What to think about before applying for an overseas assignment

Overseas assignments are very appealing as they present an opportunity to see the world, broaden horizons and gain valuable experience.

“Families living overseas are more satisfied with their quality of life (72%) compared to those living in England (61%)”


Whilst there are countless benefits and opportunities that come with an overseas move, it is a significant life event that involves a considerable amount of change. Here we share some things to consider before applying for overseas service. The list is extensive intentionally, not to dissuade you from applying for an overseas assignment, to provide balance and ensure preparedness.

Many of the issues raised with RAFF from overseas could have been prevented, or the impact reduced, by conducting additional research before leaving the UK. This list will help to minimise unwanted surprises.

Home ownership

If you own your home, you will need to consider what you will do with your house whilst assigned overseas. It is important to carefully consider the short and long-term implications of each option;

  • Leave unoccupied – be aware, if you leave your property empty you may incur a Council Tax Empty Homes Premium.
    “In England, billing authorities can charge up to 150% on properties which have been unoccupied and substantially unfurnished for over two years.”  Download briefing paper here.
  • Sell 
  • Rent – If you decide to rent your home, ensure you complete an application for a non-resident landlord to have UK rental income without deduction of UK tax (NRL1i).

Note: if you rent out your property and are ‘short-toured’ it is important to observe the law when serving tenants notice of your intent to take possession of the property on you return to the UK.

Vehicle ownership

If you accept an assignment overseas, you will need to consider what to do about your vehicle(s), if it is not practicable to take it with you.

Alternative transport

Should you need to sell your vehicle, once sold, you will need to make alternative transport arrangements until departure. This should not be a barrier, but there may be cost implications to include in your budget.

PCP finance agreements

If you purchased your car on a Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) finance agreement it is worthwhile reviewing your contract, as there are often ramifications for exiting early. Read our PCP considerations article to make sure you know your legal rights.

Family and friends

Consideration should be given to the ability and frequency of visits to your friends and family. Video communication tools go some way to help keep in touch, however time differences can limit contact.

This could be particularly important if you have someone that relies on you for support and/or assistance.

Note: travel restrictions can be put in place at any time and could impact the frequency of visits. The Covid-19 pandemic had a big impact on many of our RAF families overseas assignments due to restrictions placed on travel and quarantine regulations, particularly those with older children who are not classed as dependents.

Personal administration

As with any overseas move, there is a lot of personal admin that needs to be taken care of in the months and weeks running up to the assignment date. It can be quite time consuming and is often underestimated. See our overseas assignment checklist to see what is involved and ensure you are prepared.

For any overseas assignment it is important to do your research before you apply. Even if you have served overseas before, it is not advisable to base your decision on previous experiences as standards vary greatly from location to location.


Many overseas units have off-base accommodation in the form of flats and hirings. They can be located some distance from the parent unit which will impact on your day-to-day life.

In some countries military housing is not available and any private rental agreements may need to be completed in-country. This will apply added pressures when you arrive as you will need to complete the process on arrival; including viewing and selection. Before you go it is worthwhile considering your approach.

Note: family members or friends visiting public accommodation at overseas locations have defined limitations and restrictions on their length of stay.

Maintenance of rental properties

Maintenance of properties not managed by DIO may differ from what you are used to – the standards of work and service levels will vary, and there may be a language barrier when dealing with trades people. Make sure you look carefully at any agreements before you sign, ensuring you understand what you can expect and what is expected of you.

Additional needs

If your family has additional needs and/or the requirement for an adapted property you may find issues difficult to resolve when in-theatre. Therefore, we recommend you emphasise your requirements at the earliest stages of the application process.


It is important to research the cost of living for the specific location you will reside in. Local Overseas Allowance (LOA) and Disturbance Expenses (DE) may not fully compensate for all additional costs. It is important to consider on arrival costs, such as vehicle purchase, rental deposit and insurances, as well as the day-to-day living expenses, as they can often be higher than anticipated.

To make sure you have everything covered, create a budget sheet and include a contingency to ensure unexpected costs can be comfortably absorbed.


Before you accept an overseas assignment it is important to understand healthcare overseas may be of a different standard to what you would receive in the UK. And, it is important to consider your potential healthcare requirements prior to accepting an assignment. Find out what you need to know before you go.

Healthcare provision overseas could be delivered by; a Defence Medical Services practice, local Host Nation healthcare, or a contractor on behalf of the MOD.

Dental care overseas

It is important that you are aware of arrangements for dental provision overseas. Before you arrange any Dental appointments, please read all the information in the Strategic Command Dental Care Overseas Guide and refer to 2022DIN01-040 (which is available via MODNet). There is no Service provision for dental care by Defence Primary Healthcare (DPHC) (Dental) in ISODET locations.  Personnel are authorised to seek dental treatment from local civilian dental practitioners. Dental treatment is accessed via One HMG Healthline (HEALIX) Healix Hub and provided by local Host Nation dental practitioners.

The following are other useful links for Dental care overseas:

Prescription medication

If you take prescription medication you will need to ascertain if it is available at the assignment location before you go.

Note: Healthcare is something that should be considered when you plan your finances too. You are entitled to healthcare whilst overseas however you may be required to pay upfront for treatment and claim it back afterwards. It can be costly, so it is important to have funds available.


