This is the second in a three-part series about moving to South Korea as a Non-Command Sponsored Family Member. You may also want to read:
PART 1: Command Sponsored (CSP) vs. Non-Command Sponsored (NCSP) to Korea
PART 3: What To Do Once You Arrive
CONTRIBUTED BY SIBO LUNGU
Almost as soon as you breathe out a sign of relief and joy once you find out that, yes, you can come to Korea with your spouse as a Non Command Sponsored (NCSP) dependent, panic hits you. What to do next?!
Part 1 of the NCSP series talked about the differences between command-sponsored (CSP) and non-command sponsored (NCSP). This post is about what you need to do once you decide that you are coming. As a dependent of an active duty member who will be covered under DoD resources, there are some steps you will need and want to follow to make things go more smoothly.
Before You Arrive
Passport and Visa: One of the first things you’ll want to do is to get a passport for all traveling family members. If you are a US citizen you can easily do this through the post office. If you are crunched for time, there are options to expedite the process.
Visa: If you are a US citizen, then you will be granted 90 days in Korea upon arrival at Incheon International airport. At Osan AB Passenger Terminal you will be able to get a visa that allows you to stay longer.
If you are not a US citizen, you should contact the nearest Korean embassy and they can help you get a tourist visa. When I called the San Francisco office, they did not understand the CSP and NCSP terms so they will treat you simply as a US military dependent. They will need the active duty member’s orders, so this will likely end up being one of the last steps you do before you depart. The consulate in San Francisco did not require the Active Duty (AD) member to be there, but double check with the embassy if your spouse plans to leave for Korea ahead of you. US permanent residents (green card holder) will also need to get the SOFA stamp and A-3 visa at Osan AB Passenger Terminal to be able to stay longer in Korea.
Orders: Make sure the names of all the dependents are on the orders. The first paperwork that my husband got did not have my name on them, but the official orders my husband received a week or so before we left had my name on them that matched my passport. You’ll need to have a copy of the orders for just about everything so make multiple copies and keep them with you always.
Packing: You’ll first want to check what entitlements are on the orders as far as storage, shipment of household goods (HHG), and authorization to bring a car to Korea. TMO will be able to give you specific details for your situation; do not reply upon others’ experiences as the standard. Many unaccompanied members are entitled storage of one vehicle in the USA and a weight limit for HHG to ship to Korea. My husband’s HHG limit for unaccompanied was 500lbs. The rest of your household goods that will get left stateside can be put in storage of your choice.
If TMO reimburses the 12 months of storage costs in the USA, then you may lose your selected follow-on base. So if you’d like your next duty station to be the UK, Germany or your home town, then you should take care of the storage costs yourself. Some people leave their things and cars with family to save on costs; others sell their cars.
Once you leave Korea, TMO will pick up your HHG from Korea and your HHG from USA and ship it to your next duty station. If you won’t be going back to the USA before you go to your next station, you can designate a person to oversee the pick-up of your HHG via a Power of Attorney form. I authorized my brother to meet TMO once this time comes.
Tickets: Your spouse may be booked on a commercial flight or on a military flight. You can fly over on the military plane with your spouse, but would need approval to do so.
My husband was booked on a commercial flight, so all we had to do was purchase my ticket with an itinerary that matched his so that we could travel together. Tickets for NCSP dependents are paid out of pocket. Some families choose to arrive separately so that one person can get settled in before everyone else comes along. This is a personal choice, because either scenario works. For us, having no kids or pets, the trip was pretty straightforward so there was no reason for us not to travel together. Also, my husband was not authorized to live off base which meant I had to be there to get my place to live,so there was really no need for us to leave on different days.
Be sure to shop around for prices. Delta and United Airlines both have a military desk number that you can call to check for discounts. As far as baggage, military and dependents with orders have a much bigger allowance. We checked in 8 bags and paid no extra baggage fees. United didn’t ask about CSP vs NCSP. As long as the dependents’ name are on the orders, you will get the extra baggage allowance. We just presented the orders and they checked us in without a problem. However, airline policies do change so it’s always good to call to confirm with the airline to avoid stress on the day of travel.
Pets: Great news! Fido doesn’t need to remain home! However, there are strict procedures with animals being brought into another country. The veterinarian at your current base will be able to provide information about vaccinations and the paperwork needed at Incheon airport and the incoming base. As far as travel, airlines have different animal policies, so check with them. I’ve heard of some families paying as little as $200 to transport their pet, while others say they paid hundreds more.
The First Night(s): Most likely, your first night will be at Turumi Lodge on Osan AB. It gets very full during PCS season (summer & winter), so make sure you book a room as soon as you confirm your arrival dates. If you are traveling with a four-legged companion, make reservations for a pet-friendly room ahead of time because as NCSP you are priority 2 after active duty command-sponsored members. If Turumi is full, they will refer you to hotels off-base.
Costs are always a concern and should be for such a big move. There really isn’t one answer as to whether you will save more in Korea. It all depends on your current financial situation and your spending habits. The upfront costs to move are mostly out of pocket and thus can take a huge bite out of your savings.
Initially it can all seem overwhelming, but make a check-list of the above steps, work through them, and you will find that the move is definitely do-able. For my move, it was just my husband and myself, but I know larger NCSP families (including furry babies) around this area who have made the move and are managing just fine.
Note: This series of posts is intended to reflect one spouse’s experience with PCSing to Korea NCS, and should not be taken as a source of authority on the subject. Korea Ye and its writers are not representatives of the US Military or any government agency thereof. For specific information regarding the rules and regulations of moving to Korea as a NCSP family member and your particular situation, contact your chain of command for the final word.