A POSTING abroad can sometimes turn out to be a life-changing experience. Here at AFF, we hear from many families who have fallen in love with their overseas surroundings and have set the wheels in motion to settle there beyond life in the army. Esther Thomas, AFF’s regional manager overseas, has been looking into things you need to consider…

Moving home, new job, new school and retiring are some of the most stressful events you’ll go through, and army families sometimes do all of these at the same time. 

Elaine, a newly sworn-in Canadian, can now laugh about her family’s seven-year journey, which required no shortage of paperwork, dollars and positive commitment to make it happen. It all started when the family were assigned to BATUS. “After only two months we decided Alberta was the place we wanted to call home,” explained Elaine. 

Getting through immigration

Elaine and her family applied under the ‘Canadian experience class’ which meant they had to be in-country for two years. Gathering all the necessary documents was a huge task which they tackled themselves to save on the cost of a lawyer. Unfortunately, after a few months their documents were returned as they had been signed in the wrong place!

The correction process delayed the decision and with their time in BATUS coming to an end, they were relieved to receive word from Canadian immigration calling them for medicals. “We returned to the UK knowing that we were one step closer to our long-term goal,” said Elaine. “Fifteen months later a letter dropped onto the doormat saying we could land as immigrants in Canada. The next hurdle was that we only had a nine-month window in which to return to get our permanent residency.”

With rules constantly changing this will always be a challenge, no matter where you’re heading. Gov.uk has useful ‘living in…’ guides so make sure you stay up-to-date and get some legal advice.

Sorting out your finances

When the family finally moved, their eight-month stint out of Canada had a negative impact on their credit rating and they were hit hard with high interest rates when buying essentials like a car. 

“We rented a house initially because we had to wait until we were ‘out of probation’ to secure a mortgage,” explained Elaine. Eventually they put down a healthy deposit so their mortgage was easily approved and there was no need to pay additional insurance.

Removals and shipping 

Elaine was given an estimate from a shipping company of £3,000, but as they were awaiting flights to Canada, they received a call to say they had gone over their allotted volume and had to pay a further £2,000. 

She said: “Shipping is not cheap and this was probably the worst part about the whole move – extra stress and cost we didn’t need. I’d recommend taking the bare minimum and starting again at the other end.”

Remember, under current policy the army does not pay for your first or final move. Make sure you’re aware of these costs, especially if you’re overseas and have belongings in storage at public expense in the UK, as this entitlement will cease when you leave the overseas assignment.

You will not normally be entitled to a publicly funded move when your soldier leaves the army, however, there is some provision if they are serving overseas and choose to settle outside the UK.  In these cases Catterick Garrison will be used as the notional UK destination for cost calculation and the move will be either be carried out by and MOD contractor where possible and if the cost is less than moving back to the UK,  or alternatively a contribution to privately arranged removals can be claimed.

Cover all bases

Of course, there are several other aspects that you need to take into consideration. Seek advice at the earliest opportunity from your unit admin team to fully understand limitations to your entitlement to financial allowances and support, such as the right to retain SFA; final move costs; access to resettlement courses and local immigration issues, to name a few.  

It might be a long process and take years to plan, but as Elaine highlighted, it’s worth it to follow your dream: “I sit here as a proud dual citizen, I will always be English but my heart is now Canadian.”

If you have any questions about settling overseas, feel free to contact me at rmoverseas@aff.org.uk 

Useful avenues of support





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