Voting Becomes Easier for the Mobile Military Life

Vote button over the American Flag.

As a guardian of our nation, you protect the American way of life. The Federal Voting Assistance Program is here to ensure you and your family are able to exercise your right to vote.

About three-quarters of the 1.3 million active-duty service members are eligible to vote absentee because they’re stationed outside of their voting jurisdictions. Thanks to 2009 amendments to the federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (1986), it’s easier for relocated and overseas service members and spouses to register and submit absentee ballots.

Military Absentee Voting Made Simple

No matter where you are, the Federal Post Card Application lets you make sure your vote is counted in a few simple steps.

Today, states are required to send ballots to service members and eligible family members at least 45 days before federal elections and to provide electronic options for voters to receive those ballots. The change boosted the rate of successfully counted absentee ballots sent from service members, from 30% in 2006 to 53% in 2018.

FVAP helps you vote. Wherever you are.

FVAP provides assistance for service members and eligible family members to register to vote, request an absentee ballot and check the status of a ballot for federal offices no matter where they’re located.

Now it’s easier than ever to:

  • Register to vote – whether it’s your first time, you have relocated, or you have separated from the military
  • Request your absentee ballot
  • Vote and submit your absentee ballot

Most states require you to register to vote or request an absentee ballot to start the process. The expanded use of electronic options for sending and receiving federal election materials has made it much easier to vote by absentee ballot. That’s important as two-thirds of military voters are absentee voters.

It’s best to start the absentee voting process early. Here are easy ways to demonstrate your readiness and ensure your vote is cast and counted:

Many states allow you to submit your FPCA electronically, and all states allow for at least one form of electronic transmission to send you a blank ballot. Many states accept the ballot by email or fax, while some states only accept the ballot by mail. Mail delivery times vary based on where you live. If your state requires you to mail your ballot, then you can make sure your vote is counted by mailing your ballot early to allow for extra time.

Since voting materials that are mailed can’t be forwarded, it’s important for you to provide your election office with your new address after every move. Consider sending in a new FPCA every year. Also, federal elections can come up suddenly even during nonelection years. Submitting the FPCA each year helps ensure that you will receive a ballot for all federal elections for which you are eligible.

Voting when transitioning out of the military

If you are transitioning to civilian life, you should notify your election office of your change in voter registration status and update your information, so that you can vote locally in the next election. Depending on whether you are staying in the same voting district after military separation, or if you are moving to a new state or county, there are just one or two easy steps to take, available here: https://www.fvap.gov/military-voter/transition.

More information

When you want to vote – whether you’re entering the military, casting a ballot for the first time, relocating, or transitioning or retiring from the military – and have questions about casting your ballot – your Installation Voter Assistance Office or FVAP have the answers. Go to FVAP.gov or call 1-800-438-VOTE (8683).

Federal Voting Assistance Program resources

Coronavirus disease 2019: Voters can find helpful resources on FVAP.gov, including COVID-19 information and two visual maps that depict how states accept the FPCA or ballot.

Envelopes: Voters can also download postage-paid envelope templates that will allow them to mail back their voting materials free of charge from any military post at a military installation or via diplomatic pouch at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas.

Languages: Voters who prefer to read absentee voting information in Arabic, French or Spanish can find translations of instructions for filling out the FPCA and FWAB.

Installation Voting Assistance Office: Active-duty military and military spouses can find and get help from their IVAO.

Subscribe: Voters can also subscribe to receive voting emails.

Calendars: Voters also have access to voting alerts and calendar reminders for their state.

Ambassadors: Voters living in Rome, Tokyo and London can reach out to FVAP voting ambassadors who coordinate in-person and virtual events, including:

Social media: Voters can also follow FVAP on social media to tune in to Facebook Live events, absentee voting best practices and more.

