How to Prepare for an Overseas PCS


Here is the dirty little secret about OCONUS relocation: It’s the most stressful, most time-consuming, and most memorable PCS your family will ever encounter.

The rare Armed Forces gift of an OCONUS (Outside the Continental United States) duty assignment morphs the standard moving day jitters into a process of antacid-popping anxiety. But once you conquer it, you can move anywhere.

Here is a list of the top 5 secrets every OCONUS virgin needs to know.

Paperwork & Passports

Spouses, double-check your service member’s orders to ensure that your name is spelled correctly for this command-sponsored and accompanied relocation. A misspelling hiccup will quickly become a huge headache if you don’t correct it.

Next, apply for a no-fee, government passport for all family members. Your civilian or personal passport will not work for government travel. Research if your intended destination requires a visa for U.S. military. If the answer is yes, then guess what? Grab your favorite black ballpoint and fill out that form.  

Lastly, schedule your overseas medical screening. When we moved to Japan in 2008, I was shocked by the length of this 10-page questionnaire. I needed to track down a copy of my immunization records from my hometown pediatrician before scheduling my medical screening. And without a medical screening, you won’t get your travel orders.

Every step in the paperwork and passport process takes time.  Plan to diligently work through these forms to avoid missing any deadlines.


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Decide to Downsize

Moving overseas requires a lot of preparation about which household items will ship to your new location and which will stay in storage in the United States. Each overseas duty station has its own weight allowances for household items (which may take as long 8 weeks for delivery) and unaccompanied baggage (which is a small express shipment of essential household goods). The unaccompanied baggage should arrive within 3 weeks. We selected a TV, microwave, pots and pans, silverware, towels, toilet paper, shower curtain, air mattress, sheets, and extra clothes and shoes for our express shipment. We also included our beach gear so we could immediately explore the island. If you have a baby, a crib may be part of this shipment.

The military pays for the storage so we stored our large appliances (washer, dryer, and refrigerator) and large dining room table and 8 chairs. We sold our sofa and held a garage sale before moving. We used the loan furniture from the Air Force while we lived overseas.

If you can’t ship your vehicle, you will need to decide to sell or store it. Each choice has consequences that must be carefully considered and there is plenty of paperwork in each decision.

Make separate inventory lists for storage, unaccompanied baggage, and household goods. I used
different colored Post-Its to label items. For example yellow for storage and red for express. When the day came to pack the express items, we moved those items into the living room, so the movers didn’t need to look all over the house and risk forgetting an essential item. Make a video showing your household items in case the boat sinks. It’s one of many OCONUS horror stories you’ll hear. I wish I was joking.

Finally, on moving day, watch the movers seal your crates. This is unique to an OCONUS relocation. Don’t sign any paperwork until every crate is sealed shut. Otherwise you may find your DVD collection was stolen before it even left the States.

Here is the dirty little secret about OCONUS relocation: It’s the most stressful, most time-consuming, and most memorable PCS your family will ever encounter.

Lean on Your Sponsor

I can’t emphasize enough to use your sponsor. This person is assigned from his superior to assist your relocation. At a minimum, a sponsor should arrange your arrival transportation from the airport to the military installation (a great one will pick you up) and assist in temporary lodging reservations.  Most will set up a PO Box at the military installation, so you can mail any last-minute items to yourself and begin forwarding your mail.

A sponsor is your eyes and ears in this new country. He and his spouse know the specific details for a move to Italy compared with relocation to Korea. But a sponsor isn’t a mind reader. You need to ask questions to get answers.

My husband and I made a list of 50 questions that we emailed our sponsor. This list included everything from “What did you bring that you wish you would have left in the States?” to “What kind of recreation items (camping, hiking, snorkeling, surfing) should we bring?” I asked very detailed questions about the need for lamps, rugs, dehumidifiers, and dressers. My wonderful sponsor and his wife told me there was no reason to bring lamps, fans are in short supply, carpet is unheard of in Okinawa, a dehumidifier is a necessity and most homes have built-in closets.

Alongside with your sponsor, take advantage of the online military spouse network. You are not the first person to move to Germany and you won’t be the last. I guarantee that one question posted on a Facebook group will generate at least 20 responses.

Soak up the Red, White, and Blue

The best advice we got before moving to Japan was stock up on our favorite nonperishable items that aren’t available at the commissary. For me, it was Trader Joe’s pumpkin pancake mix. How do you know if it’s available in Spain? Ask your sponsor.

Buy renter’s insurance before you leave the country and update your mailing address with your financial institution. Check the expiration date on your driver’s license. You need a valid stateside driver’s license in order to take the test for the international driver’s license. Consider memorizing a few key phrases in your host country’s language such as “where is your restroom?” Install Skype on your computer and reassure your family and friends that you are only an email away. We set one clock in my mom’s house on Okinawa time so she always knew the time difference.


Heels on the Ground

Starting with the moment that you first walk through customs and see your host country, you are living a dream so take advantage of every opportunity. Learn the language. Eat the food.  Participate in cultural events.

