Moving Outside the Continental U.S. (OCONUS)
Moving Outside The Continental U.S. (OCONUS)
Whether you move across town or across the globe, moving is stressful. Now with an OCONUS move, you may encounter language barriers, being apart from loved ones, and many unknowns. We have compiled this list to get you started on your move, and hopefully alleviate some stress.
Your Sponsor | As a service member, you will be assigned a sponsor. Your sponsor is typically an active duty member that is currently stationed at the overseas base that you are assigned to. Connect with your sponsor as soon as you can, they can help you prepare for your move and welcome you upon arrival. Take advantage of social media, FaceTime, Skype, and email to establish a relationship with your sponsor. They will be able to advise you on what surprises they faced, local cultural norms, housing, and more. Your sponsor will become your lifeline and link to your new duty station. Ask questions!
Travel Documents | Start working on your passport application and find out whether you will need VISAs. Check with your sponsor on all these questions. You will need a No-fee passport to travel on military orders. You start the passport process through your chain of command. Remember that your No-fee passport is for official travel only and cannot be used for vacations and leave travel while you are overseas. It is highly recommended that you secure a standard tourist passport as well.
The folks who love their OCONUS experience the most are the ones that get out and explore all the culture, food, and entertainment that their host country and its neighbors offer. Your U.S. tourist passport is essential. You can start by using the standard application found on the DoD website. All members of your family will need a tourist passport. Passport photos can be easily taken at any Walgreens or CVS location with photo processing services. You can then complete the process at your local post office or official application site. Plan ahead, passports normally take about two months to be processed.
Relocation Clearance | Another step that you need to start early on is your family’s clearances. Each family member needs to be medically cleared. If your entire family is not cleared, you may face unaccompanied orders. Research the office that handles the overseas screening process for family members, and get in contact with them as soon as possible. The military needs to ensure that any educational or medical resources that you or your family need are readily available when you move.
Unaccompanied/Household Goods | You will have two shipments of your belongings. The first is the Unaccompanied/Express shipment. It will be a small quantity of your belongings that are flown overseas to arrive around the same time that you do. Think extra clothes, military gear, towels, sheets, baby items, computer/electronics, and some of your Kitchen supplies. Your goal is to have these items well before your HHG shipment arrives. Ask your sponsor about whether your base supplies loaner furniture and Kitchen items while you are staying in temporary housing. When you are packing, make sure that you clearly mark these items and preferably place them in a separate room.
The Household Goods (HHG) shipment contains your furniture and everything else. You should plan these two shipments very carefully. The Household Goods shipment goes by boat and takes several months to arrive.
Your Pets | Moving OCONUS with pets can be quite challenging. Similar to your family’s health screenings, pets will need to be up-to-date with their immunizations, and in good health. Pets need to be young enough to successfully make the move. Ask your sponsor about additional requirements from your host country. Shipping costs and quarantine restrictions can be costly, often over $1,000. The military does not pay any pet travel expenses. Space on airplanes for pets is limited too and you will need to make your reservations early. Be sure to know the requirements and set money aside early.
Your Vehicle | Vehicle options vary widely depending on where you are going. Sometimes you can have one POV shipped to your new duty station. Other times, you will need to purchase a car after you arrive if you choose to have one. The government will store your vehicle in the U.S. while you have overseas orders. You will need to research the best option financially and logistically for your family.
As you may have now guessed, moving OCONUS can be a wonderful experience if you take the time to plan ahead. Take advantage of military briefings and your sponsor. And, by all means, enjoy your time in another country by traveling and immersing yourself in a different culture. You will be back in the states before you know it. If your OCONUS move includes selling your home here, please contact one of our Military Relocation Specialists today.