Can a Military Family Move Overseas Without Command Sponsorship?
Living and traveling overseas is on many of our bucket lists, and military service can give you the opportunity to experience life all around the globe. But when it comes to an overseas PCS move, command sponsorship is an important first step if you want to bring your dependents with you.
Can a spouse or family member still move overseas with the active duty member without command sponsorship? Let’s break it down.
(Note: this is only an overview of information. Always discuss your specific situation with your service branch!)
What is command sponsorship?
Command sponsorship is the permission from the military that service members need for their dependents to accompany them on an overseas assignment. They'll have access to the installation, family support resources, medical care, and so on, and the military member will be entitled to larger cost of living and housing allowances.
Due to the location of the duty station, the length of the assignment, unavailable family support resources at the duty station, or other reasons, command sponsorship may be denied. These are considered unaccompanied tours.
Why would I move with my service member if command sponsorship is denied?
Reasons vary, but some scenarios include not being married but wanting to move with your partner or desiring the experience of living in a location like Guam, Japan, or Korea when the service member is on unaccompanied orders.
From Military OneSource:
"If command sponsorship is denied, you will receive 'unaccompanied orders.' Your family members may still be able to move to your PCS host country, but be aware that you will be responsible for all transportation, moving, and living expenses associated with their move. In addition, your family members’ installation medical services will be limited, and cost of living adjustments will not be available for them."
Wondering about the true costs involved with making a move without command sponsorship? Here’s an example of specific benefits offered on a command vs. non-command sponsored tour in Korea.
Can we request command sponsorship?
Here’s some helpful information compiled by Army Wife Network.
"The following requirements are necessary for a family member to become command sponsored:
- The sponsor must be serving a 36-month tour. This requirement cannot be waived.
- The sponsor must have 12 months remaining on tour.
- The family member must meet criteria to qualify as a dependent as indicated in Appendix A, Volume 1, Joint Federal Travel Regulation.
- The family member must be screened through the Exceptional Family Member Program and cleared to reside in the service member’s community of assignment.
Requests for command sponsorship will be forwarded to the Family Travel Branch only when:
- an exception to policy is required or
- when there are Exceptional Family Members."
It’s important to note that command sponsorship is never guaranteed and may be denied for the reasons already discussed. For more details about command sponsorship, visit Military OneSource (see below).
Challenges of Moving Without Command Sponsorship
You’ll be on the hook for all your travel and moving expenses, and the family will not receive cost of living adjustments.
If you decide to move without command sponsorship, one huge caution would be regarding medical care. If you’ve been denied command sponsorship due to being enrolled in EFMP (Exceptional Family Member Program) and there's a lack of medical facilities or sub-par care, you could find yourself in a complicated and expensive situation if medical issues arise. Access to military medical services will be limited and you may not have TRICARE Prime status.
Travel and Residency Issues
You won't be entitled to the government’s no-fee passport issued to family members moving on orders. You can, of course, get a passport at your own expense, but keep in mind that you may also need a visa and may not even be able to enter some countries without it. Depending on the host country’s regulations, you may be considered a tourist and will have limits on how long you can stay in the country.
"Perhaps most importantly, your family members will not automatically receive permission to live in your PCS host country. You will need to research visa and residency requirements and explore the Status of Forces Agreement, or SOFA, associated with the country where you will be living to ensure your family members can legally remain with you.” - Military OneSource
School-aged children who are not command-sponsored are eligible to attend a DoDEA school only if space is available. Enrollment in future school years is not guaranteed and always subject to space availability. (Army MWR)
If you’re considering making a move without command sponsorship, education is key as you make the decision! This is just a starting point. Get even more information:
- Military OneSource: Obtaining Command Sponsorship Before an Overseas Tour
- Naval Support Activity Naples: Command Sponsorship
- Air Force Medical Service: Command Sponsorship