There’s nothing more exciting – and terrifying – than PCSing overseas. “It’s the adventure of a lifetime!” you tell yourself. “Think of the cultural experiences!” you explain to your parents, who can’t help but drop passive aggressive comments about spending holidays alone (just me? No?). At the end of the day, moving overseas really is an incredible opportunity. But, with every adventure comes uncertainty.
Our Facebook group, Lost During My PCS, is 32,000+ members strong who help reunite lost household goods with their rightful owners and provide PCS support no matter where you’re heading. If there’s one thing we’ve learned moderating this group, it’s that folks tend to have a lot of questions. Whether you’re moving overseas for the first time or the tenth or finally making your way back to the good old U.S. of A., here are eight FAQs about PCSing overseas, answered. Spoiler alert: people love their wine and pets.
1. Can I ship wine?
As with all military answers, we have to say, “It depends.” The most popular location for collecting wine is (no surprise here!) Italy. The United States Army Garrison Italy has the best answer for this question:
Shipping alcohol is not an automatic entitlement. There are rules that need to be followed to successfully take your collection to the next duty station with you. Please do your research and prior coordination before your appointment with the Transportation Office. If you do not have all permits and paperwork filled out prior to your counseling appointment you will not be permitted to add the alcohol at a later date.
You must be in possession of the alcohol prior to the orders being issued. You are not authorized to purchase additional beverages prior to shipment if your orders have been issued.
Be aware that if all permits and requirements are met prior to your pickup, the individual moving company can still decide not to ship certain things. Things that may cause a liability issue or damages will be up to the carrier to decide.
You must get permission from the destination State where you are going to. They must approve your importation of alcohol into their State. This is done through the individual State Alcohol Beverage Control boards.
If any permits, fees, fines, or tariffs must be paid to the destination State, we must have PROOF of payment received. This comes in the form of the returned documents with the State’s approval on them. Personal Wine/Alcohol collections are NOT considered by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to be household goods or personal effects. They are NOT eligible for duty-free entry into the United States.
Prior to or after delivery you may be charged duties or fees related to the import process, tariffs, customs fees. The military will not pay nor reimburse you for these fees. Information on possible fees can be found on the CBP website.
2. Can my pets come with?
Once again, it depends where you are PCSing overseas. Different countries have different rules. If you’re heading to Korea, Guam or Japan, for instance, you can take your fluffy friends, but expect a quarantine. Other countries don’t require quarantine but definitely expect vaccination records and paperwork, and even an implanted microchip. Your best bet for finding out pet regulations is to ask the base you’re going to for the country’s laws. You’ll also want to make sure to ask about regulations and restrictions in base housing if you’re planning on living there. Here’s everything you need to know about PCSing with pets.
3. Can I take my cars?
Your orders dictate if you can take a car and stipulate any restrictions. Most of the time, there are fairly strict restrictions like weight limits and modification regulations. You’ll want to double check your paperwork ahead of time – there’s nothing like getting ready to ship your car and realizing that the tags are expired. PCSmyPOV is an excellent resource for moving your car.
4. What can’t I take?
Ah, the list of things you cannot take is just as long as your pre-deployment briefing. While it all depends on the vigilance of your movers (remind me to tell you about the time that our movers packed our trashcan full of Chinese takeout from the night before and shipped it to Guam…), there are some items that are generally a giant no: batteries, candles, cleaning supplies, hazardous materials, ammunition, live pets (drain that aquarium!), consumables, lotions and alcohol (see wine collection exception, above). Here’s a suggested list of what to bring and what to leave behind. Expect to replace many pantry items and cleaning supplies after your move, and include those costs in your moving budget.
5. I don’t want to take everything. Can I store some belongings in the States?
Yes! From move.mil: Non-temporary storage (NTS) is long-term storage of your belongings used generally instead of shipping your items to your new duty station. Expect the storage location to be located near the origin (pickup) location where items may remain for the duration of your tour. When you return and have established a new address, you can request retrieval and shipment of your stored belongings. There may be restrictions on CONUS NTS, so be sure to contact your local personal property office if you have any questions.
6. How long will it take to get our goods after PCSing overseas?
Again, it all depends where you are coming from and where you’re going. Most household goods are shipped on container ships that take weeks to cross the ocean. Some overseas moves can take upwards of three to four months. It all depends on the moving companies, the transport time and we swear, some sort of magic algorithm only known to the highest levels of government, akin to the nuclear football codes. Luckily, most overseas locations offer borrowed furniture and supplies you can use while you’re waiting, and never underestimate the power of your express shipment.
7. An express shipment? What should I pack in that?
The gift that is the express shipment is not to be taken lightly. You’ll want to take everything you can think of that you would use in the first week. For this, we recommend going through your daily routine for 48 hours and writing down everything you use. Instead of packing your entire master closet (guilty), be mindful of what you actually need. Trash cans. Shower curtains. Dishes. Silverware. Certain kitchen appliances. Pillows. Sheets. Towels. A few things to make your new home feel like “home.” You can also bring some electronics, baby items, and even a few toys for the kids. Pay attention to what you use so that you can adequately pack for your destination. Here’s a suggested express shipment packing list.
8. What’s your best advice for moving overseas?
Prepare. Make copies of all of your important documents, email them to yourself and take the originals with you. Do your research on PCSgrades to find the right moving company. Think of things that can’t be replaced and either leave them behind with family or be sure they make it into your carry on. Be mindful of your express shipment – it can make your first few weeks so much easier. Have enough of a cash reserve for emergencies – moving is always expensive, even when reimbursed. And last but not least, think of the adventure!