What you need before you leave: Prepping for an OCONUS PCS


A permanent change of station move is stressful on its own, but when combining that move with leaving the country, it can seem pretty overwhelming. Not only do military Families need to ship all of their belongings, but also important paperwork needs to be processed and in hand to ensure a simpler transition. Here are a few tips of where to start:

Installation Family center

Different branches call this area by different names, but it’s basically a military center designed to help Families with an array of support. Those prepping for an overseas PCS should visit the nearest Family support center and find the relocation program, which should offer briefings specifically for those moving overseas. Sometimes these briefings are in a group and location-specific, others combine all overseas moves into one group. Either way, the briefing will provide you with all the necessary information for prepping and completing an OCONUS PCS.

Check the orders (if you have them)

All dependents should be listed on the orders with the correct spelling. This is important for you to receive no-fee passports for each member of your Family. The relocation briefing will offer more information about passports.

Research the installation

Using the Military One Source website is a great way to get information about installations around the world. Click here and search for your future installation (you can also use this resource for CONUS locations) or search for programs available at your next duty station. Military One Source will connect you with the installation’s official website and even the Directorate of Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation site. Most installation webpages have a link for newcomers, so be sure you look carefully for that information. It will be most useful to you until you move to the area and learn more. Nowadays, most installations also have Facebook pages. It never hurts to “like” those pages. It may not provide you with much information until you move, but once you arrive, you’ll get plenty of information about Family activities and other installation events.

Obtaining passports

Your Family must complete Family Entry Approval forms, which show that your Family has passed any required overseas screenings. These are needed before you can obtain a no-fee passport. You can apply for passports at your nearest installation. If needed, the passport process can be expedited. It is recommended that all Family members also get tourist passports since it can sometimes be difficult to get them once you’re overseas. Americans traveling for recreational purposes are supposed to use tourist passports, not the no-fee passports.

Make copies of anything and everything you deem important

Purchase a large three-ring binder and start making or obtaining copies of orders (multiple copies are good since they often need to be turned in with some paperwork), Family Entry Approval forms, birth certificates, social security cards, school records, etc. If you think it’s important, make a copy and add it to the binder. Always keep this close to you or locked. And definitely don’t lose it.

Hand carry all health records

Grab copies of your health records, x-rays, prescriptions, etc. You don’t want to rely on everything being passed on electronically. If you or anyone in your Family is currently taking prescription medications, ensure you get a 30-60 day supply to last before, during and after your move. It can take some time to get set up in overseas military treatment facilities. You don’t want to run out of medications amidst the craze of moving. Ever.

Find out about a sponsor Family

These Families pass on good information, get incoming Families set up with reservations at the temporary lodging areas and help answer any and all questions the new Families may have. Most OCONUS installations have Facebook pages specifically for spouses, which is another easy way to gain information and answers to questions.

Help with schools

The Department of Defense often has a point of contact that helps to ease the school enrollment process. You should be able to find a link to school information from your OCONUS installation’s website. You can also click here and fill in the fields under “Looking for specific program or service” (DoD schools is a listed option). Type in or select your branch from the list and all DoD schools, contact information and webpages should appear.

For more information on OCONUS moves, check out MOC guest blogger Michelle Volkman’s blog here.

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Sarah Peachey is a 20-something journalist from Pennsylvania, finally back in the Mid-Atlantic after voyages to the Deep South and Sarah PeacheySouthwest. She lives with her husband, infant daughter and two furbabies, with another human on the way. She began a career in journalism with The Fort Polk Guardian, an installation newspaper, winning three state awards for her work, and now freelances for military spouse support sites. She is an active blogger on MilitaryOneClick and her blog, “Stetsons, Spurs and Stilettos.” She enjoys spending her days on the shooting range or at home with a good book. She considers herself a bookworm, pianist, wine enthusiast and artist.