What you need to know about direct sales and being stationed overseas

By Julie Provost

Moving overseas is an adventure. You will learn about living in a different culture, see places you would never have otherwise, and gain experiences you will remember for a lifetime. But moving overseas can mean some significant changes if you have a direct sales business.

It depends on location

Overseas locations have regulations for those who live there. This is called the “Status of Forces Agreement” or SOFA. SOFA allows the US to operate in foreign countries and for troops to live there for a longer period.  Because of the SOFA agreement, there are rules and regulations for having a direct sales business at your overseas location.

This agreement is based on the host country so the rules in Germany could be a little different than the rules in Japan. The number one thing to know is that you must learn the laws for where you are stationed and abide by them.

Don’t get discouraged

When you read about the rules and regulations of selling direct sales overseas, you might get discouraged. They can be overwhelming, but they don’t mean that you have to give up your business. You will just have to adjust and change the way you have done things.

You can talk with others in your direct sales company who have made their business work overseas. Do keep in mind that not everyone follows the rules. . . and some could be doing things that are not allowed. If you break the rules, you could lose access to your APO/FPO address or could even be sent back to the US after having your command sponsorship taken away.

Register as a home-based business

You will have to register your home-based business. Once you have done that and are approved, you can begin to sell. Registering might look a little differently based on where you are stationed, so make sure you fill out all the correct paperwork. Most likely you will need to write a letter to ask for permission and submit a form, as well as documents about your business.

If you do not sell on a regular basis and use direct sales as a hobby, you don’t have to worry about registering as a home-based business but make sure you are indeed considered as a hobby, so you do not get in trouble down the line.

Check with your direct sales company

In addition to the rules and regulations, you own direct sales company could have rules about what you can sell and who you can sell to while you are stationed overseas. Remember, even if your company is okay with you selling in a certain way, if the military is not, you must abide by what the military says.

Bottom line: Connect with your local duty station to find out what is legal and what isn’t if you want to run a direct sales business overseas. Make sure to abide by the rules and regulations and fill out any necessary paperwork that you need to operate your business.

Julie Provost is an associate editor at Military One Click and a National Guard spouse. She can be reached at