Post by International Military Life Community Manager, Courtney Woodruff
It didn’t seem real until I saw it in writing.
We were moving to Germany. In less than six weeks.
My husband had received word of his overseas assignment nearly two months before, but every seasoned military family knows, when it’s time to PCS, you “hurry up and wait.” And wait. And wait some more.
Then, suddenly, hard copies of orders come through, and it’s a race to get everything checked off the PCS to-do list in time. This go around, I felt the pressure mounting more than I ever had before. We’d been able to complete our medical screenings, we’d been put in touch with a sponsor, and we were now able to arrange our official dates of departure with transportation…
But what do we do next?
If you’re in the middle of preparing for an overseas move, you are likely feeling anxious and overwhelmed by all of the tasks that need to be completed before you leave. You’ve got this! Here’s a list of what I consider to be the top priorities to help get you started in planning your overseas PCS/move.
Apply for passports.
Each family member is required to have a government-issued passport with a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) stamp before they are able to leave the U.S. The entire process took about a month for our family, so I highly recommend making an appointment at your installation’s ID card office before you cross another item off your to-do list. Steps include completing the application packet, gathering required documentation, and having passport photos taken.
If you plan to visit destinations beyond the borders of your host nation, you also need a second passport (these are often called “blue passports”) for overseas travel. The cost of blue passports is not covered by the government, but the experiences they offer you make the price well worth the expense. It is important to note you need a second official copy of each family member’s birth certificate if you plan to order both sets of passports at the same time. If you aren’t able to complete the process for your travel passport before you leave, don’t worry. Visit the ID office at your OCONUS duty station when you arrive to submit applications on foreign soil.
Prepare your vehicle for shipment.
You are allowed to ship one privately owned vehicle overseas (POV) as long as it is authorized on your orders. We shipped my car about 30 days prior to our departure, and it arrived in Germany two weeks after we did. The sooner you drop your car off at the vehicle processing center (VPC), the sooner you will have your own transportation when you arrive at your overseas duty station, which is incredibly helpful. To complete the shipment process, make an appointment at the nearest VPC, fill out the required paperwork, and prepare your car for inspection; it will need to be detailed and emptied of personal items. If you have a lien on your vehicle, you will also need to contact your finance company for an authorization letter. For more information, visit PCSMyPOV.com.
Contact your auto insurance company.
In addition to preparing your vehicle for overseas shipment, it is important to let your auto insurance company know what’s going on. Find out what you need to do to make sure you have coverage throughout the transportation process and once it arrives at your OCONUS duty station. We called USAA as soon as we learned we were moving overseas, and we were able to set up our international auto policy during a short phone call.
Organize your household goods shipments.
Once you have your appointment with the VPC on the calendar, the next hot item on the agenda is to schedule packing and pick-up dates for your household goods (HHG). Check to see if you are authorized an additional unaccompanied baggage shipment. If so, you will need to make separate appointments and set aside the items you would like to send ahead of your HHG. Unaccompanied baggage is an express shipment that should arrive well before the rest of your goods. Based on our experience, I recommend bringing kitchenware, bedding, linens, clothing, plenty of toys for the kids, pet care items, tools, cleaning supplies and any professional equipment you may need. I also recommend contacting your renter’s and/or personal property insurance provider to make sure you are protected during your move. The military offers some personal property protection, but it eases my mind to know we will be covered in the event some of our items are lost or damaged during each PCS, especially when they are being transported over the ocean.
Notify your bank.
As your date of departure approaches, you have plenty to stress over without having to worry whether or not your debit and credit cards are working properly. To avoid the frustration that comes along with dealing with declined transactions and frozen checking accounts, let your bank know you are moving overseas. It is also important to provide the dates you will be traveling to your new duty station once them to make sure you have access to your funds from one destination to the next.
Which country are you moving to? What are you most excited about?
If you’ve already been through the OCONUS PCS process, what are best tips for other members?
Check out the USAA – International FAQ
About the Blogger:
Courtney Woodruff is a military spouse, mom, writer, editor and web content manager currently living in Germany. She has a heart for our troops and their families and hopes to share what little she has learned along the way to help others overcome the unique challenges of military life. You can follow her adventures at her blog, Courtney At Home, or through her social media: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest