An Overview of Official No-Fee Passports

Official & Tourist Passport

One of the complicated things about being a military dependent in Europe is the paperwork involved.

Military dependents receive an “Official” or “No-Fee” passport for overseas travel. The U.S. State Department issues this No-Fee Passport to people travelling for the U.S. Government and their dependents; This includes military personnel. Peace Corps workers, certain government personnel and people travelling to the grave of a close family member (who is a veteran buried or memorialized outside the U.S.) can travel on the No Fee Passport.

The No-Fee passport is Maroon and contains the Visa which permits U.S. Citizens to stay in their host country for more than the usual ninety days. As soon as a family gets orders for  overseas, it is advisable to start on the paperwork.

Plan on filling out the usual government paperwork and have the required documentation. Usually the local travel office handles this paperwork stateside. The sponsor’s organization receives the passport, as well as the passports of all dependents. Usually, the government will not ship this type  of passport to anyone at home.

The Travel.State.Gov website has an information page on the No-Fee Passport. This website has links to the application as well as a list of requirements, which may differ depending on your family situation.

One thing you should know about these No-Fee Passports…You aren’t supposed to travel on them for personal reasons. If you plan on travelling Europe while you are stationed in Italy, get a tourist passport. This means more paperwork and money, unfortunately.

My Experience with the Official Passport….

My own story on passports was probably not unusual. My husband discovered at the end of February that we would be heading to Italy. Being aware the Army is sending you somewhere and having orders to go are two entirely different matters. Without official orders, families can not apply for No-Fee Passports. The people in charge of filing my husband’s orders took awhile to process the paperwork. It was late March before we actually could apply for our passports.

As usual with the military, nothing goes really smoothly. Our passports took a few weeks longer than normal. In late April the passports finally came in to the passport office. Then, we had to apply for the Visa.  Once you apply for the Visa, the travel office sends the No-Fee passports with additional paperwork.

So, we immediately did our paperwork and waited.

Somewhere along the line, our Visa got lost.

Days and weeks passed by and no word.

My husband’s travel date was near. No word on the Visa paperwork. The No-Fee Passport never arrived.

Luckily, my husband had a tourist passport. Though it was not a great choice, he decided to go to Italy on the tourist passport. The rest of the family stayed behind and waited.

Eventually, the No-Fee Passports with the proper Visas arrived in late June. I ended up sending my husband his, which is a whole different nightmare story.

The moral of my story is file paperwork as soon as you are able to do it. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. No one can predict how the government agencies will handle the paperwork once it leaves your hands!


28 Comments on “An Overview of Official No-Fee Passports”

  1. […] An Overview of Official No Fee Passports – when your passports/visas are not ready in time […]

  2. Alisha says:

    Hello there, I have a quick question. My fiance is getting stationed in Italy for his first duty station but we are not yet married. We will be after he graduates from AIT in a couple weeks. I am not a US citizen but I am legal permanent resident of the US and have been living here for over 10 years. I do not have a US passport what is the procedure for me to get command sponsorship? Just want to get started on what I can to make the process smoother when we do get married next month.

    • Hi Alisha. I am getting ready to leave Italy, so I have not been doing much with the blog lately. Here is a link to the USAG Vicenza website that talks about Command Sponsorship. Command sponsorship is a bit tricky. Many people have a hard time with this topic. Usually when there is challenges with getting sponsorship, it is due to an EFMP (exceptional family member program) issue. I would make sure your fiance is in contact with his command, as there is a process for people who are getting married en-route to a new duty station. Good luck in your move! Peggy

  3. Chasity says:

    The military base we were at totally screwed up my passport. They were under suspense and my passport was suspended and neither my husband or I were notified. My husband left Monday and I’m stuck here at home. I had to file my own passport again. I was told by the passport people that I won’t need a VISA to travel to Italy. Is this true? Please help?!! Thank you!