Part of the draw of an overseas assignment is experiencing a new culture. This will mean that off-base the local lifestyle will be different to what you are used to at home; make sure you are up-to-speed with the local currency, laws, regulations and customs. Also, bear in mind, some things which you take for granted in the UK may be unavailable.

Language barrier

In many countries there will be a language barrier. Whilst this will not be an issue on-base, it may present some challenges in your day-to-day life.

There are tools, such as Duolingo, which can help you master some basics before you travel and whilst overseas.


When volunteering for overseas you need to consider if the climate will suit you – for instance intense heat and humidity can be unattractive. Another consideration are the amenities that are available to you off-season; in some countries there is considerably less to do in the cooler winter months.

Vehicle purchase

If it is not viable to export your vehicle, you will need to source one locally. It is beneficial to explore potential options before you leave so you can better estimate your upfront costs. Find out if it is possible to purchase a vehicle from a departing family or Service person. Alternatively, look at some in-country selling groups on social media, often there will be local groups specifically for UK Armed Forces.

In our RAF Family Experience from Around the World research, spousal employment was cited as the primary factor causing families to be less likely to volunteer for an overseas assignment. If you are unable to work it is important to consider the implications of a career break both financially and when it comes to reemployment on your return to the UK.

Potential barriers to in-country employment include:

  • Lack of suitable jobs
  • UK qualifications not recognised
  • Childcare constraints
  • Not eligible for a work visa
  • Length of time in-country
  • Language barriers

In countries where you are eligible for a work permit it may not be immediately available. Therefore, it is useful to prepare to be out of work for a period of time.

If you are unable to work at all, training or education courses may be possible. Make sure you check your visa does not have any study or education restrictions. And do your course research, paying particular attention to how the training is delivered and if exams can be taken remotely.

Check out our overseas spousal employment page.

Note: if you intend to run your business or work remotely for a UK business from overseas you will need to factor connectivity. The quality and speed of Broadband is a common complaint for some locations.


In some overseas locations public transport is poor and therefore having a car will be essential to get around. If you are unable to drive or you will not have access to a car, it is important to consider the impact this will have on your day-to-day life.


Moving overseas without knowing anyone can feel lonely initially. The feeling of isolation can be further enhanced if there is a language barrier, you are not working, have no access to a vehicle or live in a remote location.

Make sure you are prepared:

  • Do your research before you go – this will reduce the ‘culture shock’
  • Build a network online before you go – Consider reaching out to buddies/sponsors and/or the Service person’s predecessor, the in-country HR cell, HIVE contacts, Facebook groups (referral may be required), etc.
  • Learn the language – If you know some basic phrases it can be really helpful in day-to-day life. Duolingo is a great way to get started and you only need 5 – 10 minutes a day

Becoming dependent

When accompanying a Service person on an overseas assignment some aspects of independence you are used to in the UK are lost. For example, in some countries you are not able to have your own local bank account – many opt for Monzo and Starling bank accounts to overcome this. This combined with the above mentioned considerations can make you feel dependent on your partner, which you may not have experienced before.

Early years care

If your family requires early years care or wraparound care, it will be important to identify availability and accessibility before you travel. In some countries childcare services is very limited. If you identify suitable childcare provision it is important to find out if they operate a waiting list and try to understand potential in-country differences that can be expected; ie formula, nappies and vaccination requirements, before making your decision. Find out what you need to know before you go.

Tax free childcare, vouchers and allowances

Up-to-date information on what is available overseas can be found on GOV.UK


Education overseas is often very different to what we have in the UK. It is important to consider the educational standards and curriculum of the destination country for each child, to ensure you do not disadvantage them in anyway.

Do as much research as possible before volunteering for or accepting an assignment – Use the MOD Schools’ pageeducational suitability reviews, or independent research of schools offered locally.

Important considerations:

  • age range for schools
  • level of education provided
  • curriculum
  • qualifications

If you plan to use a UK boarding school for the first time, you should engage with your Unit HR and apply for CEA.

Read our overseas education page to help you make an informed decision.

Children aged 18 – 24

If you have children aged 18-24 that are not in full-time education they are not entitled to accompany you at public expense or ‘entitled’ to military allowances and local support.


Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) may be supported in some locations. Before applying for overseas Service an assessment of support needs for accompanied assignments overseas should be completed.

This should not deter you from applying however, you should allow extra time to research the ability of local school’s to support the specific needs, and allow extra time in the process for your own research and the assessment.

Note: If your child has an Education Health Care Plan (EHCP) this will cease when they leave the UK and reassessment will be required upon their return.


In 2021 the UK transitioned away from the EU, since then there have been a number of changes impacting those on assignments within Europe. See our Brexit useful links page.


Depending on the assignment destination you may require a Visa. See our Visas page for information.


It is possible for pets to join you on an overseas assignment, although it as at your own expense. If you have pets you need to:

  • Check import requirements for the destination country
  • Consider additional costs, such as passport, vaccinations and insurances
  • Research in-country vets (particularly if a licence is required) kennelling and boarding options

Dietary requirements

Intolerances and allergies

Overseas food labelling standards may not be at the level we are accustomed to and could be problematic for anyone with food intolerances and allergies.

Vegetarian and vegan diets

In some locations menus can be very restrictive for vegetarians and vegans.

Overseas Help Topics

How we can help

We can help you understand the implications of these points for your circumstances and signpost you to additional information.