Okinawa wasn’t my first choice for overseas. In fact, it was my second to last choice. But when I saw those orders, I mentally told myself to making the best of this situation. I ran into many unhappy families there, who were counting down the days until their departure. Unfortunately their negative focus was a constant distraction from fun.

Consider writing a blog or at a minimum posting photos and first impressions on Facebook or Instagram for your stateside friends. The time will go fast. Enjoy every minute.

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Part-time freelance writer, full-time Navy spouse Michelle Volkmann is currently stationed near Monterey, California. She had the privilege to live on the island of Okinawa for three years. She is hoping for a European PCS in her future.

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For many more PCS resources, please see MilitaryOneClick’s Home and Relocation Page.

91 Comments

  1. Nice post. I never thought to ask my sponsor questions like, “what do you wish that you didn’t bring? ”

    Do you still have that list? I’d love to use it. My wife and I just received orders to Rota. We’re pretty excited.

    Thanks.

    Vr Fitz

    Ronnie Fitzgerald

    1. Omg, I will be joining my husband in march am so excited and scared to be in rota. I hope you and your wife like it.

    2. We are PCS’ing to Moron Spain or due date is April 30th, I have questions!! This is our 1st OCONUS..
      when will my husband receive the “checklist” anybody roughly have any idea on what’s on it? and how I can get started?
      Will the AF book our flights? How soon before due that will they typically get us there? How far in advance do the movers come?
      My husband said we won’t get “hard orders” until 90 days before we go, is this after medical screening? What can be done before actual orders in hand and what can we do before?
      We are family of 5! 🙂 as we have 6 year old, 1.5 year old and a 4 month old….anything we need to know about the kiddies?

      Thank you!!

    3. Hey Sara,

      First of all, congratulations! I am totally jealous! Second of all, I personally don’t know much about the AF. We are a Navy family. I will put my feelers out there for you and see what I can find out. I will get back to you ASAP.

      Have a great day!
      Danya

    4. Hey Sara,

      I was able to gather some information for you. Please see the thoughts below.

      Her first stop should be her local Airman and Family Readiness Center (AFRC) to talk to relocation readiness. She and her spouse should attend a levee briefing which will go over the process to move OCONUS – she can and should attend! They should also be able to assist her in calling the AFRC in Spain and understanding the EFMP screening process. Sometimes temporary orders can be used to start the process.

      They should request a sponsor from the new unit as well. The base is a very small base. I did find a couple of facebook pages for their services and library.

      Information about the installation and who to contact: http://www.militaryinstallations.dod.mil/pls/psgprod/f?p=132:CONTENT:0::NO::P4_INST_ID,P4_INST_TYPE:20111,INSTALLATION – she really needs to look over this information carefully. There are a number of tabs and she can download an installation booklet.

      Information about housing (and some additional links) – http://www.housing.af.mil/moron/

      Prior to actual orders, they can start the medical screening, let their schools know they will be moving, start the purge – separate and get an idea of Longterm storage, express, and hhg shipments.

      Actual moves scheduled, travel and no fee passports can only be done after orders.

      Happy PCSing!
      Danya

  2. Thank you so much for posting this!!! We’re about to PCS to Italy and are so scare and so excited at the same time!! This is our first real PCS move so I’m about as much of a virgin as you can get lol we have four young children and have been at our first duty station for 8 years so have no clue what to expect lol Much appreciated!!

    1. Hey Bridget,

      You are so very welcome! You are going to have an amazing tour overseas. I am jealous. We have been in the Navy for 19 years and were never lucky enough to get OCONUS orders.

      Good Luck and Have Fun!
      Danya

  3. Thank you so much for the informations. Any additional facts about moving to Korea Chinhae base? My husband is deployed and as soon as he gets back we will be moving to Korea. I have to prepare everything here in Unites States. I don’t know where start and one of my concern is my employment there. Do dependents need to have government passport as well? I am working on out medical screening right now. Any information would help. Thanks!

    1. Hey Janice,

      The MilitaryOneClick team has pulled together some information for you. One of our bloggers is going to pull all the material together and write a post. To answer your immediate question, Rose has recommended your first stop be at the nearest installation family center and connect to the relocation readiness program. They should be able to connect you to attend a levy briefing.

      If you have orders, all dependents names should be on the orders. This is necessary to get the no fee government passports. The levy briefing will give you more information on this process.

      I hope this helps. More to come.

      Have a good night,
      Danya

    2. Hey Janice,

      I have just posted the blog that pulls together a bunch of information for your upcoming PCS. It is in the slider on our site. I hope this helps some!

      Danya

  4. Hello! My husband just received orders to japan and I am excited. His report date is June 30th 2015. How early should we ship our things? Whats the earliest we can leave?

    This blog really helped answer a lot of other questions I had!

    1. Hey Kristy,

      How exciting! What an awesome opportunity. I am still bummed that we haven’t had the chance to go overseas. So, I can’t answer your questions but the best advice I can give you is to have your husband go to the base transportation office. They will be able to answer all of your questions. You can also check out the http://www.move.mil/ website. There is a lot of good info there.

