Here is my break down for the beginning!
Posting Overseas is a wonderful opportunity for Defence Families and I would say ‘jump at the chance’!. The experience and adventure that you and the family will have will outway any logistic and schooling concerns you may have. Of course, 2020 has provided the most challenging of times to be posted overseas, particularly if you are in a country deeply affected by COVID-19. Your opportunities to explore your surroundings may have been limited greatly.
The ADF has many options for postings to the US in a wide variety of locations, each offering a unique experience. We have fortunate to have been 3 times with time spent in Hawaii, Missouri and Kansas. Our current term is coming to a close in 3 weeks.
Below is my break down of Posting to the USA specifically.
GOOGLE – Google will be your friend. Research the posting location, look at the area, schools, weather, activities – this will help you get a visual for the location you will be.
Current Member – make contact with the current member and family. They will be a great resource for you and will be able to provide the ins and outs of the location, job, life at Post and what local requirements are needed (both Military and civilian)
Visit the Overseas Administration Team website which can only be accessed on the Defence Intranet – here you will find plenty of information including the Pre Departure Information Pack (make sure you read the ADF post-2017). This will give you a break down of some of the procedures, allowances etc. You will also find forms that are required for your pre-departure and for your time at Post. The first form you will need to complete upon arrival of your posting order is the AD695 – Overseas Posting Form. Fill out as much as you can and return.
Passports and Visa – this will need to be completed and witnessed etc before submitting with certified copies of birth certificates etc. We completed ours with the XO and Adjt who ensured we had everything in good order before sending to Canberra. You can complete the application forms online and then print for completion. Ensure you apply for an Offical Passport for the adults. When it comes to the Visa applications, the type of Visa you require will need to be confirmed – most of us are on a A1 Visa. There is also a Diplomatic letter that needs to be printed and included with your Visa Application. You will need to send your actual passport and certified copies of your birth certificates to the US Consulate.
Defence Travel will organise your flights etc. Have a look at what you are thinking, the flights that best suit you and let them know. They may or not go with your option and will find the cheapest Business Class flights for you. We have flown to the US with, Virgin, Qantas and Hawaiian Airlines. At the time of writing, flights in and out of Australia are affected by COVID-19. Defence Travel will be a great source to confirm options.
Inventories. You will have two inventories to complete – Storage and Overseas. Have a really good think about what you would like to bring, what you are may be ready to replace (kitchen items, towels etc). The inventories need to be thorough – pain in the bum thorough and take photo of $$ items you are bringing (golf clubs for us)!
Ensure you leave some kitchen items, towels, bedding in storage so that when you return home and your storage is delivered you are ready to spend the first night. We packed a little different this time as there wasn’t anything we needed to replace/buy except for some bedding and towels – we brought new bedding once we arrived.
Bring some personal items to make your house feel like your home. We had some canvas prints done when we arrived (very cheap) and brought a few prints etc with us too. Our kitchen, we went with what we knew we would use/need and to be honest, it makes me wonder why we have so much stuff at home. You can pick up things quite cheap should you need something you haven’t brought.
World Wide Risk Insurance is the insurance cover that we and most people use to insure their goods with. It covers storage, the removal items, whilst in-country and also the luggage you travel with on the way over. Once again, this is why the inventories need to be so thorough.
Housing / Furniture / Utilities
The way housing/furniture rentals is completed has changed each time we have been stationed in the US and as I type is going through another change. Housing options are aplenty and the current member in location will be able to provide their thoughts.
For us, we love living on Post and for us that’s the only option. It’s easy, maintenance is taken care of, the utilities are included in your rent (you are reimbursed for utilities off post), it’s secure and everything you need is generally located with ease. If this is an option you are interested in (speak to the family you are replacing), I would contact the housing manager, advise that you are the incoming Australian LO / Exchange Officer / Student etc, when you are arriving and that you would like the opportunity to live on Post if available. They will have a website which has plenty of information about housing etc. Of course, some Posting locations are not on Post (Embassy for instance).
Utilities are reimbursable from the Embassy each month, however, you are responsible for internet and phone costs.
