Getting overseas orders, or OCONUS can bring about emotions of a wide array – from elated and excited to dreading and sad. It is true, moving overseas comes with its own variety of stressors, on top of moving which is stressful in itself. Be prepared with this list to make sure you are ready to go.
- Medical Clearance: This is key. Medical clearance is required for every family member who would be moving to an overseas location. Some military bases OCONUS have small clinics or hospitals that do not have every medical specialty. The screening ensures that those individuals who need specialized care or medication that requires that they stay CONUS. The screening also identifies if there are any outstanding vaccinations that family members need prior to travel. Once the medical screening is complete state-side, it is sent to the medical clearance department at the gaining command OCONUS. Once area clearance is received, the orders can be completed with every family member who is moving overseas.
- Pet Clearance: If you have pets, this can also take several months. Depending on which country you are going to, your pet may need vaccinations, namely Rabies, and rabies titers. If there is even a whisper of potentially overseas orders, highly recommend calling the base vet to find out what paperwork, blood work, vaccinations, and clearance your pet will need. Check out what is required for taking your pet overseas on the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
- Passports: When moving overseas, federal passports are provided for all family members on orders. These passports are “no fee,” meaning you do not pay for it. It also means that the passport can only be used when traveling on military orders. You cannot use the federal passport to travel across Europe or Asia when your family is living overseas-it is not a tourist passport. If the location you are moving to requires a visa, the Travel or Transportation Office will provide you with the required paperwork.
- Flights: Do not expect to get the Patriot Express – the military airline that transports families overseas. The peak moving periods of the summer and December fill up quickly. There are limited pet spots for sending pets back and forth overseas as well.
- Scheduling the Move: Here are a few terms you need to know – express shipment (aka unaccompanied baggage), household goods shipment (aka HHG), and storage. Depending on where you are moving to, you likely get at least two shipments – express and household goods. The express shipment or unaccompanied baggage is just that – baggage that goes ahead of when you leave with the intent of arriving soon after you arrive. The express shipment is limited on weight and is usually restricted to items like your kitchen items, cribs, cleaning items, etc. This is not the shipment for sending your tv, workout equipment, or a large bed. Each service branch has different regulations, so ask the office that schedules your move. The HHG shipment is for the rest of your home goods. The HHG shipment usually comes on the “slow boat,” meaning a freight boat. This shipment typically arrives several months after you arrive OCONUS, so plan accordingly. Don’t pack the uniform items you will need the month you arrive. Each service branch may have a weight limit that differs from moving within the continental United States, so make sure to ask.
- Connect with your sponsor: Typically moving overseas means that there is a service member assigned as a sponsor. The sponsor can make hotel reservations and set up a mailbox for the incoming family. They do not pay for the hotel room, they may help with setting things up because of the time difference. They are often the people who pick up the military family from the airport since the incoming family does not likely have an international driver’s license. Ask this person any logistical questions you can.
- Shipping a POV: Some duty stations allow you to ship privately owned vehicles (POV), and the transportation office should be able to provide this guidance. If they do not allow POVs to be shipped, you will need to buy local cars upon arrival.
- Sell or Store a POV: If you are not bringing your vehicle overseas, the choice is to sell your current vehicle or store it. If you store it through the government, the car should be started periodically. You could also store it with family or allow a friend to borrow it – but make sure you are clear with expectations for car use and maintenance. If you choose to sell your vehicle, make sure to get offers from a dealership and places that buy used cars to resell.
Tackling the logistical side of moving overseas will help you and your family embrace and enjoy the change. It does take a bit of planning to help an overseas move go smoothly, and knowing what you need as soon as you can will help you get there!