Military Family

Tips and Tricks: An OCONUS PCS Guide

Tips and Tricks: An OCONUS PCS Guide

contributed by Melissa Lucas, senior staff writer

A permanent change of station outside of the continental U.S. (OCONUS PCS) is no joke. As soon as you get word that you or your spouse will be restationed overseas, your mind will likely be flooded with questions, ideas, and concerns. This is why, in addition to our PCS moving considerations, we’ve scoured military websites, podcasts, and some of the best military spouse blogs to create a list of tips specific to an overseas PCS.

Setting OCONUS PCS Plans into Motion

Here’s what to expect from the first hint at an overseas PCS move.

Assignment Notification

The process of moving overseas for military purposes will begin with an unofficial assignment notification via email, phone call, or from a supervisor. This is the first clue that you’ll need to start thinking about relocating. Now is the time to start wrapping your brain around what’s to come, but don’t make any commitments quite yet.

Family Member Relocation Clearance

As soon as you receive unofficial orders, start the Family Member Relocation Clearance (FMRC) process. The purpose of this process is to confirm that the new duty station is able to support your dependents’ medical and educational needs. Family clearance will take some time, and hard orders won’t be issued until each dependent has been cleared. As such, we recommend making doctor and dentist appointments for all dependents as soon as possible.


Once your official orders come in, you can start planning. Before you hit the ground running, triple check the written details in your orders. Review spelling of names, social security numbers, and dates of birth as well as your new duty station and reporting date. Bonus Tip: make several copies of your orders. You never know when you might need them.

Travel Documents

If your dependents don’t yet have passports (or if they are set to expire while you’re overseas), now’s the time to get that taken care of. Each family member will need a no-fee passport for travel on official orders, as well as a regular tourist passport.

Also, look into Visa requirements for your new home country. Depending on where you’ll be living, there may be a few extra hoops to jump through. You’ll want to figure out those requirements now, so you’re not taken by surprise right before heading out.

The Move

Here are some of our favorite tips and tricks as you plan for an OCONUS PCS.

Start Downsizing Early

You never realize how much you actually own until you have to pack it all up. Start downsizing as soon as you get word of a PCS OCONUS and overseas relocation.

Moving Binder

Structure is the name of the game in the military. PCS moves, like most everything else about military life, are made much easier with a little bit of structure and organization. So, as soon as you get word of your OCONUS PCS, grab a binder to store notes as well as all important documents involved in your moving process. Add copies of your ID, official orders, marriage records, and birth certificates. This way, you’ll have anything you need at your fingertips, at all times.

Packing List

As a part of your OCONUS PCS, the military will cover the cost of much of your move, but you’ve still got to do leg work on the front end. To get started, break your packing list into three categories: carry-on, unaccompanied baggage, and household goods. As you think of items that belong in each category, jot them down in your binder. This will save time and keep stress at a minimum when packing actually begins.

Carry-on Items. Include all important documents and your moving binder. Add medications, toiletries, snacks, change of clothes, etc.

Unaccompanied Baggage. Include items you’ll need upon arrival such as additional seasonal clothing, bedding, and cooking tools.

Household Goods. These items won’t arrive for a while, so be sure you’re okay living without them for a few weeks. This list will probably include things like furniture, board games, décor, and books.

Document your Belongings

Your moving company will inventory anything they pack or move, but it’s a great idea to make your own inventory, too. Be sure to include the model, serial number, and purchase price of high value items. Bonus Tip: Take videos of your electronics functioning properly, just in case anything is damaged during transport.

What Else Will You Bring?


If you’re bringing pets as you PCS overseas, make a vet appointment as soon as you receive your soft orders. Familiarize yourself with the pet policy at your new installation. There will definitely be vaccination requirements. Some countries require blood tests and quarantine as well.


The Vehicle Processing Center closest to your new duty station can help you prepare to bring your car along with you. Visit to get started. Bonus Tip: have your car professionally cleaned just prior to shipping. It can be a little pricy, but the regulations for shipping a vehicle overseas include ensuring no foreign material comes along with it. Even tracking soil into another country is a no-no, so a professional clean can really save you hassle and headache.

Additional Tips to Simplify Your OCONUS PCS Move

Double Check Your Driver’s License

Make sure that all adults have a valid state-issued ID that isn’t expiring in the near future. You’ll be able to renew from overseas, but it takes time. It’s easier to take care of this before you leave.

Obtain Power of Attorney

If you and your spouse do not currently have Power of Attorney for each other, definitely consider it now. It will come in handy even if for no other reason than to sign paperwork for each other, which can be a big help when relocating overseas.

The Reality of a OCONUS PCS Move

Moving is never going to be relaxing. In fact, moving to another country will almost always be somewhat stressful. But using some of these tips and keeping an open mind will go a long way to making a PCS overseas as painless as possible. Remember that once you’re settled, the benefits of living in another country and experiencing a new culture will be well worth the effort!

What tips have you found helpful during an OCONUS PCS move?

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