Moving Overseas? It’s Essential to Understand the Family Clearance Process

You just received PCS orders to an overseas location. Congratulations! Next step: getting clearance for your family so you can take them to your assignment.
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Military family move overseas

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.

Table of Contents
  1. Accompanied or Unaccompanied?
  2. Family Member Relocation Clearance
  3. Passports and Visas
  4. Ask Questions

Accompanied or Unaccompanied?

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 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.

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:

  1. Special Education/Early Intervention,
  2. Dental, and
  3. Medical

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 to verify whether or not your child is receiving special education services.

Each dependent over 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 before being cleared.

Additional paperwork will be necessary if any 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. 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. Still, 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.

Ask Questions

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.

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  1. Stephanie says

    I have a pacemaker will this make it so my husband can’t take orders to Sigonella, Italy or Kadena, Japan unless he goes independently?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Stephanie, I don’t have a specific answer. I recommend your husband enroll in the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP). This program helps military family members with specific medical or educational needs, and can help them identify bases and locations they can PCS to that will help the family members receive the care or education they need. Best wishes!

  2. Nicole M says

    hi! my name is Nicole, my husband, NM, is an doctor in the Navy. i just learned this week he is planning to secretly PCS overseas in the next month, /without/ myself and our 2 kids!

    we are in Beaufort, SC where he has been the officer in charge of the pharmacy here at Naval Hospital Beaufort. the kids and i have been living apart from him for their safety because of my husband’s physical and sexual abuse of our kids, so i have not been able to stay on top if what he’s doing, due to is living apart.

    my husband is actually telling me he is getting out of the military and moving to Kenya, his home country so that he won’t have to pay any child support. but!!! i talked to his command and THEY are saying he is going to be PCS-ing to Sigonella, Italy to be in charge of the Naval Hospital’s pharmacy there!

    such a bizarre situation, and i worry because he has told me the kids and i will not have any source of income whatsoever after May 1st 2020. he is literally just ditching his responsibilities and running, and he is using the Navy to do it!

    has anyone else gone thru something similar… looking for some kind of guidance here..

    • Ryan Guina says

      Nicole, you should hire a lawyer as soon as possible. This is a legal situation and not something we can provide answers to via a comment or via email. You need professional legal assistance. Best wishes.

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