      Have a great tour!
      Danya

  5. My 22 year old daughter first station is in Germany Im so worried that she want be able to deal with be away from me and her sister with no family. Why do they send them over sea so quick.

    1. Hello Erica,

      I am sorry you are worried about your daughter. I have three boys and can’t imagine the day they leave our home! She will be fine. Remember that we need service members of every level all over the world :). I bet she is going to love it over there. I went to visit my friend in Stuttgart a few years back and it was amazing! She is going to be able to travel while she is there and see things that she may have never seen otherwise.

      Try not to worry. Use Skype, email, Facetime and all of the other amazing ways we have to keep in touch these days. Send her care packages. She will miss some comforts from home for sure. Oh yeah, and go visit! Don’t miss this opportunity :).

      Take care,
      Danya

  6. Are there equivalent resources for *civilians* PCS-ing overseas? I understand many things are the same (official passports, current driver’s license, moving details) but some won’t apply (like a EMFP or levy briefing).

    1. Wow Kristin,

      Great question! I will ask my team if they have any guidance.

      Good luck and enjoy your overseas tour!
      Danya

  7. Kristin,
    I am assuming you are Department of Defense. I know when we were overseas the same resources were available and sponsors were assigned to civilian employees. I would ask if you can attend a levy briefing. Your Civilian Personnel Office can assist and should be able to answer your questions. If they can’t, go to your receiving Civilian Personnel office. Ask your receiving organization for a sponsor.

    If you have a special needs family member it is in your best interest to be proactive and be sure the services are available through the school system (www.dodea.edu) and medical system you will be using. You may also need to be sure appropriate housing will be available.

    Much will depend on your location. If you have some specific questions, email me at rose@militaryoneclick.com

  8. Hi there. We are PCSing to Germany this summer. In addition to the no fee passport, do you know if the kids need regular blue passports to travel while in Europe? Can they travel from county to country on their no fee passport?

    Thank you.

    1. Hey Tiffany,

      Great question. I don’t know the answer to it, but I will get an answer for you.

      Thanks,
      Danya

    2. Good morning Tiffany,

      Okay, our team pulled together and here is what they had to say:

      “Policy is that No-Fee Passports are not to be used for tourist purposes. There is a stamp in the back that reads ” to be used on official travel only.” This means travel to and from the US and the OCONUS duty station or anywhere ON ORDERS.
      It is highly recommended that each family member get a tourist passport and use that for vacation purposes.
      There have been incidents of people attempting to use their no-fee passports for unofficial travel and being denied by customs and immigration. That does not mean people don’t use them for vacation purposes and many have been successful, but it is not recommended and it would be a major bummer to be at the airport/ border and be turned away.

      That being said, because most of Europe is part of the EU, travel between countries is super easy and you don’t get all the cool stamps like before – Almost no definitive borders. And, in theory, yes, you and your kids can travel country to country on your No-Fee Passports but it goes against the purpose and policy of the No-Fee Passport. Tourist passports are super easy to obtain and the other benefit is that they don’t easily identify you as a member of the military while traveling abroad.”

      Here is the State Department Link on No-Fee Passports –

      http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/passports/no-fee.html

      Applying for and Traveling with a No-Fee Passport Book

      Official and Diplomatic passport books are no-fee passport books.
      No-fee passports are only issued in book form. There are no no-fee passport cards.
      You may use your no-fee passport book only when traveling overseas in discharge of your official duties.
      For personal travel, you must use a regular fee passport book or card.
      You may have both a valid regular passport book and a valid no-fee passport book at the same time.
      Dependents authorized to accompany you on official travel must have their own no-fee passport books.

      Generally, no-fee passport books are sent to, or picked up by the organization, government agency, or branch of service sponsoring the passport issuance, not the individual. The sponsor of your official travel should appear in the “Mailing Address” block of the application.

      If you are applying for a no-fee passport book at a passport Acceptance Facility, you will be charged the $25.00 execution fee; however, you are not required to pay the passport fee.

      “To travel in Europe they should have tourist passports as well. The official policy states that you should have these. When we were there, France was finding people who did not have a tourist Passport.”

      I hope this helps. Enjoy your overseas tour. I am jealous!

      Danya

    3. This helps a ton! Thanks so much. I thought that was the case, but it was surprisingly unclear. I appreciate it.

  9. My husband just received an email about PCS moving from Nebraska to England. I’m wondering how soon after this information I should do my overseas medical screening. If I do it now, will it still be relevant when we move in October? And what paperwork should I have for my name to get on his hardcopy orders?

    1. Hello Misty,

      May I first say that I am totally JEALOUS! So much fun to be had!! My husband has been in the Navy for 20 years and we haven’t made it overseas.

      I would say you should wait until written orders have been released, but I could be crazy. We all know that orders sometimes show up very last minute. What branch of service is your husband in? He should be able to go to his XO and get all the information he needs.

      I will ask our team. I am sure some of them can answer your questions.

      Good luck and have fun,
      Danya

    2. Danya-
      I am PCSing to be with my husband and would like to know what type of food you were allowed to bring over there. Also I have my dog that would be coming and am not sure how to find thibgs out like that. I am very lost and he is no help. Please will someone help me figure thibgs out!

