To help support families based in the more remote locations and non-routine postings such as Loan Service, Defence Attaché or a NATO posting, AFF has a dedicated Overseas team.
It is impossible to list all locations and different terms and conditions of Service, so whether you are considering a potential location and would like to gain more information on that location, or you are currently overseas and have an issue, please do get in touch with us at email@example.com.
If you are already in receipt of an overseas assignment order you should contact the Families Section at MOD Abbeywood in order to obtain the family travel pack. The email for the Families Section is UKSTRATCOM-DefSp-DSCOM-FamSec@mod.gov.uk.
All families contemplating an overseas assignment should consider the information on this page.
When considering an overseas assignment your serving person should ask their career manager for a copy of the Overseas Location Compatibility Checklist. This is an MOD tool which may be useful when considering the suitability of an overseas assignment location for the Service person and dependants.
Remember – it is never too late to reconsider whether an overseas assignment is the right decision for your family. Seek specialist advice as early as possible and research the location thoroughly as in some areas there are limitations on spousal employment, childcare/schooling, medical support and financial implications. It is better to be fully informed than to make a quick decision, which may have longer term consequences for your family.
Upon receipt of an overseas Assignment Order you should contact the Families Section at MOD Abbeywood at UKStratcom-DMS-DPHC-DGP-Enquiry@mod.gov.uk in order to obtain the family travel pack and initiate supportability checks.Back to top
Do you or any family member have disabilities/additional needs? If yes, then you should discuss these needs with your assigning authority as early as possible to ensure that suitable support can be provided prior to your assignment being confirmed. All families moving overseas will need medical and dental clearance.
Any families wishing to discuss medical issues in confidence prior to accepting an overseas assignment order may contact the Defence Global Practice by email to UKStratcom-DMS-DPHC-DGP-Enquiry@mod.gov.uk
Planning on starting or extending your family whilst overseas? Some locations have a non-confinement policy or are restricted to over five-year-olds due to environmental conditions, so you need to do some research if this is applicable.Back to top
All parents need to obtain educational clearance for their children, aged 0 to 18 years of age, before proceeding with a move overseas. Educational clearance is provided by the Overseas Education and Supportability (OES) Team – RC-DCS-HQ-OES@mod.gov.uk. This team can offer professional advice and guidance on education options overseas and they co-ordinate the educational supportability assessment process for overseas postings for children with Special Educational Needs and those for whom parents have selected Elective Home Education.
As the clearance process can take up to nine weeks it is recommended that an early application is made to ensure that the needs of the child can be met in the new assignment location. See gov.uk/guidance/education-overseas-for-service-children#education-clearance for further information on educational clearance. If you wish to Home Educate whilst overseas you are advised to seek advice and approval on this as soon as possible as it is not supported in some locations.
Not all overseas locations are fully equipped to support SEN. You should discuss your children’s needs with the OES team.
A critical stage of education is defined as being within two years of a public examination, usually GCSE and A-Level or their equivalents. If yes, then you may wish to consider the longer terms implications of moving a child from the UK education system against other options.
Think about the implications of their start/end of term travel arrangements. Are there airlines that offer an unaccompanied minor service from your proposed overseas location? How will you manage exeats weekends/half terms? Do you have a couple of trusted friends who would be willing to act as guardians in emergencies? Also, basic issues like generally maintaining communications if you are in different time zones.
Single parents or dual working families, be aware that wraparound childcare is not currently available in all overseas locations and using other options like au pairs and nannies may be challenging and will take time to arrange.
If yes, then they may not be entitled to accompany you at public expense or be ‘entitled’ to military allowances and local support. You should discuss this with the overseas chain of command before accepting an overseas posting.
Many overseas locations are remote with poor public transport. Consideration needs to be given to the practical requirements of day-to-day living should your soldier be deployed. In some locations the inability to drive will have a considerable impact on family life. It is often best to get a UK provisional driving licence before you depart the UK as some countries require you to be resident for at least six months before you can apply for a licence.Back to top
Spousal employment – What are the implications for seeking employment overseas? Are your qualifications transferable overseas? How will you keep up professional registration? Many overseas locations have restricted employment and training opportunities. Consider how you plan to continue your career/training. Jobseeker’s Allowance can be claimed on return to the UK, but strict timescales apply. Spouses accompanying serving personnel overseas can obtain National Insurance credits towards State Pensions whilst overseas. Visit our Benefits, National Insurance and Tax page for more details.
