Monday, September 3, 2012

Military Monday - Government Issue (No Fee) vs. Tourist Passport

If you are PCSing to Europe, you have probably heard about no-fee passports.  Of course, when they mention that you need one, you can be unsure about how or why it would be necessary.

Government Issued Passports aka No-Fee Passports
One of the first things you should do after receiving orders for an upcoming overseas PCS is apply for a No-Fee Passport.  You do this by taking a copy of your orders along with a birth certificate and marriage certificate (if you changed your name when you married) to your local on-post passport office.  It takes a few minutes and they will take your picture for the passport for free.  They then send off all the information and put in for your passport.  It takes 6-8 weeks for the passport to return if it is ordered in a non-peak time. 

You can get the ball rolling on this process before you even receive "official" orders but will not be able to pick up your passport until the official orders have come in.  If you need additional details about the process, contact your local passport office and they'll be able to help.

What makes this passport special is that A) you don't have to pay a cent for it  B) it has what is called a SOFA stamp in it.

A SOFA stamp is essentially a temporary visa that says you will be residing in said country for x amount of time due to accompanying someone that is on military business.  It is your ticket in and out of the country for the duration of your stay.

Tourist Passport
A tourist passport is the simple passport that you must pay for in order to hop from country to country.  It costs $110 and can be obtained at a post-office or passport office.  This passport will not have a Visa/SOFA stamp.  If you have already received your no-fee passport, the only documents that are needed to apply for a tourist passport is your no-fee passport.  They will make a copy of it, so you get to keep the original with you.

If you are planning on traveling between countries other than the US and Germany (or your host country), you will need a tourist passport  and will need to present your tourist passport and you SOFA stamp/card upon reentering your host country.  

If you have questions let me know!  If I don't know the answer, I can find it for you.


  1. Found your blog searching for just the checklist you created. Thanks!

    Also, I had no idea we would need both passports for travel other than to and from Germany. Great info here!

  2. Okay I'm an Iranian married to an American navy stationed in Spain. I have a tourist passport and I have the sofa stamp on it . I live in Spain now for 5 month . So my question is if I want to travel to Europe should apply for tourist visa like before ( as an Iranian I need visa for most countries ) or I can travel to Europe with that stamp on my passport ?


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