    3. Hey Juliea,

      So, I know you will have to get a bunch of shots and a clean bill of health for your dog to travel with you. He will require a rabies vaccination form and a DD Form 2209, Veterinary Health Certificate. I would contact your local family support center and have them direct you to the relocation office. They will have all of the answers you are looking for.

      As far as food, you can take anything non-perishable.

      I hope this helps!
      Danya

    4. Hello again,

      One of our team members said, “Contact the installation medical EFMP and they should be able to help. They should go through a levy briefing ASAP which will answer a lot of questions. They can also contact their family center, relocation readiness should be able to assist.”

      Danya

    5. Hey Misty,

      This is from our team member that lives in Japan at the moment.

      “Start the process now, it will be relevant in October and sometimes it takes that long before it is completely processed and you don’t need hard orders to start. Personnel Support can help you but they will likely direct you to the base medical clinic for screening, I am assuming Offuit? Her sponsor can get a print out checklist of the required vaccinations and exams (usually for ladies it is a pap within the last year and if over 40 a mammogram), and dental screen. (-as a side note: take CDs of all mammograms with you to the overseas location, for comparison purposes)

      The medical screening will need to be completed before a family entry approval is issued.
      If they are married, and they are accompanied orders, her name should be on the orders by default.
      Once they can get hard orders, then you can get your No Fee Passport and move scheduled.”

      Good luck,
      Danya

  10. My wife and are 3 kids are planning our future after I compete shore duty and I was wondering if anyone knew the exact instruction about how many dependants can travel OCONUS with you. I was told a max of two but can’t locate the instruction to verify it.

    1. Hello Nicklas,

      All of your dependents can go with you. Why on earth would anyone tell you you had to leave one of your kids or your wife behind? If I have misunderstood your question, please clarify. Thanks.

      I hope this helps,
      Danya

    2. Hello Danya,
      I just wanted to let you know that it is actually a possibility. My husband is currently being assigned to an OCONUS duty station. The current orders are for three years, accompanied. We have four children, and we are in the process of completing overseas screenings. We also have to get a waiver to travel with so many dependents. I do not know the exact instruction that specifies the limit, but I do know that we have to get that waiver approved in order to go. If, for some reason, our screenings or that waiver are not approved, my husband will be required to go unaccompanied for two years while my children and I remain in the US. It may depend on the job that the service member is being assigned to fill and how desperately they need someone for that job even if the family can’t go. We are hoping and praying that all of the paperwork is approved quickly so that we won’t have to endure that separation.

    3. They can also choose to simply deny a member any orders overseas if they have too many dependent and if they can fill the position with another service member. This has happened to us in the past. It is cheaper for the government to send a single member or smaller family overseas than someone with 4 or 5 dependents.

    4. Hey Jessica,

      Thanks for the clarification. I always knew there were unaccompanied orders, but I didn’t realize that if the service member were being sent somewhere safe that they could actually deny the family due to “too many kids”. Just seems crazy, but it is all about the might dollar isn’t it? Keeping my fingers crossed for you guys!

      Have a great day,
      Danya

  11. This is very informative, My husband I s currently serving a year in Korea , but after our follow on orders is to england, so we won’t be PCSing till next may-june sometime. Can I start my Medical screening for myself, and my children, and start the process of My no fee passport, ad regular passports now? are should I wait till my husband comes back for his mid tour visit, in January to start the process of all that stuff. Also for the life of me, I can’t find much information In traveling with pets, and flate rates to travel with them.

    1. Hey Jennifer,

      The traveling with pets one is tough. I bet if you pose this question on one of the military spouse FB pages, you will get a ton of information. Does your husband actually have orders in hand for England? I feel like it is a bit early for you to be starting the overseas screening process. You can always call PSD and they should be able to direct you.

      Have a great day,
      Danya

  12. I was wondering if you still have that question list you mentioned. if you do would you be able to email me that or give me some good ideas? we are about to come in contact with our sponsor soon and I would like to pull as much information as I possibly can from them. your article is very helpful! thank you

    1. Hey Calvin,

      I just sent an email to the author. I will let you know something as soon as I hear back.

      Thanks,
      Danya

  13. Hi, I am a foreign military spouse and I am moving to UK where my husband is stationed. Do I need any vaccinations?

    1. Hello Dede,
      I would assume that you do. Please check with your PCM to get the answers you are looking for.
      Enjoy the UK!
      Danya

  14. I’m a DoD civilian and I just received a job offer for a GS position at Yokota AB, Japan. I’ve been surfing the internet for a few weeks, and have found a lot of information for off-base housing on Okinawa (I had applied for jobs there, too) but not much for Yokota. Can anyone provide any web sites for housing agencies, that deal with military/DoD personnel, in the Yokota area? I served at several overseas locations when I was active duty AF, but I’m sure many things have changed from how they were back in the olden days. I’d also love to see a copy of the ’50 questions to ask your sponsor’. I’m looking forward to living in Japan, and would appreciate any feedback.
    Thanks!