Post / Base
Each Post has it’s own website. They are a fantastic starting place to gather local information including, schooling, sports, commissary, px, gyms etc.
Schooling will be available on Post for Elementary and possibly Middle School and generally has pretty good standards. It will, however, be completely different than back home.
High School options will be off Post. You can apply for Education Assistance via the Embassy to help combat any discrepancies between subjects/learning etc.
Schooling in the US is a whole other learning experience (for both parents and kids). As our Posting cycle is December / January, you will be arriving either at the end of Semester 1 or beginning of Semester 2 having completed the current school year in Australia. The Christmas break in the US is short and school resumes around 6 January. Depending on what age your children are and when their birthday’s are, they will either move forward to the next Grade or complete the last semester of the grade they have just completed.
The biggest challenge will come if you have high school-aged kids, particular from Grade 10 upwards. Decisions will need to be made on Graduations and also if they plan to attend University back in Australia. Each school will have a Guidance Counsellor that will be the greatest asset at school. They will be able to provide options, explain the credit system and what is required by the State for Graduation and if early graduation is possible.
Have a look at the school districts website and also read their vaccination schedules! The school districts are strict on their vaccination requirements and you may find extra vaccinations are required for your child(ren) to attend school.
School Sport in the US is crazy! There is plenty of sport over here as you can imagine. They have sport available on Post and some of this can be of high ability/competition.
Sport in Middle / High School is huge! Tryouts will be held for all team sports and the commitment may be too high for some – our girls participated in Football (Soccer), Volleyball and Basketball during the various seasons and training was every afternoon (sometimes mornings at 0600) with games sometimes twice a week and tournaments on the weekends. Coaches are serious beasts and will work the kids hard. During the school breaks, training and condition will continue.
Local sporting teams will also have some opportunities for travelling teams etc. It is important to remember for a large portion of kids, high school sporting teams lead to College Scholarships – high school sport is even broadcast on TV, the radio and online – massive.
The schools website will include information for the Athletics Department.
Working Visa With the likely A1 Visa it is my understanding that whilst you can work, you can not apply for the working visa until you are actually in Country. I made the decision not to work but was planning on volunteering. To volunteer though I still need to apply for a work visa and then even though not receiving money, have to submit a tax return. The Embassy will be able to guide you further.
Car shopping is tough! Everybody goes with different options. Some people buy outright, some lease, some buy second hand. Cars are more expensive to buy this time than they were in 2013. Unfortunately for us this time and many others, cars are a bit of a money pit. It is a personal decision but do your research and look closely at the warranty. Have a look on the car dealership websites for the area and get an idea of what kind of car would work for the family and the prices – this will give you an idea of prices you can expect etc. For us, it’s a car we need for two years, one that we had third-row seats, one that we can travel easily with, four-wheel drive due to the weather and one that we can hopefully get a decent price on when we sell it.
Outlay Advance offered by Defence which will help with your setting up / purchasing a car. It is interest-free and paid back fortnightly during the first year. Your allowances are so much, you will not notice it.
Again, people go with different options. We have banked with Armed Forces Bank this time and last. It’s easy, provides us with what we need and you can actually organise for it to be opened before your arrival. Checks are still a big thing in the US with many places (schools for one) that don’t have EFTPOS machines and would prefer Check – backwards! You will need a checking account and the option for a credit card. Armed Forces Bank has a specialised International Banking Program which provides a great service and can open accounts for your before arrival.
Pay it Forward – at the end of your overseas posting pay it forward to the incoming family where possible. I certainly am not saying to give your car away for free but passing on small ticket items such as, slow cookers, coffee machines, bbq, kettle etc makes the transition for the incoming family a little easier and helps us all save a few $$ along the way.
There is plenty more that I can go into regarding an overseas posting to the US and each posting location is different and offers a different experience. Living in the US is a wonderful opportunity for travel with ease.
Accepting an overseas posting can come with a mixture of emotions and at times seem impossible to organise for. With some careful considerations, research and an open mind and heart the overseas posting can provide you and your family with an adventure of a lifetime. Jump at the chance!
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