Plan My Move: Great PCS Moving Checklists & More

Woman packs moving box

If you’ve received new orders, it’s time to fire up a powerful tool that can help you take charge and master your move. Plan My Move is a Department of Defense online tool that simplifies the moving process, breaking it down into clear, manageable steps for both experienced and first-time movers, as well as family members and loved ones.

Plan My Move helps you create personalized moving checklists, and offers tips about housing, transportation, finances and more. This online tool puts you and your family in charge of a smooth relocation to your new duty station.

Personalized moving task lists and tips

Plan My Move is easy to use. Simply answer a few questions and the tool creates lists tailored to your unique needs. As you provide more details about your upcoming move, your checklists will become more detailed as well. New features enable you to:

  • Choose whether to view your tasks by topic, or in a chronological timeline
  • Edit checklist items
  • Add checklist items
  • Rearrange the order of checklist items with drag and drop
  • Revisit and continue previously saved checklists(s)
  • Save your checklist in a variety of formats

Need more info about your new duty station?

The MilitaryINSTALLATIONS website is your one-stop shop for information on DOD installations worldwide, for all service branches. Check out how easy it is to find resources and contacts for your current installation, or for the one where you’re being reassigned. You can:

  • Search a directory of installations and services, complete with websites, maps, program offices, phone numbers and email addresses.
  • Create your own downloadable personalized installation booklet with the information you are most interested in, such as check-in procedures, housing, child and youth programs, transportation and more.
  • Eligible users can log in to get local community information about schools, amenities and home values.

Want to talk to a live person?

Military OneSource can help answer questions about allowances and benefits, COVID-19 travel restrictions, housing, schools, spouse employment and more. Consultants are available 24/7/365. Call 800-342-9647, use OCONUS dialing options, or start a live chat.

In addition to Military OneSource, your installation Relocation Assistance Program can also help you plan for a successful move. Learn how to put the military Relocation Assistance Program to work for you.

Tap into all the available relocation resources and master your next move.

Supporting Your Service Member and Their Family Before a Military Move

child playing in moving box

Service members move every few years in what is called a permanent change of station or in short a PCS. After PCSing a few times, military families tend to become pros at moving. But even those who have relocated many times can feel overwhelmed when those official military PCS orders arrive.

Your support can go a long way in easing the stress of a military move. Even if you live too far away to watch the kids or pitch in with the packing, there are ways you can make it easier for your loved ones to prepare for a PCS.

Everything you need to know about PCS

Military moves are different than moving as a civilian. Learn the ins and outs of a PCS so you will understand your service member’s experience.

Your service member has two options for a PCS move, but can do a mix of both:

  • A household goods move, in which the government provides a moving company to pack and transport all household goods.
  • A personally procured move, in which service members hire their own moving company or pack up and transport all household goods themselves. The government will pay your service member 95% of their cost to hire a moving company. A PPM move is allowed only within the continental United States.

Your service member will receive a PCS notification before orders arrive, but will not be able to schedule the move until orders are in hand. Military families may feel in limbo during the time in between because plans are always subject to change. So, while your service member and their family may look at schools and homes in the new location, they shouldn’t make any commitments until orders arrive.

There are other differences between military and civilian moves, including:

  • There is a weight limit on household and other goods that may be moved to the new location at government cost. The weight limit increases with rank and number of dependents. For example, a single service member at the rank of E-1 may transport up to 5,000 pounds of household goods. They are allowed another 2,000 pounds for their work-related equipment and vehicle. At the high end of the scale, an officer at the rank of O-7 with dependents can ship up to 18,000 pounds of household goods plus 2,000 pounds of work-related equipment and a personal vehicle.
  • The cost to transport a pet is not covered. However, your service member may be reimbursed for some or all of the cost of quarantine in countries where that is mandatory.

Helping your service member prepare for a PCS

Ask your service member and their family how you can help them. If they don’t have specific suggestions, here are some ways you can ease their pressure and lift their spirits as they prepare to PCS.