    1. Hey Jim,

      Congrats on your job overseas! I am jealous. I am going to do some digging and see what I can find out. I will get back to you ASAP.

      Have a great day,
      Danya

    2. Hey Jim,

      Okay, a couple of our MOC friends had some ideas for you.

      Contact the housing office in regards to housing. He should contact CPAC to get a sponsor. When going overseas there is a lot more assistance for civilian employees that mirrors service member.

      Obviously, Air Force works differently than Navy but if Yokota works similarly to Yokosuka (where I am), he will need to attend the Area Orientation Brief upon arrival in Japan. This is where we get a general overview of Japanese customs, safety briefing and also get to test for driver’s license.
      There is also a housing brief, separately. The housing department will give information about the off-base Japanese real estate agents that work with the DOD and military community. In Yokosuka, because of the minimum occupancy requirements, GS employees who want to live off base will sign a waiver, all active duty must live on base if there is a unit that meets their eligibility.

      The best bet is to contact Yokota Housing department and see if they can refer you to sites in their area.

      http://www.housing.af.mil/yokota/

      I hope this helps!

      Have a great day,
      Danya

  15. Very helpful post! Moving overseas is so difficult, time consuming and stressful task. I pass through all this and I wish I had some support or at least I was searching online about some moving tips. There are many things I was unaware and unprepared. Good luck to everyone!

  16. Such a helpful post! Have a question as a DoD civilian–first PCS to Germany. I will be taking my four dogs with me. Is there anyway to be reimbursed for the transportation costs for them? Will miscellaneous costs help cover that? I’ve read two is the max the government will pay, but am wondering if I can cover the other two by claiming those costs in MEA. Also do you have any experience shipping pets unaccompanied on a rotator flight? Do they treat them well?? Thanks so much!

    1. Hello Katie,

      I am going to ask our team about your pups and see what they come up with. I’ll be in touch.

      Have a great day and might I say I am totally jealous that you get to go to Germany!

      Danya

    2. Hello again Katie,

      Our first team member has responded. Here are her thoughts. “Civilian employee rules are different. As far as I know thy do not cover transport of any pet. Refer her to the civilian personnel office and relocation readiness at her current and receiving installation.”

      I will write as I hear more.

      Have a good day,
      Danya

    3. It’s me again. Here is what another team member had to say:

      “The rules for civilians are different. Most of the limits are in place because military housing has a 2 pet limit and for evacuation purposes, they have limits but there are exceptions. I know someone active duty currently in Germany that brought 3 dogs but they were transported separately and the couple lives off base.

      Some of the costs can be deducted on your taxes as moving expenses.

      The rotator has limited spots for pets, this is another reason for the limits but if you can fly them off the traditional pcs season sometimes there are spaces but depending on the length of the flight and number of stops, finding someone on the flight to watch them is best.

      I know there are companies that specialize in shipping unaccompanied animals to military members, using one of those could work.”

      I hope we are helping!
      Danya

  17. Thank you, Danya! Yes you’re absolutely helping. Thanks for the tax write off for moving expenses idea as well. Will have to keep that in mind.

  18. We are awaiting our hard orders for a PCS to Sigonella in the fall. I have a blue passport, but it will be expiring before we leave to come home. Should I renew while stateside with ease or is there a reasonable access on-base to take care of the paperwork? Thanks!

    1. Hey Shannon,

      Here are some words of wisdom from one of our team members.

      “Yes! Renew stateside if at all possible! There is a big delay in passport processing and you will be able to better control the timing in the US.

      You will also be required to get a no fee passport but those are for travel on orders only – they look exactly the same but just have a stamped page in the back. All tourist travel should be done on your tourist passport.

      With overseas orders it’s always better to do all you can as early as possible.

      Have a great tour and enjoy the cannoli!”

      I hope this helps.
      Have a great day,
      Danya

  19. Hi everyone!

    My husband just found out online that we will be (or might be) PCSing to Okinawa, Japan in November. Although, he doesn’t have his orders yet. I’m just wondering, if ever it pushed through, what are the detailed steps that we have to go through? I know that there are a lot of screenings, etc… And if ever, what are the factors that we will be denied going OCONUS.

    Any input will help. Thanks in advance?

    1. Hey Iree,

      Crazy that your husband found out online where you will be going next. The good news is that you have lots of time to get “your house in order” before you PCS. Your husband will get lots of guidance from his front office and your assigned sponsor in Japan will be a wealth of knowledge. Every area in the world has different factors that can deny a family member to travel with their service member. I am not sure what the exact details are for Okinawa.

      Have a great day,
      Danya

  20. HI,

    There is the possibility that we might be going to Kadena. I’m wondering what the vaccination requirements are for dependents. The kids and I are not vaccinated, nor do we plan doing this. Can we PCS there without vaccines?

    1. Hello Evelyn,

      I am quite certain you will be asked to be vaccinated. Let me ask my team to find our for sure.

      Thanks,
      Danya

    2. Hello Evelyn,

      I was able to get some answers to your question.

