By Stacey Faris, Military Spouse

Through a three-part series, Moving OCONUS: Before, During and After, PCSgrades helps you navigate the ins and outs of an OCONUS move from the minute your spouse walks in and yells “Kon’nichiwa!” or “Guten Tag!” to the time you land back stateside.

The Adventure Begins

We all know that no matter how hard you prepare, how many lists you have, or how many times you’ve done it before, MOVING IS STRESSFUL! This is true whether you move across town or across the world. However, when you add in language barriers, distance from loved ones, and an incredible amount of unknowns this stress can be amplified dramatically.

With this cheat sheet, hopefully, some of the stress can be alleviated as you navigate the OCONUS PCS!

Military Moving Sponsors

Meet your sponsor as soon as possible! What better way to find out the who, what, when, where and whys of the move than from someone who has been there? If there are surprises to be had, chances are they’ve probably experienced them or met someone else who has!

Take advantage of email, social media, FaceTime, Skype, etc. to forge a relationship with this family who will become your lifeline to all things new duty station.  Ask questions and then ask more questions.

Be honest about your needs and concerns and ask them to do the same. It is true that the only stupid question in this scenario is the one you don’t ask.

Passports and VISAs

You will need a ‘No Fee Passport’ to travel on your military orders, so this passport is a must. You may also need a VISA to travel to and from your new host country. Check with your sponsor or the relocation specialists at your new duty station.

Because your No-Fee passport is clearly marked “To be used on official travel only,” we highly suggest getting a standard Tourist Passport as well. To do any traveling while stationed overseas, this passport will be required.

My friends who love their OCONUS duty stations are the ones who get out and explore. Take advantage of all of the food, entertainment, and locales your country and its neighbors have to offer. Don’t forget, part of your job once you go OCONUS is to make those of us left in the U.S. jealous with all of your amazing travel pictures!

Family Relocation Clearance

The steps for receiving clearance can be time-consuming, so don’t delay on getting the ball rolling. Hard orders will not be given until each family member has been cleared.

And know that while this process will probably be tedious, it is in place for your family’s protection. The military needs to be sure that any medical and educational resources you or your children may need are readily available when you move.

Unaccompanied vs. Household Goods

Plan out your Unaccompanied and Household Goods (HHG) shipments carefully. Your unaccompanied items are those you think you will need shortly after you arrive at your new duty station (think sheets, towels, toys, extra clothes, military gear, etc.) with the goal being that these items arrive well before your HHG. You may have heard the rumor that things in a PCS don’t always happen as they should (insert maniacal laugh here!), but in a perfect world, this shipment does arrive quickly and long before your HHG.

On packing day, make sure to clearly mark, and preferably place into a separate room, all of your unaccompanied items. You don’t want to arrive only to realize that you never separated the items you need to get by when HHG can take well over a month to get to you.


Similar to the screening for family members, pets must be up to date on immunizations. Fido must be in good health and need to be young enough to successfully make the move. If re-homing is required, whether temporary or permanent, it can be a tough and emotional process. Give yourself enough time to prepare and find the right place for your four-legged family member. Dogs on Deployment can help with finding a temporary home for your fur-person.

Pet owners must also be aware of quarantine restrictions when going to a new host country. Quarantine can be costly. Be sure to know the requirements so you can set aside money early if needed.


Depending on where you are headed, your vehicle options may vary. Sometimes, you can have your POV shipped to your new duty station. Other times, you must buy a car when you arrive should you chose to have one. In all cases, the government will store your vehicle in the U.S. when you have overseas orders. Do your research so you can know what the best option will be financially and logistically for your family.

While we have attempted to be thorough with this pre-move list, there are, no doubt, many more things to consider when an OCONUS move is in play. Know this and be sure to take advantage of the resources the military offers through briefings and your sponsor family. 

Stacey Faris, a military spouse of 10+ years, isn’t sure what free time is anymore, but she revels in the chaos of her life. When not busy toting kids around, scrambling to meet writing deadlines, or trying to get fit at the gym, she can be found working as the Business Administrator for JCW | A Creative Agency and