If you’ve been offered a posting overseas, you’ll want to be armed with as much information as possible before you go. So here, AFF’s Overseas Manager, Esther Thomas, helps you to understand new resources, current processes and practical considerations for army life beyond the UK…

For individual movers who are generally volunteers, the onus to research the location lies with you, the family, so you can make an informed choice. To help you, AFF has worked with the Army Personnel Centre, Glasgow to include more domestic aspects in its Overseas Compatibility Checklist which should be issued to serving personnel.

Gemma White with her family

Gemma White with her family

For unit moves, welfare teams will generally run a series of families’ briefs at least six months in advance, with presentations from key agencies. Gemma White and her family moved with 1st Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment to Cyprus last year: “Whilst the move was not without hiccups with lastminute changes, the unit had organised everything and apart from some paperwork, we just had to pack and go,” she says.

Most overseas locations have pre-arrival booklets or you can find information on AFF’s overseas pages, iHIVE location guides and some areas have their own online portals.

Supportability requirements

All family members are required to undergo medical and educational supportability checks, there’s more about this on page 18 of the spring 2022 edition of Army&you.

You should feel confident that the supportability process is not there to prevent families from going overseas, but to identify those who may require early mover status (expectant mothers, children in key stages of education etc) and to ensure that any additional needs are available and in place before your arrival.

With unit moves, checks are managed centrally to a strict schedule. Lt Col Christopher Stewart, from Dhekelia Medical Centre, explains how the screening process worked for 1 Royal Anglian’s move: “Our aim was to ensure we could meet the medical needs of all deploying service families within the nuances of the services in Cyprus.

“This involved input from occupational health, rehab and mental health teams. Defence Global Practice was also imperative in screening the health records and applications of all family members.”

If you’re moving as individuals, the responsibility is on your soldier. As soon as an assignment order is confirmed, email the Families Section for a travel pack and trigger the supportability process.

To discuss overseas educational needs, or to get a copy of an Educational Suitability Review, email the UK Education Advisory Team (UK EAT) at RC-DCS-HQ-EAT@mod.gov.uk.

Packing up to go

For the majority of overseas postings, you’ll receive Disturbance Expense – a one-off payment to compensate for the additional cost of a move. The rate is higher on your outbound journey. The timeframe for removals can vary depending on whether you live in a quarter or your own home, even when part of a unit move. In most cases, Agility Logistics will manage and co-ordinate the surveys, packing, collection, delivery, unpacking and storage.

Your home abroad

Housing is a mix of SFA and private rental. Allocation policies vary too and there are differences in what’s included in terms of temporary ‘getyou-in’ packs and furniture. It’s important to  understand your housing options and what you really need to pack.

Housing in BATUS, Canada, for example, is allocated against family dynamics and not rank; all properties come fully furnished so it’s best not to ship your own – doorways are narrow, so UK-style furniture may not even fit into the house! In the USA there’s an expectation that you ‘inherit’ the predecessor’s home, and yet this may not suit your family’s needs.

Family considerations

Check out your entitlements based on your circumstances as some don’t transfer from the UK to overseas, which could impact on housing, medical provision and allowances. For example, there are limitations for those of you living together in a long-term relationship, NEETs – adult dependents aged 18 plus who are not in full-time employment, education or training; those attending UK boarding schools and some Full-Time Reserve Service roles. Identifying these early will help you to plan.

Fiona

Fiona

AFF is aware that young people have been unable to get work permits in some locations. When Callum Jenkins accompanied his mum and dad to Canada, he had a frustrating wait of many months for immigration to recognise his status and issue a work permit. “I find it difficult to understand why the regulations are so out-of-date and don’t reflect modern society,” he says. “Young adults in their late teens or post-uni often still have to live at home, not through choice but because they can’t afford not to.”

There are some other administration issues which you may need to consider. Blended families are encouraged to seek legal advice and obtain the necessary permission and documentation to take children from former relationships overseas. Single parent Fiona hoped to go on an overseas assignment. She told AFF that: “After £6,500 in legal fees I wasn’t able to get a consent order and decided to give up.”

Passports and visas

You must have at least six months’ validity remaining from the date of travel. If you need to renew your passport or visa whilst overseas, the cost is met by the public purse.

For non-UK family members, immigration rules vary from country to country. The key thing is to make sure you meet all the requirements before you accept an overseas posting or enter the UK. See page 24 of the spring 2022 edition of Army&you for details.

Cultural differences

There are some limitations to same sex marriages and additional considerations for blended or larger families in a few locations where housing isn’t big enough. There’s no MOD policy to support the movement of pets, so it could be a big financial commitment with challenging logistics for you to manage, and some breeds of pet are not accepted.

AFF is aware of a recent case where a snub-nosed dog had to remain overseas as there was no airline which supported transporting it.

Your little ones

Whilst MOD schools overseas mirror the English education system and transition should be smooth (more on page 30 of the spring 2022 edition of Army&you), there are many locations where you’ll have to consider alternative options such as local schools. Although there can be significant benefits for children experiencing overseas education, there may be longer-term implications of moving a child out of the UK system, especially as they approach critical stages. Contact the Global Education Team via CEAS for guidance.

Wrapround childcare isn’t available in all overseas locations which can put a strain on dual serving or single parents who have to deploy or work shifts. It’s recommended that serving families discuss flexible working options with their chain of command at the earliest opportunity. Where MOD childcare settings are not available, you can use host nation provision and claim back the costs via Overseas Nursery Authority – more on page 31 of the spring 2022 edition of Army&you.

The job front

With remote working on the increase, don’t just assume that you can continue your job overseas. You’ll need to research your tax responsibilities and right to work in the host nation. Discuss it with your employer as soon as possible.

Doing the maths

Allowances are complicated and for some assignments they are paid by the host nation or are based on Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office rates. Units should be able to advise you.

You’ll receive Local Overseas Allowance for the majority of postings. It now includes a daily rate, an annual respite provision for a break away from the duty station for those entitled family  members permanently assigned (excluding boarding school children), and Overseas Private Vehicle Provision to help compensate you for the cost of buying, selling or shipping vehicles. Some of these allowances are location specific.

In-location support

In some areas there may not beaccess to in-country support. In these circumstances you should get admin support via the Global Administration Unit (GAU) on pay, allowances, casework and other HR issues. Your soldier is advised to get in touch with the GAU one-to-two months before they report for duty, so they can ensure pay and allowances are applied on arrival.

You can access specialist welfare and personal support via the Intake and Assessment Team, part of the Army Welfare Service. Emergency welfare and compassionate support is provided via the Joint Casualty & Compassionate Centre (JCCC) which operates 24/7, 365 days a year to co-ordinate urgent travel back to the UK at public expense.


Main photo: Callum Jenkins and his girlfriend, Israel

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