      Yes, vaccinations are required for family members unless you can prove exemptions. If you are not vaccinated, they can deny your overseas screening. It is one of the items on the checklist.

      The current vaccinations required are – MMR, Varicella (chicken pox), Hep, Japanese Encephalitis, Tetnus, and a TB test.

      They will give a list at the overseas medical processing center and it is best to speak to them if you have questions regarding not being vaccinated or filing for exemptions. Recognize that living overseas is different than living stateside. Medical facilities on base in Japan are extremely limited. The screenings and requirements are set up to compensate for the lack of facilities.

      I hope this helps,
      Danya

  21. Hi Danya,

    My husband has received a GS job offer in Wiesbaden, Germany, we are excited to go but I have questions regarding the move of our family. We were active duty Army and never had the opportunity to PCS overseas with the whole family. I feel unsure since we are no longer AD Army how the process will go. My main concern is my 3 children (ages 11, 10, 7), what do I need other than current vaccinations and maybe a sports physical? I understand we need to utilize local German doctors and medical facilities and I want to travel with papers in hand to avoid delays in school/sports enrollment. Any additional information would be greatly appreciated. I also am trying to find out if my husband has a report date of May 1st if the rest of us can delay our departure from the states until the kids are out of school, is there a “window” of time they allow between the two? Again any info you can provide or leads in the right direction are greatly appreciated. Thank you, Brandy Riha

    1. Hey Brandy,

      Our great team has come up with some answers and tips for you.

      “It can be slightly different for civilians but I would think the family would still need an overseas screening, which is a bit different from the sports physicals. If you currently are receiving care – assigned a PCM – at a military facility, they will usually have an Overseas Screening Office within the hospital. They will have all the paperwork and can let you know all the vaccines, and other requirements for Germany. Usually overseas requires vaccines, TB test, dental screen, mammogram for females within the last year (if applicable) and a well woman exam within the last year. You can take this to your civilian doctor if that’s who you see for care, and they can fill it out.

      Definitely travel with either hard copies or digital discs of all medical records in hand. Especially dental records and mammograms. While the military facilities usually have these on digital connection, I have been advised by a radiologist to always hand carry for comparison purposes. And it sounds like you will be using local providers, so it is even more important.

      I will say this, before we moved overseasI went ahead and paid out of pocket for dental cleanings ahead of schedule. We were due for cleanings about a month after we would arrive. I wanted to buy myself some time to get settled before having to find a dentist or arrange for an appointment.

      I would give the same suggestion for any prescription medications. Get as many as the provider will give you prior to departure. It will take time to get settled and I have seen people arrive overseas with a weeks worth of prescriptions thinking they will walk in and get an appointment to get the refill. It doesn’t always (hardly ever) go that smoothly. Save yourself the angst.

      Many people do delay departure of the family because of school. I would check if this affects housing or other benefits, this should be laid out in the spouse’s job offer. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) or the Agency that did the hiring would be the best to check how to delay. Usually it won’t and is such a common practice, it should be a matter of notifying the travel office or whomever is buying the tickets, but again, check with the HR division of the Agency that did the hiring.

      Get your No-fee passports, if authorized and regular Tourist passports for all family members. The plan explanation is No Fee is for travel on Orders Only. Tourist is for everything else. The official difference can be found here: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/no-fee.html

      “They need to contact their receiving civilian personnel office. When OCONUS, they family pretty much PCSs the same. They even get the levy briefing, which the spouse should try to attend. I think there may even be an EFMP screening (because there were families going OCONUS with special need who had to be shipped back because of lack of services) but am not sure on this. I know it was an issue where we were and they started mandating this but that was years ago.”

      I hope this helps Brandy.

      Happy PCSing,
      Danya

      They should receive a sponsor and if they have not let the CPAC know they have not yet heard from the sponsor.

  22. Hi my husband and I just got married in January. He PCS’ed to Germany in March without me on his orders because I do not graduate from college till May. I just sent in my overseas screening forms. I have not heard of a no fee government passport so I haven’t done that yet. I’m just wondering about how long it will take for me to finally join him in Germany? We are hopeful that I will be there by mid July but the process seems to be taking longer than expected. It’s just me so no kids to worry about and he is currently living in the barracks.

    1. Hello Jill,
      I really can’t answer that question for you, but your husband should have all the answers for you. I am not sure how things will work since you are not on his orders. However, personnel support, your sponsor, his command, etc. should be able to help.
      Good luck and have fun in Germany!
      Danya

  23. Hi!

    My husband in currently in Yokosuka, Japan. He just got there in March 2016. They leave for deployment in a few weeks and will be gone the rest of the year. I chose not to go with him right away because well I didn’t really want to be in a foreign country all alone for a whole year. I will be joining him in January 2017. I am curious if anyone has any expierence with planning to join their spouses later on? My biggest concern right now is we are not sure if the Navy will pay for me to be with him, his admin is saying they won’t? We were originially stationed in Virginia, and when he left for Japan I moved home to Colorado, and they didn’t help pay for me to move home since it wasn’t his duty station. I am just curious if I should fight this, or if that seems pretty normal.