  • Be a sympathetic ear to your loved one. When frustrations or fears build up, having someone to vent to can be a big relief. Talking through problems can also lead to solutions.
  • Become familiar with the new duty station so you will have some knowledge of the area before your service member arrives. You can find information on MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.
  • Encourage your loved ones to stay positive and to connect with their installation Relocation Assistance Program, where they can receive an array of services to assist with their move.
  • Put together a playlist of songs or podcasts if your loved ones will be traveling a long distance to the new duty station.
  • Create a photo album of your service member’s time at their duty station. Fill it with pictures of friends, important places and memorable experiences.

If you live close by:

  • Provide a few meals along with disposable dinnerware and containers. You might also organize a meal train where friends and neighbors take turns bringing meals. Not having to worry about making dinner can be a huge relief in the midst of packing – particularly when cookware is already boxed up.
  • Lend an inflatable mattress and linens to your service member and their family if they will be staying behind a night or two after the movers pick up their furniture.
  • Pitch in to help clean the home after it’s emptied out for the move.
  • Watch your service member’s children or pets on moving day.

If you live far away:

  • Arrange for meal delivery from a local restaurant or takeout place on a night when you know your service member will be busy packing.
  • Give a gift of a cleaning service to deep clean the home after everything is moved out.
  • Send a gift box of activities for the trip.

Resources for a smooth move

There are a variety of resources to help make military moves as easy and safe as possible. Pass these along to your loved ones if they’re not aware of them.

  • Move.mil is the Department of Defense customer moving portal. Your service member can register as soon as the PCS orders arrive.
  • Plan My Move is an online tool that helps military families create personalized moving checklists, offers tips about housing, transportation, finances and more.
  • MilitaryINSTALLATIONS is where you can find information about each military installation, the surrounding community and more. Your service member can also create a customized installation booklet with key resources and installation information.
  • HOMES.mil lists housing near military installations.

No matter how you support your loved one, the important thing is that they know you are there for them. Text messages, letters or emails from you will remind them that they’re not alone, no matter where they are.

PCS: The Basics About Permanent Change of Station

Moving truck in front of house

A permanent change of station is part of military life. Experiencing different parts of the country and the world is a unique benefit of military service. In fact, travel and visiting new cultures may have been among the reasons you joined the military.

More than 400,000 service members PCS annually, so you can expect PCS orders to be part of your military career.

Received PCS orders?

Military OneSource moving experts can help you with moving tips, information about your new duty station and everything you need to master your PCS.

Overseas? OCONUS dialing options.

What your PCS orders include

Unlike temporary travel assignments, permanent change of station orders are a longer-term assignment, generally two to four years. Broadly speaking, your orders will tell you where you’ll be moving to – either CONUS or OCONUS.

  • CONUS: Moves inside the continental United States
  • OCONUS: Moves outside the continental U.S. These are typically overseas moves, but OCONUS moves also include Alaska, Hawaii and U.S. territories.

Your orders will also include:

  • Issue date
  • Issuer’s name
  • Order number
  • Authorized locations

If you are going to coordinate your move through the military, you will need to have this information handy.

Organizing your move

Moving is rarely simple, and in times of global uncertainty it is more important than ever to know the best ways to organize the logistics of your move and act fast once you get your orders. The Department of Defense provides a variety of resources to help make your PCS as easy and safe as possible:

  • Military OneSource is available 24/7 anywhere in the world with expert moving consultants and online tools and resources to help you get organized and settled. Call anytime to speak with a consultant, or set up an online chat. Learn more about how our experts can help you master your move with this information about moving in the military.
  • Move.mil is the official Department of Defense customer moving portal. It provides comprehensive information about all aspects of moving, including entitlements, household goods, privately-owned vehicles, weight estimators, scheduling your move and much more. If you want to coordinate your move through the DOD, register with Move.mil as soon as you receive your PCS orders. After you have registered your move, contact your local Household Goods/Transportation Office for further information. They can help you with questions about entitlements, scheduling and more.
  • Plan My Move is an online tool that helps you create custom checklists, access information about entitlements, benefits, points of contact at your new installation and more. Answer a couple of questions and you’re on your way to organizing your move.

