Cheers! Prost! Salud! Kanpai! You won an OCONUS in the DOD’s PCS lottery. OCONUS PCS! What exciting news! You’re going globe-trotting and maybe even adding a dash of international flavor to your life. Sure, you are about to get very busy with purging, planning and packing. And there is no doubt that moving away from the continental United States can intimidate even the most seasoned PCS-pro milspouse. But don’t stress — you’ve got the resources of Uncle Sam behind you. Plus, we are ready to help you be sure you get all you and yours are entitled to in your service life overseas.
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1. What is OCONUS?
2. The Difference Between CONUS and OCONUS
3. When Do You Receive OCONUS Orders?
4. OCONUS Per Diem
5. Overseas Housing Allowance
6. OCONUS Process
⚬Scheduling a OCONUS Move
⚬During the Move
8. OCONUS Move Tips
⚬First OCONUS Move
⚬OCONUS with Pets
⚬OCONUS with Family
⚬OCONUS by Yourself
⚬What to Do with Your Vehicle
What is OCONUS?
OCONUS means being stationed outside the continental United States. If you’ve got OCONUS PCS orders, you are about to embark on an adventurous move. An OCONUS PCS is an incredible opportunity that not all military families get to experience. When you’re in the weeds of this massive move, it may be helpful to remind yourself that this is only temporary. Settle down and keep going. New places to go! Unique adventures to await! Fresh foods to eat! New-found friends to meet!
CONUS vs. OCONUS
CONUS refers to the contiguous United States. OCONUS refers to overseas locations as well as Hawaii and Alaska.
The tour for a DOD service member stationed OCONUS is 36 months in an accompanied tour and 24 months in an unaccompanied tour. Hawaii and Alaska are different, with 36 months for both accompanied and unaccompanied tours.
When Do You Receive OCONUS Orders?
If you anticipate orders for an OCONUS PCS, downsize and then downsize some more while you wait. As soon as your orders are in hand, be ready to start planning your OCONUS move.
Pro Tip: Proofread your orders. Be sure your family members are listed. Any misspelled names need to be corrected ASAP. If your family members are not listed, you will need to apply for command sponsorship. Approval means your family members factor into allowances and entitlements.
OCONUS Per Diem
The DOD gives travel and relocation allowances, including OCONUS per diem, to assist you with moving expenses and planning your PCS budget. It is vital to keep your DTS profile up-to-date to avoid travel complications with:
- Timely payment of travel claims
- Rapid travel authorizations and vouchers
- Automated approval process
- Personalized online reservations and itinerary changes
- Detailed pre-travel entitlement
And the relocation assistance program can assist you with moving allowance info.
You can follow this link to look up your per diem rates for your country/state, and fiscal year.
Overseas Housing Allowance
The Overseas Housing Program assists military members that are stationed overseas to privately lease housing. Similar to BAH this program reimburses you for housing costs when on base or government leased housing isn’t available. Your receiving location’s Housing Office is the best resource for weight allowance restrictions and housing options.
You can follow this link to calculate your Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA). OHA rates are by country and updated from new cost data and currency fluctuations.
Fun Fact: OHA reimburses over $2M to 55,000 military members every year.
OCONUS Move Process
Lean on your sponsor! They can arrange for transportation from the airport when you arrive and help with temporary lodging too. Often a sponsor can get a P.O. Box set up so you can forward your mail. Maybe, more importantly, your sponsor can answer questions specific to your new location. Put together an email list of questions with your family.
The government pays to ship household goods at a weight limit based on your rank and family status. You will need to plan for at least three different types of movement for an OCONUS PCS. An optional non-temporary storage move is also available. It can help hold oversize items for the duration of your overseas station.
Items to Hand-Carry
Plan to hand-carry items in your carry-on and luggage such as clothes, medicine and toiletries. Pack essential documents in a folder in your carry-on bag. Bring a few copies of each one for all family members:
- ID Cards (front and back)
- Marriage Certificate
- Birth Certificates
- Health Certificates for Pets
- Leash for pets
Get your passports and medical records in order as soon as you receive OCONUS PCS orders. You and your family will need medical clearance. Don’t forget – your pets need medical authorization too.
Schedule appointments as soon as possible. You will need overseas medical clearance before you can make travel arrangements. This step ensures your new location is well equipped to care for any health care requirements in your family.
Your base Veterinary Treatment Facility can help with documentation requirements for your pet’s overseas debut.
Everyone in your family needs to apply in-person for a government no-fee passport to fly on orders. Be sure to ask if you need a visa as it varies by destination.
Scheduling an OCONUS Move
Your orders are the starting line in the race to organize your PCS and establish your move’s schedule.
1. Make an appointment to take your orders to your transportation office.
2. Visit Move.mil to set up your Defense Property System account.
3. Visit MyBaseGuide to download the base or post guide, including maps, a telephone directory and a military buyer’s guide for your new assignment.
