Finding a Job Overseas as a Military Spouse

Military spouses are accustomed to moving around a lot — and having to land a job at each new duty station. But moving overseas can be particularly challenging for spouses. Job opportunities are often limited, the overseas hiring system can be difficult to navigate, and it may be hard in some areas to find something in your field of work. So if you're planning an overseas Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move, it's important to research the job possibilities early on and keep your mind open about potential opportunities. The following information can help.

Understand the overseas job market. It helps to understand who's hiring at your overseas duty station. Many of the jobs available are on installation, but don't be afraid to explore other options. Get started by visiting the installation's website.

Non-Appropriated Funds (NAF) positions. NAF employees support the installation services through programs such as Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) and Marine Corps Community Services (MCCS). Again, keep in mind that you don't have to work on your spouse's installation. Find out more at:

Check your installation's Web site for up-to-date job listings for NAF and other positions.

Civil service or Appropriated Fund (AF) positions. Getting into the federal civil service system may be easier overseas than in the U.S., but the process takes time. Almost all federal jobs are posted on the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) site. Be sure to follow the announcement instructions carefully to apply. Service branch job listings sites include:

Installation exchanges. Most installations have an exchange, which can offer employment options. Visit their websites for contact information:

Defense contractors. Defense contractors provide a wide variety of services on overseas installations. Your installation's contracting office may have a list of contractors. Be sure to check with the installation's Family Employment Readiness Program for information, too.

Keep in mind that contractors often have many types of job opportunities. For example, a contractor who provides computer services may need software engineers, as well as accounting clerks. Some defense contractors pay salaries in U.S. dollars, which may be exempt from federal taxes. In other cases, the salaries are paid in host-nation currency, which can be subject to that country's taxes.

Commissaries. Overseas commissaries offer job opportunities similar to those in grocery stores, such as cashiers and stockers. Many commissary jobs are civil service positions, while some positions are contracted. Management positions are usually filled from within the organization. To learn more, visit the commissary on your installation or the Defense Commissary Agency site.

Off-installation employment. In some foreign countries, the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) allows military spouses to work in the local economy. Your installation's Family Employment Readiness Program can provide more information on employment in your host nation. If you choose to work in the local economy, you'll want to make sure you understand what local taxes or other fees you may have to pay.

Don't get discouraged. If you don't find many options before you move, try not to get discouraged. Once you get to your new duty station and meet new friends, you may find more opportunities. Overseas — just like in the states — many military spouses find jobs through networking.

Non-traditional opportunities

An overseas move can open doors to many new possibilities. Your move may offer you the chance to try something you've always wanted to do, such as:

A home business. Many military spouses operate businesses such as child care, catering, photography, tailoring, lawn care, or lessons (piano or foreign language, for example). But starting a home business requires a significant amount of time and effort. First be sure to consider the rules that regulate home businesses on your installation:

  • Licenses and permits. Depending on your business, you may need a business license or permit. Local laws, installation regulations, or the SOFA in your host nation may dictate the type of permit required. Check with the Family Service Center or Legal Assistance Office at your overseas installation for details.
  • Housing requirements. The installation housing office regulates home businesses in installation housing areas and, in many cases, installation commanders approve the operation of home businesses on the installation. Keep in mind that your home business cannot jeopardize security in the housing area or compete with existing installation services.
  • Taxes. As a business owner, you may be subject to federal taxes, self-employment taxes, or local taxes. In some cases, your overseas location can give you a tax advantage. For specific information, see your installation's Financial Counselor.

If you want to operate a business off installation, you must first verify that you are legally allowed to do this. Depending on your host nation, the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) may legally prevent you from doing so. You may also be subject to host-nation business regulations, licensing, and tax laws.

Virtual work. Computer-based businesses have become more common with faster Internet connections and better computer technologies. There are many virtual work opportunities available, including:

  • administrative services, data entry, and bookkeeping
  • computer programming, database maintenance, or Web site design
  • test grading
  • writing, editing, or proofreading
  • graphic design
  • translation services and medical transcription

If you're looking for virtual work through the Internet, watch out for work-at-home scams. Be suspicious of anyone who asks for money up front — you shouldn't have to pay for work. Check with your Family Employment Readiness Program office or Legal Assistance Office for information and host-nation requirements for business registration or taxes.

Volunteer work. Volunteering can be a great way to meet new friends, keep busy, and try something new while you look for a paying position. And the contacts you meet through volunteering may help you land that position. Your installation's Family Support Center can help you find volunteer work either on or off your installation.

The Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP). MSEP helps connect military spouses with employers worldwide who are interested in providing long-term, meaningful employment opportunities. Call 1-855-835-6763 or visit the MSEPJobs portal.


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