    Thanks in advance!

    Also if anyone has been to Yokosuka, where was your favorite place??! 🙂

    1. Hey Alisha,

      Boy did I find some info for you…

      Hi-
      Lots of people join their spouses at a later time.

      Each situation can be a little different based on length of tour, rate, command but generally speaking, if your spouse is on accompanied orders – meaning you are listed on his orders as a dependent and authorized to move with him, he should be allotted a move courtesy of the Navy and you should be able to move at the Navy’s expense.

      For personal property -If he used the move to get his belongings to Japan, the government would not be obligated to also move your belongings. Since you said that the Navy didn’t pay for your move to Colorado, the move should be available, unless he used it. But you may run into issues with the move being not from his original duty station, but there are ways to change that, he would just need to work it through his admin.

      If you are listed on his orders, they should have allotted for the cost of moving you in the lines of accounting for the move. You will need to be Command sponsored for them to pay for your flight. Again, if you are on the orders, you are more than likely command sponsored and will need to complete your overseas screening. Once you can determine command sponsorship and get the overseas screening done, you will get your Dependent Entry Approval and can get your no-fee passport and flight. Even if you are not command sponsored at this time,your spouse can file paperwork to get you command sponsorship and there are ways to come here without command sponsorship, just with SOFA status. The only issue that you might run into is housing (Yokosuka currently requires everyone under a certain rank to live on base, especially if unaccompanied). The other thing to be aware of is if he is currently under unaccompanied orders and he becomes accompanied, it can under certain circumstances change the length of his orders.

      Talk to Admin again, review his orders and you should have a better idea of where you stand. If you are not sponsored, start your paperwork to get sponsored and it should be ready easily by January!

      Japan is awesome, I hope you love it! There are always festivals and things to do. Get out and off base and explore. Tokyo is amazing. Yokosuka bases are very FB oriented and most of the information for base is distributed through FB – Join some of the FB groups for local exploring – Let’s Explore Japan is a great one. Yokosuka Deadbeat Spouses is another FB group that has lots of information without drama and there is Yokosuka PCS guide a FB page dedicated to answering all kinds of questions. https://www.facebook.com/groups/yokosukapcs/

      I hope this helps.

      Have a blast in Japan,
      Danya

  24. Hi there. I’m PCS in Japan as a civilian with a +1 (spouse). Do you know if we’re afforded the ability to suspend our cellular service for 3 years like active duty members or are we out of luck in terms of having our bill frozen?

    1. Hello Kevin,

      I do not have the answer to your question. I am sorry. I would give your cell phone provider a call and go from there.

      Have a great tour in Japan!
      Danya

  25. my fiancé and I area getting married in October and PCS’ing to Italy in may next year. I am a HUGE planner and want to make sure I get everything finalized before we leave. however, I’m not entirely sure what all needs to be done and its hard to do anything due to the fact he is in Korea right now. we also have a small dog that will be traveling with us. any information would be extremely helpful to me as I try to get everything done.

    1. Hello Lexis,

      Congratulations on your marriage and how exciting that it will kick off in Italy! You can’t really do much until his orders are written. You can start planning all of the amazing trips you will be taking :). You will need to get screened through medical, get a passport, have your dog medically screened and vaccinated, plan transportation, etc. Your husband will have a sponsor over there that will be your lifeline. He/she will have been through the move already and should have most of the answers to your questions. Once his orders are written, things will start to come together.

      Have a great day,
      Danya

  26. Thank you for posting for the virgins of OCONUS! A few questions I’m not finding awnsers to.
    My husband and I have received orders for kaiserslautern germany. (Army branch ) We are excited and beautifully stressed 🙂 so here’s our plan:
    We live currently on post in Virginia. My husband will TDY to Georgia for four months for school.
    But I have a terminally ill father so the two kids and I will be taking a “long vacation” back home to Minnesota. I will be there for six months. So we are packing up now and moving out of our on base housing. Hubby will help me drive out and stay there for a month before he leaves for Georgia. Then he will go back to Virginia after his TDY to finish paperwork and such. So here are my questions:
    1♡ you meationed the government pays for a storage to store washer and dryer ect. Would that storage be in the states or is that storage in the country we are assigned to? Can you expand on that?
    2♡ if our duty station is in Virginia but I’m on a “long vaction” in Minnesota with belongings like toddler beds and ect. Will the Army move us from Minnesota? I can move everything there so it’s all in one place. (The reason I say “long vacation” is I don’t want to change our address because my husband has to go back after his TDY and I won’t be in a permanent location. I’ll be bouncing around.
    3♡ if I left things in storage in Virginia and had the essential things in Minnesota. Would the Army do a double location pick up? Or is it best to keep all things together?
    4♡ maybe I’m a nut, but I’m having difficulty imagining no closets and strange kitchens. I know we can do armoyrs for our clothes. But this whole kitchen thing is causing a bit of freak out in my heart. Any advice on ways to make these kitchens more enjoyable? We are planning on living on post.
    5♡ I have heard horrible stories about shipping a car/van over seas. Any advice to make it better? I feel like plastic wrapping it up like crazy person.
    6♡ any Germany experienced people reading this have any shoulda, woulda, couldas? I would love to hear it. Even the smallest details would be loved.

