Can Military Members Work Part-Time at Overseas Assignments?Updated: October 18, 2020
Can military members work part-time jobs at overseas assignments? Many want to know, and the answer is that much depends on the nature of your overseas assignment, your status there, and other variables. There are a few considerations to keep in mind, and it never pays to assume income earned overseas is tax-free. Here are some things to keep in mind.
What’s Your Status?
If you have PCSed overseas in a typical permanent change of station move, and you are NOT a first-term airman, soldier, sailor, or Marine, getting a part-time job overseas may be easier than for those who have arrived at a first duty station and still have professional military education (PME) requirements to clear in their first year or so of active duty.
First-termers may be restricted in what they can do off-duty for a variety of reasons–you may or may not be given permission to take off-duty education classes unrelated to your PME needs, and you may or may not be permitted to work a part-time job as well.
Successfully completing your initial PME may be the key to getting permission. Don’t waste time asking for permission to work a second job if you are struggling to complete your PME.
It’s a different story for those who deploy to a combat zone or are otherwise in harm’s way during the overseas duty–deployments don’t usually feature the option to work a second job in the way most of us are used to thinking about them.
You may be assigned additional duties or be given a chance to volunteer to do work in support of the troops, but actual paid employment is not likely to be open to you in many circumstances related to deployments.
On Or Off Base?
For those who are serving at overseas bases, there are often opportunities to work part time at AAFES facilities, the Base Exchange or Post Exchange, Class Six, etc. Getting jobs off base can have a sliding scale of difficulty depending on the host nation, cultural sensitivities, and other concerns.
It is not uncommon for some to get off base jobs overseas but many find their off duty employment options are sometimes adjacent to their military jobs. It’s important to consider burnout in such cases–beware of working too much and in jobs that are too similar to your main military duty.
You Will Need Permission
No matter what the second job, or where, you will need to get the permission of your supervisor and command support staff to accept off-duty employment. There are multiple reasons for this, but one important issue is related to security clearances. If you work in a sensitive position or handle sensitive materials, there may be added scrutiny to your chosen part-time job if it is off base and on the local economy. Be as forthright as possible about the nature, location, and requirements of such employment. Your supervisor and chain of command may need to assess the risks of allowing you to work off base where certain security clearance-required military duty is concerned.
If you work on base chances are good that tax issues will be handled in the same manner as they would be if you worked a part-time job back in the states. But if you choose to work off base, you will be subject to both U.S. tax laws AND the tax laws of your host nation.
Do not take a part-time job off base without understanding what your rights and obligations are as a worker in the host country. You will likely NOT be exempt from paying taxes required of employees in your host nation and those who try to avoid obeying the law risk both the legal wrath of the host country AND your chain of command.
The U.S. military has a Status Of Forces Agreement with your host nation that addresses issues like these–the first stop you should make when considering employment “on the economy” should be the base Legal Office–ask them what you must do to stay legal both in uniform AND with your host nation.
Conflicts Of Interest
Remember that no matter what kind of off-duty employment you seek, you cannot engage in activities that appear to be a conflict of interest with your military work. You cannot appear to endorse products, services, or anything else by your employment–you may not be involved in any activity that makes it seem as though the federal government or the Department of Defense endorses a private enterprise.
You are also subject to the same rules about gifts and other considerations that may lead to the appearance of a conflict of interest. Ask your chain of command for clarification if you aren’t sure what might constitute a violation of DoD conflict of interest policies, but in general even the appearance of a conflict may be enough to disqualify you from working off base.
Active Duty Employment Versus Military Spouse Employment
Military spouses maybe given more latitude where off base employment is concerned and it is never safe to assume that latitude extends to the service member. Spouses don’t have security clearances to worry about, and they don’t have a fulltime military commitment to consider, either.
But that doesn’t mean that they have unlimited ability to work on the local economy–if a company hires a spouse and attempts to create situations that can create a perceived conflict of interest the chain of command may have a talk with the servicemember about the situation.
It’s safe to assume that any off-post employment carries such a risk. Spouses should be well-versed in the chain of command’s rules in this area and understand when situations could lead to a conflict for the service member.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News