Relocation assistance and resources

There are a variety of resources both online and through your installation to help you transition before, during and after your move:

  • Your installation’s Relocation Assistance Program is a great source of information and support for moving and getting settled at your new duty station. Relocation experts offer pre-departure briefings, newcomer orientations, and a wealth of information about job opportunities, child care and more. Find out how to put the military’s relocation assistance program to work for you.
  • The MilitaryINSTALLATIONS website provides comprehensive information about each military installation and the surrounding community. Search for programs and services, access information on temporary housing, check-in procedures, schools and more.
  • The military sponsorship program helps service members and families settle in after a PCS. This program is available to all service members and families no matter where you are moving to. Your unit will assign a service member of similar rank and family make-up to help you learn the ropes at your new duty station. Learn more about how sponsorship can help you settle into your new home.
  • And check out the Blog Brigade website to see what other service members have to say about moving.

Personally procured moves for do-it-yourself movers

If you prefer to organize your move yourself, you may be able to choose a personally procured move. You are eligible for a PPM when you have PCS orders, a temporary duty assignment, or face separation, retirement or assignment to, from or between government quarters.

During a PPM move, you coordinate the move of your household goods yourself without using any military moving services. This means that you are responsible for all the planning and communications that a military-coordinated move usually handles. Doing it all yourself can mean added stress and possible problems.

But military moves don’t have to be exclusively one or the other. You can use some military moving services and manage other parts of the move yourself. For more information, contact your installation Household Goods/Transportation Office or ask a Military OneSource moving expert.

Whether this is your first PCS or you’re a seasoned professional, let Military OneSource help you master your move so you can get on with your mission.

Explore Your Base and Beyond with MilitaryINSTALLATIONS

The Annual Air Force Installation and Mission Support Industry Day held at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

You have a permanent change of station coming up or you’ve just arrived at your new duty station. You may want to learn about activities on your installation and schools in the community. You may be looking for check-in procedures, child care, a veterinarian or other useful information. MilitaryINSTALLATIONS is the place to get answers.

MilitaryINSTALLATIONS is an online information directory for military installations worldwide. The website provides contact information for many of your installation’s programs, services and more. You can search for information by installation, program or service, or by state. Check out MilitaryINSTALLATIONS prior to your move for key information about the installation programs, services and resources that are available to assist you in your move and in your new community.

How to use MilitaryINSTALLATIONS

MilitaryINSTALLATIONS has three main categories – military installations, state resources, and programs and services – so it’s easy to search for what you need to know.

Military installations

Select “Military installation” from the drop-down menu on the homepage. Type in the name of an installation or click “View all installations” below the menu for a complete list. Each installation’s page offers a wide selection of contacts, programs and:

  • An overview of the installation’s mission and resources. For a deeper dive, click “View the in-depth overview.”
  • An installation website, photos and a map showing the installation and surrounding community.
  • A customizable installation directory. Create and download your own booklet of key resources and contacts for easy reference.
  • Local community information. This link takes you to the “Neighborhood Navigator,” where you can build detailed reports on community information, school information, nearby establishments and home values for 30,000 communities nationwide.

State resources

Select “State resources” from the homepage drop-down menu. Type in a state name or click “View All State Resources” below the menu to find the state you want. In this section, you’ll discover:

  • A list of state and federal resources for military members.
  • Links to community and military resources, such as chambers of commerce and military family programs.
  • Local community information. This link takes you to the “Neighborhood Navigator,” where you can build detailed reports on community information, school information, nearby establishments and home values for 30,000 communities nationwide.

Programs and services

Select “Program or service” from the homepage drop-down menu to find contact information for programs and services on an installation. Follow these steps to do a search:

  • Type in the name of a program/service you’re looking for or click the small grid to the right of the search bar for an alphabetical list.
  • Pick a program category, such as Adult Education Centers or Veterinary Services.
  • Select an installation or ZIP code, then click search. The search will pull up all local contact information in your area, both on- and off-installation.

