebook, contact your local travel office to find out about pet travel. When you hear that the military flights have pet spots, rejoice! When you hear all the restrictions, cry. Then look into commercial travel and be happy for the yard sale money.
As soon as you have confirmed travel arrangements, work on getting your furry friends either on the same flight or ready to travel in another way. There are several reputable pet transit services out there and a few airlines that will fly military pets as unaccompanied baggage.
Hooray! Orders have officially arrived and you may pass GO. Be prepared to wait some more.
You may now proceed with the overseas medical screening. Luckily, you’ve updated your vaccinations and previewed your medical records for any hiccups. Ask your PCM’s office for a hard copy of your health record. Then call the overseas screening office at the military treatment facility (the on-base clinic or hospital) closest to you. Schedule an appointment ASAP.
Be prepared to answer deeply personal questions about health issues that have long been resolved or are controlled. Wait nervously while a doctor you have never seen before decides if you are healthy enough to move OCONUS.
Be Ready to Wait
Even though orders are “official,” you are still waiting. Why? Medical and area clearance. Before the moving and travel offices will book you, your family will need to have area clearance. To get area clearance, you need medical clearance.
But What About the Car?
No, seriously, what are you going to do with the car(s)? In all the hustle to get the pets, house and humans ready, you forgot the multi-ton machine in your garage.
You have a few choices: store it, ship it or sell it.
The military will likely cover the costs (ship or store) of one car per family. If you were thinking “ship it” you might want to double check that it’s allowed where you are going. If not, start thinking about whether you want to store it or sell it.
Do repeat image searches for your OCONUS duty station to remind you of how awesome it’s going to be once you do arrive.
As your pet proceeds with quarantine and vaccinations keep every single piece of paper in one place. Make copies of everything. Get every copy notarized according to your new location’s requirements. Double check every document to ensure it’s been filled out correctly and with the right color ink.
Passports Part 2
Remember those extra passport pictures? Pull them out and bring them with you to get your no-fee government passport. You’ll go through your base to do this using a special form and documents. You will not have to pay for these. They will look exactly like your tourist passports.
There will be 3 parts to this move: long-term storage, household goods and unaccompanied baggage. If you are lucky, there will be 3 separate individual moving days. Schedule long-term storage last so that anything that won’t fit in the other 2 shipments will stay stateside.
Double check your weight allowance for your duty station. Plan another yard sale.
Talk to the people who book your flights. Find out about how the travel options work. Ask:
- Does everyone have to go on the military flight?
- Can dependents elect to travel commercially and be reimbursed?
- What about pets?
Expect to not like what you hear. Return to this office regularly to try to find a solution that works for you.
Sort Your Stuff
Sort everything you own into piles: store, trash, sell or donate, household goods, unaccompanied and suitcases. Try to estimate the total weight you will be bringing with you.
Hold another yard sale to get rid of extra weight and things you don’t want to store for 3 years. Be ready to give precious documents and photos to relatives for the duration.
Pack It In
Once everything is sorted, get packing! Luckily, the government contracted movers will do your big shipments, but it is smart to physically separate your stuff.
Put your packed suitcases in a separate locked or blocked room. Hire a babysitter and schedule your pets for day care.
Then kick back and make sure that all of your things are properly packed, labeled and accounted for.
Do you have some things that just didn’t fit in any of your shipments? Time to give those things away to your nearest and dearest! Pass on those cleaning supplies, random pantry items and extra toilet paper.
It’s time to make the final, final car decision. Bring your car to the designated place if you are shipping it or storing it. Confirm where your car is headed and what the terms of the agreement include. Or get ready to list the car for sale. Get ready to be low balled if you’re selling it personally. You can also sell your vehicle to a dealership, which is way less stressful.
Moving OCONUS means that you will be very far from family for several years. Take some time to visit your family and friends before you take off. Eat your local comfort foods, visit Target and stock up on anything you might miss overseas.
It’s time for take-off! Your bags are packed and devices are fully charged. Before you board make sure you’ve packed:
- Enough snacks for the flights
- Entertainment that is easy to carry
- Empty water bottles
- Power strip, chargers and headphones
- Blanket, travel pillow and earplugs or eye mask
You’ve finally landed in your OCONUS duty station. Congrats! You survived your international military move. You have 3 years before you have to tackle this beast again.