Passports and sofa identification
Many military personnel arrive in Germany under
the belief that they can travel freely in Europe with only a military ID
card. This is not the case. All US Forces and family members
must have a passport to travel between foreign countries. A "blue
tourist" passport is recommended in addition to an official passport.
If military family members are authorized to accompany you overseas on
your orders, they must obtain "no-fee" passports. Some military
assignments may entitle the sponsor and his or her family members to
official diplomatic passports. These are also free of charge.
The NATO Status of Forces Agreement
(SOFA) requires US citizen civilian employees and family members of US
military personnel and civilian employees to be so described in their
passports when assigned in the territory of another NATO country.
SOFA stamps and SOFA cards identify the passport bearer as a person who
is entitled to unrestricted entry into and exit from Germany and to
benefits, privileges, and protection under the NATO SOFA. In other
words, passport bearers with valid SOFA identification generally may
enter, remain in, and exit from Germany without obtaining visas;
registering with the local alien registration and control officials;
paying local customs and duties taxes on items imported and exported for
personal use; paying German income taxes on salaries earned from US
Government employment and interest received from military banking
facilities; playing local radio, television, dog and road taxes; etc.
Those individuals who received a
"no-fee" tourist passport in the US will have a SOFA stamp in it.
Military contractors and family members should obtain a SOFA card for
their passports soon after arriving in Germany.
As of July 2, 2001, the State
Department now requires both parents' consent to obtain passports for
overseas travel of children under the age of 14. Both parents must
now sign the passport application forms, unless one parent is
unavailable because of geographic separation, divorce, or other
circumstances. In this case, the parent applying for a child's
passport needs a signed, nonnotarized letter or statement from the
absent parent that provides permission to take the child or children
overseas. For more information on this subject, please see the US
State Department website at