Programs and services vary by location, but here are some you can look for:

  • Exceptional Family Member Program, or EFMP, Enrollment or Family Support
  • Family Advocacy Program
  • Legal Services/JAG
  • Morale, Welfare and Recreation, or MWR
  • School Liaison Office/Community Schools

Other Moving Resources

Looking for help with your next PCS move? Plan My Move and Move.mil help you get organized and figure out next steps.

Go to Move.mil for additional moving resources.

Find what you need? Now plan your next move.

From the MilitaryINSTALLATIONS homepage, you can also access Plan My Move, an online tool that helps you create a custom checklist for your move. It features information about the tasks you need to complete and how to get them done. Your checklist tailors to the unique needs of you and your family.

If you have any questions about using MilitaryINSTALLATIONS or any other part of your MilLife, contact Military OneSource directly to find the military and government resources you need.

The Military Spouses Residency Relief Act

Couple discuss finances at a military tax center

Moving from place to place requires a lot of effort and changes. Two laws make it easier for military spouses regarding their residency, voting and state taxes.

In 2009, the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act was amended by the Military Spouse Residency Relief Act. It allows military spouses to maintain legal residence in the state where they lived before a permanent change of station move with their active-duty service member. A second amendment to the SCRA provides additional protections and benefits to military spouses. This is called the Veterans Benefits and Transition Act of 2018.

Maintaining your legal residence under MSRRA

Every person has a state of legal residence. For most civilians, their state of legal residence is the place where they live. But service members and their families move frequently. The SCRA allows active-duty military members to maintain their legal residence in the place they consider home.

The Military Spouses Residency Relief Act allows military spouses to declare the same state of legal residency as their spouse. The Veterans Benefits and Transition Act allows that choice to be made regardless of when they were married. The following conditions must be met to qualify under the MSRRA:

  • The service member is stationed under military orders in a state that is not his/her resident state.
  • The spouse is in that state solely to live with the service member.
  • Both the service member and spouse have the same resident state.

When those conditions are met, the spouse’s income will be taxed only in the state of legal residency.

Using your spouse’s state of legal residence

Spouses may vote and pay taxes in their active-duty spouse’s state of legal residence, according to the Veterans Benefits and Transition Act of 2018.

Income covered by MSRRA

A military spouse’s income is subject to tax laws in the state of legal residence. Only an active-duty service member’s military income is covered under SCRA. Any other income is taxable by the state in which it is earned.

Military spouses and service members may be required to file and pay state income taxes on other income in the state where it is earned. This includes income from rental property.

Service members and spouses who own businesses should check with their legal and tax professionals. They can help determine if and how MSRRA and SCRA apply to their specific situations.

What MSRRA does not do

MSRRA does not permit military spouses to maintain a legal residence in a state different than their active-duty service members. State laws, however, may be more generous than the federal MSRRA.

Military spouses must fulfill their state’s residency requirements. That almost always includes having a physical presence in that state.

Sometimes a military spouse will live in a different state than the active-duty service member. In these cases, the MSRRA generally does not apply.

Access free legal assistance on your installation or call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647. You may also connect via Live Chat 24/7/365. Military OneSource can help with other questions about MSRRA, SCRA, or other residence, tax or voting issues. CONUS/International? Click here for calling options.

Take Command of Your Move With These Tips

Couple lays on floor surrounded by moving boxes

Moving can be the start of a great family adventure. As you get ready to pack up, consider these tips which can make your next move easier and allow you to focus on the exciting opportunities that await at your next home. Military OneSource provides relocation professionals as well as online tools and personalized support that will help you master your move.

