What to know before you PCS to England
Congratulations! You received orders to England, and, along with them, an opportunity of a life-time to experience what it's like to live in another country. Right now, your mind is probably going a mile a minute as you try to prepare yourself and your family for an OCONUS PCS to the UK. Hopefully, this article will help answer a few of your burning questions about moving your household goods, shipping a vehicle, obtaining passports and visas, bring your pets, requesting a sponsor, and considering your options for streaming media subscriptions.
Living in England presents an interesting housing choice. While on-base housing is available, many kinds of residences are available on the local economy. Older places with character are available, though these homes sometimes incur higher utility bills. Read more in our House Hunting in England article.
The military provides some appliances for use while stationed in England. The FMO loans refrigerators, washers, dryers, power converters and other items to servicemembers for the duration of your tour. Short-term furniture loans are also available if you move into a house before your household goods arrive. Check with your local FMO for more information.
Large pieces of furniture can present a challenge. English homes may have small rooms and doorways that can make maneuvering a large bed or couch difficult, if not impossible.
Watching live broadcasts on a television or a computer is subject to taxation in England. The TV license fee is about $240, and you must pay it even if you live on base. This fee cannot be reimbursed. Visit TV Licensing for more information.
The U.K. government inspects household good shipments. Keep in mind that the country is very restrictive regarding the importation of weapons. Visit www.gov.uk for more information.
Servicemembers can ship a vehicle to England for free, and despite the fact that the English drive on the left, American vehicles are allowed on the road. Driving in England will mean some additional expenses, such as taxes and repairs. See the “Driving in England” section of this guide for more information. Your vehicle can take a while to arrive, so you may need to rent a car initially. Rentals can be quite cheap, under $100 a week.
Government no-fee passports
Servicemembers can enter and stay in England with a copy of orders and an ID card. However, dependents need government no-fee passports. Check with your local installation for application procedures and requirements.
Unlike tourist passports, government no-fee passports are for official business. Your family can use them to enter the country during the Permanent Change of Duty Station (PCS) to England and again during the PCS out of the country. The no-fee passport should not be used for tourist travel. All tourist travel should be made on a standard passport. U.S. tourist passports can be applied for while in England. You should contact your installation’s travel or passport office immediately upon receiving your orders. It could take six to eight weeks to get your no-fee passport.
If your spouse or other family member is not a U.S. citizen, he/she is not eligible for a U.S. no-fee passport. Check with your local installation about this.
As soon as you find out that you are PCSing to England, inquire about visas for your family. Your dependents will need visas for long stays in the country, such as for the duration of your tour of duty. Additionally, Department of Defense (DOD) civilians, contractors and their family members must obtain visas.
Visas are issued by the U.K. government. Your local base’s passport office may be able to help you fill out the visa form. A visa can take weeks to get, so apply early. Also, you will need a passport to apply. The cost of a visa can be more than $400, but save the receipt because you will be reimbursed. Learn more about passport and visa requirements at www.fcg.pentagon.mil and www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk.
Bringing a pet
Bringing a pet to England can be costly. Commercial airlines have different rules, so check with your carrier for specifics well in advance. Some airlines may not ship pets during certain times of the year due to temperature extremes, and there are limitations on carrier size and weight. For more information, visit www.gov.uk.
The U.K. rules for pet importation are determined by which country you come from. If you come from a European Union or non-EU listed country, which includes the U.S., then bringing certain kinds of pets is relatively simple. Dogs, cats and ferrets will need a microchip, rabies vaccination (must be 21 days prior to arrival), documentation from a veterinarian and tapeworm treatment (for dogs). They will also need a pet passport, which can be obtained from a veterinarian.
As soon as you receive your orders to England, establish contact with your receiving command in order to be assigned a sponsor. A sponsor can be a tool that is not only beneficial to you, but also to your receiving command. Your sponsor can assist you with setting up temporary lodging and many other steps in the PCS process.
If you use streaming media services (Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc.), you may need to make other arrangements before coming to England. Many companies restrict where you can watch purchased digital content. If you have bought the right to watch a digital movie in the U.S., you may not be able to watch it in England. Check to see if your provider allows you to download your purchases before you travel.