Your orders are in, and it’s official: you’re moving overseas. Such a big move can be an exciting adventure. You may get to learn a new language and see a part of the world you’ve never visited before.
There’s a lot to consider before you leave, but you can have a smoother transition with these preparation tips:
- Double-check those orders. The paperwork that lays out your orders should list every family member who is eligible to come along with you. Make sure the list is accurate and the names are spelled correctly. This information will be used to get the no-fee government passports required for permanent change of station (PCS) travel. (If it’s incorrect, it could cause your application to be considered invalid, so double-check to be sure.)
- Have a valid driver’s license if you plan to drive abroad. Many servicemembers who are sent overseas will need to be mobile, making a driver’s license a necessity. But, to test for a foreign driver’s license, you’ll need to have a valid American license first. Whenever you drive abroad, you’re expected to have both licenses with you.
- Communicate with your sponsor. Servicemembers who are new to an overseas unit are typically assigned a sponsor who helps before, during and after the move. The sponsor is someone who lives at the location you’ve been assigned to ease your transition. He or she may be able to help you know what to expect in the local area and have tips on things like available housing (if you’re not living on base), employment for your spouse or youth programs.
- Pack wisely. Your accommodations at your destination may be smaller than your current housing. The military offers storage solutions where you can stow any larger items you plan to keep.
For the items you’re planning to ship, you’ll be given a weight limit, depending on your rank and family members. The Department of Defense provides a weight estimator to help you decide what you want to take with you. Keep in mind that the electric current and receptacles may be different overseas, which means certain electronics may not work or you may need a voltage adapter or converter.
You’ll be allowed one unaccompanied baggage shipment (for things like clothes and electronics) and one for household goods. Since both packages will probably take a few weeks to arrive, you might want to ship any critical items yourself.
If you’re interested in taking your car with you, it must be authorized on your orders for the government to pay. You can also make your own arrangements, but you may have to pay an import duty. Look into what documents you’ll need and other shipping requirements ahead of time.
- Ready your pets. Planning to bring any pets with you? They’ll need medical clearance first. So make sure your dog or cat has all their necessary vaccinations and a health certificate clearing them for an overseas move. If you want to be sure the paperwork meets all requirements, it’s recommended that you take Fido or Fluffy to a military veterinarian.
- Financially prepare yourself. Before leaving the country, there are some ways you can ready yourself regarding finances. If your spouse is moving with you, think about how you could live on a single income, as there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to find a job abroad. If you still have time before your move, now is the time to start building an emergency fund to use for any potential unexpected or unreimbursed expenses. If you’re Active Duty, you may qualify for certain protections and benefits through the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).
Our members are at the heart of everything we do—they’re our mission. If you’d like more information on deployment or topics like transitioning to civilian life, financial readiness and our military exclusives, visit our Military Life Resource Center.