  1. Start planning right away. For resources to plan your move, Military OneSource has you covered.
    • As soon as you know where and approximately when you’re moving, you can build a personalized timeline, and get packing tips, to-do lists and checklists with the Plan My Move online tool.
    • Use Move.mil to schedule your move.
    • Learn about your new installation and the community around it with MilitaryINSTALLATIONS. This online tool has contact information, articles, maps and photos about installations worldwide.
    • Use HOMES.mil to find housing near your new installation.
    • Military OneSource offers many other planning resources to help you master your move.
  2. Tell your children.

    Ensure a Safe PCS During the Pandemic.

    Protecting people takes top priority. Find out about new safety measures the Department of Defense has put in place to keep you and your family healthy and comfortable.

    Moving can be a challenging experience for children. There are a few steps you can take to help them navigate the emotional rollercoaster of packing up and shipping out. Military Kids Connect is an online community specifically designed to help military children ages 6-17 deal with the unique psychological challenges of military life, including frequent moves.

    Tell them about the move as soon as possible. And be sure to reassure them that the important things in life – such as how much you love them – won’t change.

  3. Take inventory.
    A key part of a successful move is knowing exactly what’s going with you. The good news is technology makes this part easier than ever. With a smartphone or computer, you can record the name, description and condition of everything in your home. Download free home inventory software at Ready.gov or ask your insurance company for inventory app recommendations.
  4. Be prepared to wait for your stuff.
    The location of your new home will determine a lot of things – including how long it takes for your household goods to arrive. If you are moving overseas, be prepared for it to take several months for your furniture and your car to catch up with you. A packing tip: even if you’ll only be without your household goods for a few weeks, make sure you have the important items you’ll need in the meantime included in your unaccompanied baggage or with you.
  5. Follow these hand-carry packing tips.
    There are a few essential items that you’ll need to keep with you at all times during your move, especially vital documents. These include:

    • Orders
    • IDs, driver’s licenses, Social Security cards and passports for every member of your family
    • Marriage, divorce, birth and naturalization certificates
    • Medical information and medication for each family member
    • Housing information, including your insurance information and inventory
    • School and employment records
    • Vehicle documents
    • Precious or irreplaceable items.
  6. Know where to turn for answers.
    Line up a sponsor and other points of contact at your new installation to ensure you have people to turn to if you have urgent questions. Also, if anything is damaged or lost during the move, you’ll need your insurance company information and your inventory on hand to file insurance claims.
  7. Be as flexible as possible.Part of ruling your relocation is expecting the unexpected. There are a lot of variables to consider when planning – and each of them can mean changes, delays or even an expedited move. Don’t finalize your personal plans until you have orders in hand.

    Summer is the busiest PCS season. Don’t assume move dates are set until they are confirmed.

  8. Don’t forget those last-minute things
    As you get ready to leave your current house for the last time, don’t forget to forward your mail and make sure your pets are ready for the move. Need to change health care providers? Do so at TRICARE.

Don’t fret. With these moving tips, some preparation and a bit of luck, your next move will be worry-free. Seize your adventure and master your move by tapping into the professionals and resources at your local relocation assistance offered by the Military and Family Support Center and Military OneSource. Call 800-342-9647 for assistance.

Moving with Pets

Man pets dog

When you’re preparing for a military move, having a pet can add another layer of complexity, particularly if you’re moving overseas. But you know the drill: spend some upfront time planning and preparing, and you can ease some of the stress of relocating for both you and your pet.

Pet moving tips

Before your move, make sure you bring your pet to the vet. Making sure your pet is healthy and has updated immunizations can make a domestic or overseas move go smoother. You’ll want to prevent the chances of your pet getting lost as you make your move. Before moving, consider some tips for keeping track of your pet in unfamiliar territory:

  • Give your pet an identification tag. The tag should display the name of your pet, your cellphone number and the phone number of an emergency contact.
  • Take a picture of your pet so that you can show people what it looks like should it get lost during the move.
  • Consider having your veterinarian insert an identification microchip under your pet’s skin.

