Overseas employment

Spousal employment is a key consideration for families posted overseas, as many locations have restricted employment opportunities. Where possible, consider how you plan to continue your employment before you move overseas. Research your options thoroughly, and understand the limitations and implications for you.


01   Things to consider when working overseas

Local host nation requirements

Families need to consider the host nation’s rules and laws on issues such as:

  • local employment law
  • the requirement for a work visa and process for applying for one (note, post-Brexit this is now a requirement in most European countries)
  • tax and social insurance both in the host nation and the UK
  • the ability to work locally or remotely from home
  • differing GDPR regulations
  • business licensing requirements
  • quality and security of international internet systems.

It is worthwhile seeking further guidance from your host nation Liaison Officer or the Defence Attaché.


The MOD has confirmed that there are no tax protections for military spouses and partners while on an overseas posting.

HMRC has confirmed that tax responsibilities for spouses/partners on overseas postings depend on individual circumstances and the Statutory Residence Test. Any income which meets the tax threshold will require you to pay tax either via the UK system or that of the country of residence.

Due to the fact that any tax responsibilities are based on individual circumstances, you would need to contact HMRC to establish your own tax requirements, or speak to one of their specialist tax advisors. More information is available on tax on a foreign income at gov.uk/tax-foreign-income.

HMRC has also advised that you may need to contact the relevant tax authority in your overseas location to find out if there are any tax obligations in the host nation.

If you experience any difficulties accessing advice and support on tax responsibilities, please contact moneysupport@aff.org.uk in the first instance.

As AFF staff are not regulated financial advisors, we cannot provide personal tax or financial advice, and recommend that you seek specialist tax advice before commencing employment overseas.

Employers’ responsibilities

There is no obligation under the Armed Forces Covenant for employers to continue your employment contract whilst on an overseas posting.

Employers employing someone remotely overseas need to consider issues such as their tax position due to having an employee working in another country, how they pay the salary, health and safety, employer liability, insurance e.g. medical, home, travel etc.

If your employer is unable to employ you remotely overseas, they may consider you applying for a career break or sabbatical for the duration of your posting.

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02   Remote working overseas

AFF is aware that there is a lack of clear and official information for spouses and partners wishing to work remotely for a UK-based company whilst accompanying the soldier on an overseas assignment. These issues include their tax residence status, diplomatic accreditation and any potential impact of working remotely on their dependency status as part of the NATO Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) or host nation agreement.

AFF has consistently raised this issue with the MOD and asked for clear and accessible guidance to be provided to families.  The MOD has not yet provided this information but has provided interim guidance, which has been shared with units and the chain of command:

The MOD would like to clarify that there are no tax protections offered to partners and spouses under SOFA. The MOD’s view is that paying tax to the host nation does not affect status under the SOFA and they are not aware of any issues raised in the past. The MOD is unable to rule out that a host nation may interpret the position differently but would ask that any examples of issues faced by spouses are raised to the chain of command.

AFF will continue to urge the MOD to provide families with robust support and guidance on these issues.

If you have any specific questions, or experience any issues with working remotely whilst overseas, please contact employment@aff.org.uk in the first instance.

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03   NATO SOFA & spousal employment

Please note that countries have different SOFA or host nation agreements, the following only applies if you are posted to a NATO member country.

The SOFA is a multinational agreement between nations enabling the operation of a nation’s Defence task in the territory of another nation. It does not cover spousal employment but also does not rule it out.

A Force Information Note on spousal employment has been developed, and is available at GOV.UK – UK Defence in Germany and Europe: Information notes. The key points are:

  • Under the SOFA, there are no exemptions from a military family’s liabilities, such as the right to work in the host nation, or work remotely for a UK company overseas, or work as a UK Crown Servant when on an accompanied overseas assignment.
  • You may require a work permit, and may be required to pay tax and social insurance to the host nation. As this is based on your individual circumstances, you will need to seek advice in addition to your employer being satisfied with the arrangements.
  • It is important to note that some host nations operate a household income tax regime so it is possible that, although the soldier’s salary is protected under the NATO SOFA, it could still be included in any cumulative assessment in determining your tax liability to the host nation.
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04   Cyprus & remote working

The SBA Fiscal Office in Cyprus has issued guidance, in relation to tax and social security, for UK family members who intend to work remotely in the Sovereign Base Areas for a UK employer. Find out more at sbaadministration.org/index.php/notices-guides

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05   Overseas employment opportunities

Depending on the location, there may be limited opportunities for local employment overseas. Forces Families Jobs now includes some job vacancies in overseas units. In addition, see our ‘Your posting’ pages – these include information on spousal employment opportunities in country.

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06   Alternatives to employment overseas

There are many reasons why working overseas may not be practical for you, such as the availability of childcare, visa restrictions, or general feasibility. However, there are other opportunities to help fill the career gap.

You may be able to access training and education opportunities and gain new skills or qualifications. Make sure that there are no study or education restrictions in location, and check how any training is delivered and if exams can be taken remotely. Visit our Training page for more information and course ideas.

Volunteering is a great way to fill gaps on your CV, and to get involved in your local community. The volunteering page on Forces Families Jobs offers advice and ideas to get you started.

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07   Your return to UK

If you need help to restart your career, or support to get back into employment when you return, visit our Employment page

A few things to remember when you return from your overseas posting:

  • You may qualify for Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Spouses and partners accompanying serving personnel overseas can obtain National Insurance credits towards their state pension to cover that period when they return to the UK.

For more information on these, visit our Benefits, National Insurance and Tax page.

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