You’ve just found out that you will be PCSing overseas, congratulations! Whether you are crossing the Pacific Ocean or the Atlantic Ocean, this will likely be one of your most exciting and most stressful moves. You’re probably already researching your host country and trying to decide what to pack. Should you live on base or off? Should you start learning the foreign language? Before you take too much time answering these questions, there are a few checklist items that you need to accomplish NOW.
Authors note: there may be some terms in this article that are Air Force specific. The process will look very similar amongst all of the branches, but some of the terms may vary.
Accompanied or Unaccompanied?
First things first, figure out if your assignment will be accompanied or unaccompanied. This should be made clear on your soft orders. If it states accompanied, your dependents are entitled to travel along with you pending they pass the Family Member Relocation Clearance. If your assignment is deemed unaccompanied, it has been determined that it would either be too dangerous or too expensive to move your family for a short period of time.
This is a great time to review your Family Care Plan to ensure you have a plan in place to care for your family.
Family Member Relocation Clearance
As soon as you receive your soft orders for an accompanied overseas assignment, it is important to begin the Family Member Relocation Clearance (FMRC). Your hard orders will not be issued until each dependent has been cleared.
This is a mandatory screening process to determine if your receiving duty station will have the necessary medical and educational tools available to meet your family’s needs. This clearance process can be broken down into three sections:
- Special Education/Early Intervention,
- Dental, and
The Special Education/Early Intervention form must be filled out for any child from birth to 3 years old that is receiving early intervention services (speech therapy, physical therapy, etc.). It must also be filled out for any school-aged child (3 years old to 12th grade) regardless if they are attending school or not. Your child’s school, or the nearest school if your young child is not yet attending school, must sign this form simply to verify whether or not your child is receiving special education services.
Each dependent over the age of 2 will also need to be cleared by a dentist. Either a military provider or a civilian dentist can complete this form. Routine dental work should not be an issue and may not need to be completed prior to being cleared.
Additional paperwork will be necessary if any of the dependents have asthma, ADHD/ADD, a mental health diagnosis, are being seen by a medical specialist, or do not currently have any medical records in the military system.
For the medical portion of the clearance, the whole family can be seen during the same appointment. Once all of the prior forms have been completed, call to make an appointment at your military treatment facility and let them know that it is for an overseas clearance. Bring any medical records you have and all signed clearance forms. They will perform a quick physical on each family member and sign off on the clearance if all is good to go. If a specialized need exists, a package will be sent to the gaining base to determine if adequate services exist at the new location. Expect this process to take at least 3 weeks.
Passports and Visas
You don’t want to be that family that gets turned around at immigration because they don’t have the correct passports or visas to enter the new host country. Applying for visas and passports takes time, so start early. Check with your local installation’s relocation technicians to check the visa requirements for your overseas location and to start the process.
Each family member will want both a no-fee passport and a tourist passport. The no-fee passport is for official travel only (think PCSing to and from your overseas assignment) while the tourist passport will allow you to explore neighboring countries. You can apply for the no-fee passport at the personnel office on base, but the tourist passport application will need to be submitted at an authorized location in the local community. Find a location here.
Both types of passports can take an estimated 8-10 weeks to arrive.
Note: You will need to have all of your family members enrolled in DEERS to apply for the no-fee passport.
The Family Member Relocation Clearance along with passports and visas takes time to complete, time that we often don’t have. It’s important to get the ball rolling as early as possible. Don’t wait to be told that you need a no-fee passport, instead be proactive and ask the personnel office what you can do to get started. For questions on the clearance process:
- Army: contact the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) Case Coordinator at the nearest Military Treatment Facility.
- Navy and Marine Corps: contact the Suitability Screening Coordinator (SSC) at the nearest Military Treatment Facility.
- Air Force: contact the Family Member Relocation Clearance (FMRC) Coordinator at the nearest Military Treatment Facility.