Traveling in the car

Make the move easier on your pet. Spend time with your pet in the vehicle. Introduce it well beforehand to the crate that you intend to use during the move. Show your pet that traveling can be fun. Try the following tips:

  • Offer your pet a reward whenever it gets into the vehicle.
  • Take your dog, for example, on short drives to the park so that it associates car travel with a happy destination.
  • Put the pet’s crate you plan to use inside your home or backyard, leave the door open and put a treat inside the crate.
  • Teach your dog to respond to a bathroom command such as “go potty” or “go outside.” Make sure you give your cat access to a litter box.

Moving to another state

  • Visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s website to see if there are rules for bringing animals into the state to which you have been assigned.
  • There may be a limit to the number of pets that you can have on a military installation. Look up the regulations for your installation before you start to pack.
  • Call a friend and ask if he or she can watch your pet on moving day.
  • Seek out pet-friendly hotels along your travel route before moving day.
  • Don’t forget to take your pet’s health certificate and proof that it has current vaccinations.
  • Put your pet’s food, water, bowls, leash, toys, bedding, plastic bags and medication in one bag.
  • Feed your pet three to four hours before the trip and give it a light meal when you stop for the night.
  • Stop at rest areas and give your pet some water as well as a chance to run around. Give your cat access to a litter box.

Moving to another country

Prepare to move your pet in advance of an overseas trip. You can save yourself and your pet a lot of hassle and potential heartache by understanding the ins and outs of rules of your destination country. Different nations have different rules and quarantine requirements associated with the relocation of cats, dogs and other types of pets.

  • Contact the consulate or embassy in the country to which you were assigned to learn about the rules for bringing in pets.
  • Many overseas destinations require that pets have microchips with a number that matches the number on the health certificate.
  • Check the airline travel requirements for pet crates before buying a crate.
  • Write your name, your pet’s name and your destination address on the crate. If your pet is unfriendly, then put a warning on the crate.
  • Ask your airline if you need to reserve a space on the flight for your pet.
  • Some countries may require your pet to be quarantined for an extended amount of time before it can live with you. The cost associated with that quarantine can be pricey. The Department of Defense may reimburse you for up to $550 if you are an active-duty member moving to a country where the quarantine period is mandatory.
  • The Department of Defense will not reimburse you for the relocation cost associated with moving your pet from one country to another.

Help ease the stress your family and pet might experience during a major move by knowing what to expect before you begin to pack. Various transportation rules and health regulations could impact you and your pet, and you will want to be prepared to deal with them when they arise. Each installation has its own rules regarding pets. Contact your new installation to get specific information before your move.

A Family Checklist for Moving OCONUS

Runners begin the half marathon in Afghanistan

When you receive orders for a permanent change of station overseas, you will have a lot of preparation to do before you move. Fortunately, Military OneSource and the installation’s Military and Family Support Centers provide assistance to service members and family members who are making a permanent change of station.

Consider these helpful steps to plan your move overseas

When you receive orders, Military OneSource or your installation-level relocation assistance program are your places to turn to assist in this journey. As soon as you receive your orders, it’s time to start planning. Here are some of the first things to consider:

  • Obtain command sponsorship: If you intend to take your family with you overseas, you’ll need to obtain command sponsorship. This designation, which will appear on your orders, ensures your family will receive travel compensation, housing support and legal protection in your host country.
  • Think housing: Whether you stay in government housing or receive an overseas housing allowance, there are certain things to consider before you leave, including how much stuff to bring.
  • Set up your move: Visit Move.mil or contact your transportation office to set up the logistics of your upcoming move as soon as you receive your PCS orders. Follow this moving checklist, and a few other steps to make your move a smart move.
  • Check your finances: Moving can be costly. You’ll likely face unexpected expenses even with the military picking up your tab for travel and household goods. Be sure you’ll be able to cover any last-minute surprises and keep records of reimbursable expenses. If you need assistance, financial support services are available.
  • Don’t overpack: Take inventory of all your belongings before the movers arrive and decide what you’ll really need. Find out your “household good weight limit” and stick to it. If you don’t need something, don’t bring it. Remember, it will likely take a while for your regular household goods shipment to arrive.
  • Prepare for a new culture: Even the most seasoned travelers may experience surprises when moving to a new country. A new language, new food and different customs take some getting used to. One of the best ways to prepare: attend a Far Away Places Workshop; which is specifically designed to help you and your family anticipate and prepare for moving to a foreign country.

