What To Know About Your First Overseas Permanent Change Of Station

If you've recently been given permanent change of station (PCS) orders to an overseas destination, you and your family may be excited and apprehensive at what the future will bring. But even if you have several stateside PCS moves under your belt, your first overseas PCS move may be quite different. Read on for some tips and tricks to help streamline and organize your move. 

Get Your Passports

The U.S. Department of Defense will require any non-military household members to acquire a passport before participating in an overseas move. These passports will need to be stamped with a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) stamp to signify that your family members are legally in this foreign country in conjunction with official U.S. military business.  

But this process need not cost you. You and your eligible household members should be able to obtain a "no fee" passport, which identifies the passport holder as a U.S. government agent. To start the application process, you'll need to file out DD Form 1056 for yourself and any household members planning to accompany you to your overseas PCS destination. 

If other family members are planning to come and stay with you for a short while, but don't intend to take up residency in your overseas location, they can obtain a civilian passport to travel freely. Some examples of family members who can utilize civilian passports in lieu of no fee ones include college student dependents who will be home only on breaks from school, visiting parents or other relatives, or friends who would like to use your home as a crash pad for their overseas vacation. 

Use a PCS Moving Company 

Each branch of the U.S. military has many resources designed to make the PCS process as simple as possible. These resources don't end when you're moving out of the continental U.S., and certain companies specialize in helping military members arrange and execute their overseas PCS moves. Enlisting the help of one of these military relocation services early in the process can reduce the stress of moving and give you peace of mind that all your Is are dotted and Ts crossed. 

Organize Your Move

Military-themed websites like military.com include a number of helpful checklists and planning documents. Even if you're using a PCS moving company, having these checklists handy can help keep you on track and allow you to avoid a last-minute crunch. Some tasks, like obtaining your passports, can take more time than expected, so getting the ball rolling early will ensure that you and your family are ready to head abroad on schedule.