If you and your spouse are assigned to an installation overseas, you might be filled with a range of emotions-from excitement for the adventure to trepidation on what it will be like to live in a different country. With so many emotions, it might be easy to overlook some important details to take care of before shipping off to your new port. We think these are important steps and helpful tips to take with you on your journey
SOFA Stamp: Before you PCS to an overseas installation, you and any children you might have, will need to get a SOFA stamp. SOFA, which stands for Status of Forces Agreement is a diplomatic agreement between the United States government and a foreign government. A SOFA stamp is a passport stamp that functions like a visa. Depending on the actual agreement it permits citizen like rights to service member and families assigned to a particular country. To obtain a SOFA stamp, you should visit a U.S. military passport agent or office. It is important to obtain your SOFA stamp before heading overseas.
SOFA License: A SOFA license is a common term for a military issued driver’s license permitting service members and families to operate vehicles in the country. It may require classes and/or testing, so be sure to check the rules and regulations of the particular country.
No Fee Passports: A no-fee government passport is issued to US citizens required to travel for on government business. You must apply for a no-fee passport in a military passport office, and you will be required to fill out various forms, specifically the DD Form 1056, which will authorize you to obtain the passport. Because it typically takes 6-8 weeks to receive your passport, be sure to plan ahead.
Overseas Moves: Household Goods and Vehicles: The government will move you and it will also provide vehicle transportation for cars and motorcycles, but everything will be transported by shipped freight, so it may take up to 6-8 weeks, and to transport cars they insist that you drain it of all fluids.
Insurance: It’s important to know the insurance and operation requirements of the country that you’re going to—do they drive on the wrong side of the road? Other countries have insurance requirements which might involve an up front payment to operate your vehicle, and it may be more economical to sell or store your car and acquire a used one.
Space-A: Space Available Travel, more commonly referred to as ‘Space-A’ is a unique benefit for military families, especially those that reside overseas. Department of Defense owned or controlled planes regularly travel on assignment. When seats on these flights are available, eligible passengers may be offered seats on the aircraft. If you are willing to exercise a bit of flexibility in schedule, military members and their families can take advantage of Space-A and fly to a number of locations, national or international, at a little to no cost.
POA: Power of Attorney, or POAS, are essential when PCS’ing overseas. The POA grants you, the agent, the ability to handle the affairs for your spouse, the principal, if he or she is unable to do so. POA’s can be very general or very specific, so it is important to visit your local Legal Assistance Officer on your installation. You will both likely need to be present to sign the document.