PCS Overseas Checklist
It is way too easy to lose track of any of the bazillion pieces in play when your household is on the move. Give yourself an edge with a custom move checklist designed to your specification by the DOD’s experts at Plan My Move. The printable PCS checklists will help you to stay organized during your family’s OCONUS move.
More Like This: Protect Your PCS With A Home Inventory Tracker & Sheet and The PCS Prohibited List.
During the Move
First up is packing day. Your moving company will call to let you know what days packers will be at home. The team will put everything in your house into boxes as quickly as they can. Being organized and proactive is essential to controlling the risk of important items being mistakenly packed.
Your crates are loading on the moving truck on your scheduled moving day.
Pay close attention to the movers’ inventory documentation. If something is wrong, call your transportation office. Don’t quarrel with the packers.
Decide how you want to take delivery. What items do you want the movers to unpack and where? Do you want movers to reassemble furniture such as beds and couches?
Get the inventory sheet from the driver and oversee the delivery from the truck. You can check the crate numbers offs and point to the room it goes in simultaneously.
Suppose any of your belongings arrived damaged or gets lost. In that case, you can file a claim by signing into the Defense Personal Property System to report it.
Unaccompanied Baggage Delivery
Unaccompanied baggage delivery occurs within a few weeks of when you report to your new station. Typical items include:
- A T.V.
- Pots and pans, silverware
- Towels and a shower curtain
- Air mattress and sheets
- Clothes and shoes
Household Goods Shipment (HHG)
A household goods shipment may take several weeks to arrive at your new location.
- Small furniture
- Seasonal clothing or items
More like this: What you need while waiting for your HHG.
Pro Tip: Your local transportation office is where the PCS experts are. Ask for help determining how to split up your household into shipments to make the most of your PCS entitlements.
OCONUS Move Tips
OCONUS virgins, take note!
First OCONUS Move
1. Know what type of electrical outlets your new home will have. You may need a converter if you don’t want to buy new stuff when you get there.
2. Use numbers to label rooms, so your movers know where to put boxes. This labeling is especially helpful when English is not the native language for the crew.
3. Avoid the pitfall of the lost parts-and-pieces box for furniture hardware, T.V. mount brackets and other small items needed for reassembly. Use sandwich baggies to hold hardware and cords for each item and securely tape the sealed bag to the article, so they make the move together.
OCONUS with Pets
1. Know your new station’s pet policies. Contact your transportation office to inquire about breed restrictions, quarantine rules and timelines for vaccinations.
2. Mandatory pet quarantine expenses for cats and dogs may be eligible for reimbursement for up to $550.
3. Be aware that many airlines won’t accept pets during the dog days of summer due to the unhealthy heat exposure.
4. Ask the transportation office about booking the Patriot Express Air Mobility Command Flight. Fees depend on your pet’s combined weight plus kennel and often range from $125- $375.
OCONUS with Family
1. Set one clock in the house to “grandma’s time” (or whatever “time” works for your family) to help kids understand the difference and stay uniquely connected across the miles.
2. Splurge on travel bags for kids. Stuff them with new and novel items to buy yourself some kids-are-occupied time during a long trip. Don’t forget to toss in their favorite snacks for maximum relief!
3. Consider any seasonal changes that might happen during your HHG shipment to avoid buying things you already have. Your HHG shipment can take months to reach you, so plan wisely.
OCONUS by Yourself
1. If you need a driver’s license overseas, your stateside license must be valid to get one. You will need both licenses when driving overseas.
2. Be sure to bring a tourist passport, from the State Department, for recreational opportunities overseas.
3. Rely on MilitaryOneSource for free counseling for adjustment challenges or other stress management techniques. Schedule an appointment 24/7.
What to Do With Your Vehicle
For most OCONUS PCS, the DOD will pay to ship one privately owned vehicle to your new station. Be aware that in some locations, such as Japan, it is impossible to have a car. In this case, you can store your vehicle at government expense until you return home.
Info about privately owned vehicle shipments is available at PCSMyPOV. Be sure your gas tank is nearly empty, and the car is clean when you drop it off. Be considerate of concerns regarding tracking seeds, dirt, etc., to other countries. Professional cleaning is always worth it.
Make sure to check out our blog 8 Expert Car Maintenance Tips for When You’re Deployed when deciding to leave your car or take it with you.
Stay flexible. But also plan and organize like it’s your job. Be patient. But then hurry up and wait – isn’t that the truth… There is no doubt that an OCONUS PCS is a whirlwind of activity, but now you know more about what to expect and where help is available. You got this.
Are you heading to Alaska or Hawaii? Learn about your new military community at MyBaseGuide, including info to help you settle into your home, from the best restaurants to top schools and outstanding recreation options.
Last Updated: March 23rd, 2021
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