National Insurance Numbers – should you be overseas and either your child (aged between 15 yrs 9 months old and 20 yrs old) has not received their initial NI number, or you have lost yours please be aware that there is a dedicated telephone number for overseas enquires / advice Tel +44 191 203 7010. Further advice can be found at gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-revenue-customs/contact/national-insurance-numbers.
See also our Overseas employment page.Back to top
Will your spouse/partner be working away from your overseas assignment station either temporarily or permanently? If yes, then this could affect entitlement to a range of allowances including Continuity of Education Allowance (CEA), Living Overseas Allowance (LOA) and housing. You are strongly advised to obtain written evidence of any advice that you are given on such matters.
Financial issues – Overseas you will be able to claim a Local Overseas Allowance (LOA) package or a Cost of Living Addition (COLA), a tax-free allowance which is paid to Attachés and Service support staff. Each location has specific rates, which are regularly reviewed. In addition to this you may claim Disturbance Expense on the outward and return journey. AFF’s evidence suggests that for many overseas locations this does not fully compensate for actual costs, so budget accordingly.Back to top
F&C families are advised to seek clarification on additional visa requirements for your intended overseas location if you do not hold a British Passport.
For more information see the Overseas assignments for F&C families page.Back to top
As a result of EU Exit all parcels sent to overseas BFPO locations need to comply with International Mail Import/Export Regulations
BFPO has released a quick customer guide including financial document clarification
With immediate effect, BFPO will return any private mail for Cyprus to the sender if it does not have a valid customs declaration (CN22/23/commercial invoice) – this refers to packets and parcels rather than standard or large letters. If there is no return address, the package will be destroyed. This is due to BFPO being legally obliged to prevent mail without the correct declarations from entering the Republic of Cyprus.
Impacted BFPO numbers include: BFPOs 53, 57, 58, 59, 567, 550 & 775.
For friends and relatives thinking of sending gifts, up to a certain value, overseas this Christmas, please be aware that to qualify for a ‘gift’ the items must be described as such on the customs declaration and be bought and sent between individuals for a special occasion and should be intended for personal use. Gifts sent direct by companies will not normally be eligible for a tax-free concession.
If relatives are sending more than one gift in the same parcel, to qualify for the customs duty and VAT–free allowance for each gift, all items need to be individually wrapped for different people and all details (description and value) need to be declared on the customs labels.
It is important to note that goods may be considered ‘commercial’ if they have been ordered directly from online traders, or they are items that you have had delivered to a nominated address which have been repackaged and sent on to the overseas location.
Revised guidance has been issued for the MOD provision of passports for Service personnel and their dependants serving overseas (2023DIN01-084) and for those living in the UK but who are either on permanent state of readiness to move at short notice (10 days or less) or are required to travel at public expense to or from a country which will require the use of a passport (2023DIN01-083).
Service personnel and their families who have to travel on official duty or are assigned to a country which requires a valid passport, should be provided with one at public expense, regardless of nationality. Passports will be provided free or replaced if they have expired. Replacement lost or damaged passports must be paid for by the individual.
His Majesty’s Passport Offices (HMPO) can only process passport applications from individuals who are UK Nationals. Those who are not UK Nationals must apply to their own authorities for renewal or replacement of passports.
Costs are based on UK fees and do not attract any delivery fees, providing the passport is delivered to a BFPO or UK residence.
Applications can be treated either as standard (non-urgent) or urgent using a courier service and they can be tracked, unlike the online system.
AFF is aware that for families with children at boarding school the timing of a passport renewal is often quite critical. The HMPO Armed Forces team can return passports to a child’s boarding school, but they must have written permission from the parents, the unit and confirmation from the boarding school in question. They also confirmed that if the application has been checked by the unit admin office and it has been agreed, the application may be posted from the UK.
British passports for non-UK spouses
Spouses married to British soldiers on overseas assignments may be eligible to apply for Citizenship if all requirements are met. You are strongly advised to read the information here: Citizenship applications during an overseas assignment before starting this process whilst on an overseas assignment. You will not be eligible for a British passport unless you have first naturalised as a British Citizen.
British passports for children born to non-UK parents during an overseas assignment
Children born during an overseas assignment are not born British unless one of the parents is already British. The child first needs to be registered as a British Citizen through an application to the Home Office before a passport can be applied for. Please note a British birth certificate does not confer Citizenship on a child. For all information on this process please see Citizenship applications during an overseas assignment and scroll down to 8. Citizenship for children born during the current overseas assignment.