Resources to ease your move overseas

The resources to help with your transition are already in place. These include the relocation assistance program, emergency financial help and the military-wide sponsorship program.

  • Contact your Military and Family Support Center to talk to a relocation assistance service provider. These experts can provide information, education and resources, including the Far Away Places workshop and online tools to help you navigate the moving process or connect you with additional resources like those below.
  • Use Plan My Move: Military OneSource’s online moving tool can help you make smoother work of an overseas permanent change of station.
  • Check out MilitaryINSTALLATIONS, an online directory of information about U.S. military installations worldwide.
  • Sponsorship: A sponsor can be your very best resource for figuring out what your life will look like overseas. Sponsors can tell you about your new unit and life on base, as well as fill you in on cultural norms and quirky customs. They might even pick you up at the airport.
  • Help for kids: Kids are resilient — and military kids are more resilient than most. Still, it’s important to prepare them for the huge change of an overseas move. Your current and new installations will both have the resources to help.
  • Family members with special needs: If you have a family member with special needs, consultants with the Exceptional Family Member Program can help you make sure their needs are met during your move.
  • Health care: Contact TRICARE to notify them of your move and discuss your options for care at your new location.
  • School liaison: Many installations have a school liaison program to serve as a bridge and facilitator between schools and military families. Find your installation’s school liaison contact information on MilitaryINSTALLATIONS by searching for “School Liaison Office/Community Schools” under programs or services.
  • Housing: Contact the housing office on your installation to begin the process of finding a place to live in your new location. Also, HOMES.mil is a service that connects service members and their families with housing rentals located near military bases.

Embrace your new home and community

Living overseas gives military families a wonderful opportunity to experience the world as very few others can. It takes some work, but with the right preparation you can have the adventure of a lifetime.

Planning Your Move – The Essentials

For sale sign outside of a house

As soon as you know about a move, you can start preparing your plan of action. Make lists and take inventory of your belongings so that when your items arrive at your new duty station, you can take accurate stock. You may have to wait some time for your belongings to arrive, especially during peak PCS season. In the meantime, carry your family’s essentials and communicate openly with your loved ones about the moving process.

Use these strategies to prepare for your move:

Make to-do lists and take inventory.

Organization and discipline make any task more efficient. While you’ll have plenty of help from movers when the boxes are loaded, take a detailed inventory of all your items so that unpacking and settling into your new home will go as smoothly as possible. With an inventory, you can also account for any lost or damaged belongings.

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Talk to your family about the move.

Seize the adventure of your move and talk openly and often with your entire family about the upcoming changes. While it’s an exciting time, it can also bring uncertainty, especially for children. Explain to them that the move is a chance to explore a new place, make some new friends, and that even in a new location, the love and support of their family will not change.

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Make the move easier for your pet and you.

When you’re preparing for a move, having a pet can add another layer of complexity. Spend time upfront planning and preparing so you can ease the stress of moving for both you and your pet. Find out how.

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Carry the essentials.

Depending on your new location, you might be waiting for some time for your boxes to arrive. Carry everything you absolutely need upfront for your move. This includes personal and financial information, identification records, passports, health records and any documents that will be critical to making the transition to a new location, such as school enrollment forms. Also, carry any valuable family heirlooms or special pieces on your person.

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Learn the PCS basics.

Living overseas is the adventure of a lifetime and a chance to see the world. The logistics for this kind of big move depend on your family, pets, your rank and the timeline of your move. Within the U.S., the military provides packers and movers or offers a do-it-yourself option, depending on your circumstances and budget.

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