What To Do When You Get Verbal Orders To PCS Overseas
What To Do When You Get Verbal Orders To PCS Overseas
So your service member has just received verbal orders for an accompanied tour overseas. If you’ve done an OCONUS move before, you’re most likely already making a mental to do list. If this is your first OCONUS move, you’re probably thinking, “where do I start?” Don’t panic. Take heart in the fact that you’re not the first family that has made this move, and you will not be the last. The fact that you are reading this post, means that you are being proactive. That is already a step in the right direction.
While there are many things you cannot do without hard copy orders, there are preparations that can and should be made as soon as you receive verbal orders. So let’s jump into some actionable steps that you can take of before those hard orders arrive.
Here is your to do list in order of importance. There are detailed explanations of what each thing is, and why you need it below:
- Overseas screening
- Pet requirements
- PCS bible
- No fee passports
- Pack out prep
Overseas Suitability Screening
The overseas screening process is in place to ensure you don’t get sent to a duty station that can’t medically support your family’s needs. A screening must be done for each OCONUS duty station, meaning if you are already OCONUS going to another OCONUS location, you will still be required to complete one for each accompanying dependent.
The document itself is fairly straightforward. However, depending on how prepared you are, the process can take anywhere from a single day, to several weeks. I personally have experienced both ends of the spectrum. Best way to avoid a drawn out process is to have certain records and documents with you when you head to the overseas screening office.
Here is a rough step by step of what you will need to do:
- Go to the military hospital closest to you that handles the overseas screening process and get separate packets for all dependents PCSing with you.
- Make any necessary doctor and/or dentist appointments for each dependent.
- At the doctor’s appointment, they will be checking to make sure you do not have any major health concerns, and are up to date on vaccinations. If you are not, they will advise you on what you’ll need, as well as required vaccinations for your future PDS. If you have vaccination records, bring them. If you do not have them, they will need to do what are called “titers.” This is when they draw several vials of blood, and test for antibodies that would have been created by vaccinations. If you have other health issues, have those records on hand to be able to show the physician. It is better to be prepared with more documentation, than not enough. No one likes having to make a separate appointment, and go back if you’re missing something.
- For the dentist portion of the screening, it will go one of two ways.
- If you’ve recently been seen by a military dentist, they will generally just review your records that are on file, sign your screening form, and send you on your way saying that you are A-OK to head to your next PDS. You may not even have to make an appointment. Best thing to do is to call ahead and ask what the protocol is. Every facility is a bit different.
- If you usually see a private practitioner aka, a non military dentist, you will need to make an appointment on base. Generally, they will take x-rays and do a basic exam to ensure you don’t have any immediate needs. If you’ve recently been to a dentist, and want to avoid having to make an appointment on base, bring your most recent X-rays. You can request they be reviewed and your documents be signed instead of having an exam done. They may refuse. However, if they oblige, it will save you some time and headache. If you do have things that need to be corrected, like a large cavity for example, they will most likely not sign it with the expectation you handle the issue with an outside provider, and then return with documentation saying it’s been taken care of.
- Once you’ve completed all portions of the screening, return to the issuing office. Have them complete a final review to ensure there won’t be any hiccups when you arrive at your PDS.
- Once you’ve been signed off on and reviewed, your service member will forward the necessary documents to their command so that their detailer can get the ball rolling on hard copy orders.
My best recommendation regarding your pet once you receive verbal orders overseas, is to immediately schedule them for an appointment with a military veterinarian. Requirements differ vastly from country to country. A base vet will be the most well versed in vaccination and paperwork requirements.
The reason you need to do this immediately is because many locations require a 180 day (6 month) quarantine. For example, when we PCSed to Japan, I started the process 8 months out, and only cleared the quarantine time frame by 15 days. Crazy right? Well, it’s not only the quarantine process that takes time. We had to give my cat a rabies vaccination, wait 30 days to come back and then have his blood drawn to start the 180 day “quarantine.” The day his blood was drawn and submitted for the FAVN test, is when the quarantine clock starts. Moral of the story? Make an appointment asap!
No Fee Passport
A no fee passport is different from a tourist passport. No fee passports are specifically for government related travel, like when you fly to your new PDS. Any other kind of travel requires a tourist passport. The Pentagon Foreign Clearance Guide is the authoritative document on entry requirements for service members and their families traveling on government orders around the world. This will tell you what kind of passport is required, if any, as well as any special visas. That being said, please verify requirements based on your personal situation. However, with that disclaimer out there, most families going overseas are required to obtain one for each accompanying dependent.
It is fairly easy to apply, just time consuming, which is why you can start the process when you receive verbals and do not need to wait for hard copy orders
To start the application process, visit the passport office, or PSD on your local base. They will be able to give you specific instructions on what you’ll need to do. However, you may be able to take care of things in one trip if you have the following:
- Your current tourist passport (if you have one)
- Two passport photos
- Power of attorney
- DD form 1056
- Computer printed, not hand written, passport application. **see details below**
You may not need every single one of these, as some offices vary in policies. However, I’ve found that being over prepared, and not having to make a trip back, is better than wasting time driving back and forth. This is especially true if you have little ones to bring with you.
A no fee passport application form, is actually the same as a tourist passport application form. The paperwork is just routed differently. To complete a passport application, you will simply need to go to the state department’s website. Fill out an application, as if you were applying for a tourist passport, generate the printable PDF and print! When completing the form, it will ask you if you have had a passport before. Even if you have, check no, since you’re applying for a new no fee passport, not another tourist one. If you select yes, it will ask you a host of questions about what happened to your tourist one, which you want to avoid.
This will be your best friend when you are moving. I suggest having one of these for every move, stateside or abroad. It is extremely helpful when you’re in transit to have a centralized place to house all of your important documents. The military loves its paperwork, so if you’re not organized, it is easy to lose things, or just feel like you’re drowning in papers.
Many suggest a physical binder to put things into. I have found it easiest to use a sturdy plastic accordion folder, and here’s why. When you’re checking in to a new command, you’ll be running around between different offices, often times with children in tow, or families waiting behind you. This makes time to neatly organize things nearly non existent.
You’ll be expected to not only present documents, but also receive them. It is much easier to keep things organized if you can throw papers into their appropriate folder pocket. With a 3 ring binder, you’ll have to open/close rings, and hole punch new documents to put them away. Many suggest having a “catch all” folder that you can use to house all loose documents with the expectation of filing them later. However, I’ve found many people don’t because, honestly, who has time for that? I recommend keeping things as simple as possible, especially when you’re going to be navigating an already new and stressful situation.
For more information on what documents should go in your PCS folder, and how to organize them, check this article out.
Moving overseas can be very expensive. Many out of pocket costs like hotel accommodations, are eligible for reimbursement. However, others like housing deposits, or buying a car, are not. I always recommend to families that are PCSing, stateside and abroad, to take a look at their budget and make a plan for how they’re going to deal with the expenses incurred during the move. The more time you have to save, the less stressful the financial piece of it will be.
Packing out is always stressful. I often feel taken hostage by my belongings when it comes time to PCS. One of the best ways to combat this, is to start prepping early. Figure out a system that works for you and allows you to purge and organize your home. I do not recommend trying to take it all on the week before the movers arrive.
One of my favorite things to do when we get verbals is to purge things that haven’t been used in a while. Feel free to donate them, or even sell them. This is a great way to pad your PCS slush fund, and mitigate many of those non-reimbursable out of pocket costs.