Spouses/children without a valid UK visa prior to posting (whether to the UK or to another overseas assignment)
You should contact the F&C team as soon as possible. For further information on visa applications during an overseas assignment, see Overseas assignments for F&C families but you are advised to contact the team as it is a complex process. If you are due to be posted shortly, we may need to refer the case to Regional Command.
For those already overseas the NHS Overseas Healthcare Services Registration Team has advised that you that you can use the online form: Get healthcare cover for travelling abroad – NHSBSA but at Question 2 you should tick the box to say you are in the UK.
As you progress through the online application you will have the opportunity to explain you are on accompanied overseas service but would ordinarily be resident in the UK. You may then have to send proof of yours and the serving person’s military ID.
For further information about overseas health insurance cards, see our Overseas Health page: Overseas Health Insurance Cards
Under Section 55 of the ‘Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009’, Border Force Officers (BFO) have a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children travelling in and out of the UK.
Parents are responsible for ensuring that their child(ren) carry the relevant documentation to meet the needs of the immigration and security services of the relevant countries. Further information can be found at gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice
As a minimum if a child is not travelling with a parent or legal guardian, then a letter of consent from the parent or guardian is required both at check-in and at the port of arrival in the UK.
Additionally, as requirements may differ by location, you are advised to ask your local admin team or National Support Element for local advice.
Unaccompanied minors (young people under the age of 18)
Must hold a letter from parents authorising the lone travel and giving the purpose of travel and contact details, to be presented at check-in, AND to the Border Force Officer on arrival. The letter of consent should be specific to the journey in question and could be in the form of an affidavit to add strength to the authority.
Minor travelling with both parents
Minor accompanied by one parent
Generally unless a child is identified as being on any Warnings Index (e.g. a ward of court or at risk), then as long as the check-in staff and the BFO are satisfied with the relationship of the minor to either accompanying parent, then no further documentation is required. However, AFF is aware of instances where parents have been challenged and therefore suggests it may be advisable to carry a letter from any other person with parental responsibility, to confirm you have their permission. The letter could include the reason for the trip, the name and contact details of the person, and that they give permission for the child to travel on the given dates. If the surname is different to the one accompanying ‘parent’, then the original birth or adoption certificates should be shown to confirm the relationship to the child.
Minor accompanied by a guardian/nominated escort
If accompanied by a guardian/nominated escort, then the minor should carry a letter of authority from the parent/s, authorising travel with the guardian/nominated escort and the purpose of the trip. Once again, although not obligatory, but to add strength to the letter of consent, it could be in the form of an affidavit’.
The MOD has its own escorted minor form and commercial airlines will have a similar form. Overseas Booking Centres managing School Children’s Visit flights should issue the appropriate escorted minor forms to parents of children under 18 when they issue the air travel authorisation.
Taking a child on a permanent overseas assignment is a different matter to travelling on holiday. Only the serving person/spouse or civil partners who have sole custody of children (recorded on JPA) will be entitled to bring those children overseas on an accompanied assignment.
If you do not have permission or sole custody of a child from a previous relationship, then you should seek independent legal advice if you wish to them to accompany you overseas.
As this is a civil matter the costs associated with gaining the correct permissions will be at personal expense.
Don’t lose your right to vote overseas if you are a spouse or civil partner. Register as an Armed Forces overseas voter.
Other Armed Forces dependents overseas and Reservists are not eligible to register as Service voters and can only register as overseas voters. Those choosing to register as overseas voters are not eligible to vote in any local government election.
If you’re overseas, you’re strongly advised to use a proxy vote rather than a postal vote.
Remember that the Armed Forces Covenant applies overseas, so do let AFF know if you feel that you are being disadvantaged due to being an Armed Forces family.
Are your extended family in the UK aware of what they need to do if a compassionate case arises whilst you are overseas? See gov.uk/guidance/joint-casualty-and-compassionate-centre-jccc for more information. Ensure your Next of Kin details are up-to-date on JPA.
Is your serving person expecting to exit the Service at the end of your overseas assignment? If yes, then you need to plan ahead and be aware of the limitations regarding timely access to resettlement facilities, financial and housing briefs. Visit our Transition page for more information.
On behalf of the chain of command Army HIVE delivers information, arrival packs and deployment packs to support the military community on a variety of topics affecting their everyday Service and personal life.
In some locations support is available face-to-face through a network of HIVE Information Centres and HIVE information support officers, as well as online through the local HIVE blogs and social media www.facebook.com/ArmyHIVE and www.twitter.com/ArmyHIVEinfo.
The tri-Service International HIVE (iHIVE) provides location-specific guides and information available to download from the iHIVE blog at hiveinfo.blogspot.com
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