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Why in the world would I need TWO different passports??

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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): Why in the world would I need TWO different passports??

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Why in the world would I need TWO different passports??

As military dependents (and our spouses) being stationed overseas, we are required to have two US passports, that is if you are US citizens.  One is your official passport that the military pays for.  The other, is your tourist passport that you pay for.  They look exactly the same, except your official passport has a page in the back that quotes the SOFA statement.  So why are you supposed to carry both of them?  Let me explain.

I just recently got my tourist passport renewed overseas, and BTW it was $110 (yes, prices have gone up) .  Your post should have an office that processes both official/SOFA and tourist passports.  Turn around time off season is supposed to be two weeks.  In the summer, my childrens' tourist passports took two months to get back!  But don't worry, you don't have to give up your old one if you are overseas.  That is just if you are stateside and do not have a trip planned.  For peace of mind, I always start planning 6 months out in getting a new passport....especially if you like to cruise as some cruise lines "require" that your passport is still valid for six more months!

As for the rules of having a SOFA/official vs. tourist passport, you can blame the French on that one.  Travel restrictions used to be much more relaxed between the EU borders (and you're right, there are no border controls between EU countries)...BUT, if you get stopped and don't have the "correct" passport, you could get hassled.  The French had a tiff with the Americans a few years back, and they are the ones that started this "just tourist passport" thing in retaliation to something the Americans demanded from the French (and they didn't want to do)...or at least that is how the story goes.

In my last job as a tours manager and planner, we inevitably had a few problems and started requiring tourist passports for people who traveled with us...not many problems, but when it's you having the problem...then it's no longer statistics and is serious business!  Read this article for the specifics.  Technically, the SOFA/official passport is to show that you are allowed to stay in whatever country you are stationed in beyond the three month tourist timeframe (when no visa is required).  You can only stay three months in a country with a tourist passport.  I believe this is mandated by the host country, so it's possible that different countries may have different timeframes for staying without a visa.  So, yes, you may have no problem leaving a country, but it's the coming back that could be an issue.  Oh and for Russia, you definitely need to do visa paperwork in addition to your tourist passport, and it is worth it to go thru a reputable agency to get that done rather than to do it yourself.  I've gotten asked that question a few times as well so have thrown it out there.

I do know some Americans that carry both around when they travel.  I typically just take our tourist passports, as they seem to be the ones that most countries are looking for, when you get stopped.  When you arrive in a country, they don't know that you spent more than three months in the country you just least this is how I see it.  The only time I personally ever had a problem was at the Frankfurt airport, coming back to Germany, after having left Germany back and forth a few times through the same airport in the weeks before.  I only had my tourist passport, and the customs agent was very curious and wanted to know everything about me, finally asking for my military ID card as "proof" of what I told him I was doing.  I think this would be the only time I would've needed my SOFA/official passport other than if the US ever had to do mass evacuations from Germany back to the US (such as in the case of world war), and they would obviously prioritize people with official passports over those just holding regular US tourist passports.

Do you carry both passports with you?



Blogger Catherine said...

We live overseas, too, and are working on getting our tourist passports. Unless we're flying home/back, we won't be carrying both passports. That is to say, we'll only carry our tourist ones. We've been advised to do this for OPSEC reasons. Unfortunately for OPSEC, it's painfully obvious that we're American AND military (thanks to shaved head). Side note, having to carry both makes for a lot to keep up with when you have kids!

December 21, 2010 at 9:15 PM  
Anonymous Lacey Groves said...

I never once thought that I would actually have to carry it with me when I move to Germany. I have no idea why this didn't cross my mind. I have a HUGE problem keeping up with my regular ID or even my debit card. How the heck am I going to remember to grab my passport, and somehow not misplace it?

Thanks for the info by the way. This is discussed a lot on the underground, and it usually causes a big fight between people... and thats another thing i'm not looking forward to... all the drama and gossip.

December 24, 2010 at 3:14 PM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

Yes, you'll have to come up with a system to track all your gear! Be glad you're not in Belgium, where you'd also have a national ID card, a SHAPE ID card, a SHAPE driver's license and a Belgian driver's license!!!!

As for the drama...I've always told myself that I can't control the drama and gossip, but I can control how I react to makes a world of difference:-)

December 24, 2010 at 11:54 PM  

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