    Thanks for your time and blog. I know everything will be great! I wanted a new experience and I’m getting it!

    1. Hello Bethany,

      Congrats on your overseas orders! I am jealous. You are going to have so much fun!!

      I will do my best to answer your questions and then I am going to pass your email on to my friend who was stationed in Stuttgart.

      1. That storage would be stateside.
      2. The Army will only move you from your husband’s last duty station, which I believe is VA.
      3. The Army will not do a double location pick up. Keep your things together in VA.
      4. My girlfriend lived on base in Stuttgart and had plenty of storage space in their apartment and kitchen.
      5. I say leave your car behind and buy a cheap car when you get over there. A lot of times you can buy one from another military family that is on their way back to the states.

      Okay, that is the best I can do. I will see what my girlfriend has to say.

      Good luck and have fun!
      Danya

  27. Hello,
    My husband is in Japan and we are having some issues with the package. Everything is done on his end, but I need to get some screening done, DEERS, and register for Tricare. (we just got married obviously). I have been calling Camp Pendleton but cant get through to anyone. Any help you could give me on what to do would be so appreciated!!!!

    1. Hello Tiffany,
      Your husband should have a sponsor in Japan that can help on that end. Walk right into the Tricare office on base or call if they have closed their doors and same with DEERS. Walk right in the office. That is the best way to make things happen. I speak from experience.

      I hope this helps. Enjoy your overseas move!
      Take care,
      Danya

  28. Hello everyone!

    We got sponsorship email about two weeks ago and this will be our first overseas Army PCS – we are going to Germany (out of Ft. Bragg)! I started looking into the medical screening process and keep reading that I will need a pap results that are not older than 6 months or something like that. Well….the issue is that I was my Mullerian Ducts never fully developed and I was born without uterus and cervix. That being said, I never had a pap done! I asked my PCM if she could just do a vaginal smear to check the box, but she didn’t see it necessary considering that I am missing those structures. TMI 🙂 All of that to ask – is there a waiver for someone in my situation (it is 1 in 4,500 births)? What is done with women that have had a hysterectomy, for example? I searched local military hospital EFMP site, but it doesn’t give any information on pap requirements.

    Thanks for your help.

    1. Holy Moly Sanja,

      Great question that I do not have an answer to :). Hopefully someone here will have gone through the screening process and have an idea of how to go about getting the pap waived.

      Congrats on your orders to Germany! You are going to have so much fun!!

      Take care,
      Danya

  29. Can anyone assist in explaining Navy leave entitlements for an OCONUS PCS? Is a specific amount of time given or is it taken out of accrued leave.

    1. Hello Delia,

      Yikes, I can not. The service member is always given leave during a time of PCS. I would imagine it is different with an overseas move. Please have him ask his command. They will be able to clear this up.

      Happy PCSing!
      Danya

  30. Hi just have a question about the Debt something we have a few credit cards that are late to pay is that going to affect or to cancel our Transfer we are just done with the overseas screening and we are just waiting to tell us that everything is Ok.

  31. DANA,
    Hello i just got verbal orders to japan and I assumed the role of going unaccompanied for 2 years, if my wife decided to go with me later, let’s say 6 months later or a year later, will we be able to do that. What would be our options on that matter.

    Jose

    1. If she decides to go later on you and your wife will have to apply for in-country command sponsorship. Once that gets approved she will arrive there and you will continue out your duty time but it should be extended but I do not know by how much exactly. Any time that you do before she arrives will still count towards time served overseas.

  32. I heard a rumor that unless my husband is E-4 I will not be able to move with him overseas. He currently is E-3.
    ~Shelby

  33. If you are US military, Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines PCSing to Japan stay far far away from softbank for your phone plan!! Whatever you do don’t use Softbank for your Japanese phone plan! So many of my friends in the military chose softbank and received unexpected orders to be stationed elsewhere and were forced to pay hundreds of dollars to this horrible company to get out of their contracts! Even though softbank is on base and shops are numerous, save yourself the headache, time and money and go off base to AU or another carrier. You will thank yourself, and your pocketbook will thank you!

  34. Does anyone know what constitutes a denial on command sponsorship? I have a mild anxiety disorder and was told I might be denied because of that. Can anyone help me?

  35. Hello, we are pcsing to Kauai (considered a overseas move). We already started the process for our medical screening but I am wondering how long before hard copy orders come in? My husband doesnt detach from his command in SD till Oct but school starts in Kauai Aug 7th, so the kids (17,16,13) will be leaving in July sometime so they can start on time. So I am hoping orders come in early.

  36. I am looking at the possibility of going to Okinawa. In reference to passports, my wife is a US permanent resident. Is her “green card” and her own country passport enough? We are looking into the citizenship option but anything dealing with immigration doesn’t happen overnight. I need to be prepared for either condition. I do know that USCIS does have steps for the non-citizenship route. I’m just concerned with the passport issue.

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