    • Chasity, If you are coming to Italy for a tourist visit less than 90 days, then you don’t need a Visa. You do need a Visa to travel to Italy if you have an official passport are going to stay. It usually comes back pretty fast after the passport comes in. Once you get here, you will be issued a soggiorno (permit to live here) and won’t need to renew the Visa. You can’t get your soggiorno without having a Visa, though. Sounds like you will have to educate them. 🙂 Refer them to this page. If they don’t want to listen, you might tell them to get in touch with the passport office here at Caserma Ederle. If you are coming to Italy for a tourist visit less than 90 days, then you don’t need a Visa. Good luck! Sorry to hear your base is not on the ball with your passport. Hope you get to join your husband soon. ~ Peggy

      • Chasity says:

        Thank you so much Peggy. I’m definitely tired of hearing different things and tired of waiting. It’s been rough. I found out I’m 3 months pregnant so the sooner I get there the better.

      • Congratulations and good luck to you Chasity! Sounds like you will be having a very eventful year. Nothing like stress + hormones to feel like you want to explode. Here’s to a short wait for you to get to Italy! Peggy

  4. Rachael Clemons says:

    My husband is currently in Spain and I’m supposed to be going over there in July…I’ve got my DD 1056 form filled out and signed by his command already but now I don’t know what to do next. Do I mail that with my picture, birth certificate and marriage license in? Or do I go to the nearest military bases passport office to let them handle it?

  5. shay says:

    What exactly do you have to do to receive a no fee passport? My husband is getting stationed in Italy in a few months, while im in the states he’s all the way in Europe and no one seems to be telling us the correct information, or everyone says something different. Is this something he has to get for me over there? Thanks a lot, hopefully you can answer my question!

    • Peg Crippen says:

      Moving to Italy is a bit more work than other countries, so it can be frustrating. In order to come to Italy, you have to have the no-fee passport (not true for all countries, but it is for Italy.) As far as I understand, you have to be command sponsored to get the no-fee passport. Your husband has to request command sponsorship and get a memo, which should be what you need to take to the transportation (along with his orders) to request a no-fee passport. After you get the passport back, you do the application for an Italian Visa, which you can’t get without a definite travel date. How long will it take? That depends on how efficient your travel office is and how fast the Italian consulate returns the Visa. I started the process in March and did not receive my Visa until mid-June. Others have gotten it back much quicker. Some people have traveled on their tourist passport, but you will not be able to get all the usual privileges that come with being military if you do this. Your husband would have to sign you on and off post and then you would have to leave Italy after 90 days or be considered an “illegal immigrant.” I think the command sponsorship is the key and your husband will have to do that. If you have access to a levy briefing at a military post near you, see if you can attend. It could clear up many of your questions! Good luck! I hope the process goes smoothly.

  6. Nicole says:

    I was curous if anyone knows can I travel to and from our overseas duty station and back to the US and back on a no fee passport? I know it says no liesure but I was curious if that means I cant go home to visit without thetravel passport and return to our home on base overseas?

    • Peg Crippen says:

      I am not sure of the answer to this question. I know that others have traveled home on leave with only the no-fee passport. Given that you have orders (if you are traveling with your soldier), I would say that the travel is official. I can’t imagine you would have any trouble coming back to Italy, as long as you have a copy of your soggiorno along. I think going home for a visit is different than traveling around Europe for fun.

  7. Emily Perkins says:

    Weird that your husband would need a no-fee passport and Visa to travel on military orders. When I PCSd to Germany, I just went. Spent 4 years there, never had a passport or Visa, never had an issue. My family needed them, but I didn’t. What would have happened if he hadn’t had the tourist passport? Would he have just been AWOL? Doesn’t seem to add up to me.

    • Peg Crippen says:

      Since my husband is a civilian employee, not a soldier, the requirements might be different. Italy is also a bit more sticky about things than Germany, the status of forces agreement is way different as well. If my husband hadn’t had the tourist passport, he would have waited to travel and it would have been hard on the person he was replacing and been that much more difficult.

    • Caitlin says:

      My husband has been in Italy since June of 2011 and I am still here in the states waiting for all of our paperwork to get done. I have talked to probably a thousand people on every part of PCSing over there, and Peg is right. Because her husband is a civilian employee he would need his no-fee, but soldiers only need their orders (unless they plan on travelling for personal reasons).

      • Peg Crippen says:

        Caitlin, It sounds like you have had a horrible experience. I hope you get all of the paperwork out of the way soon. Living on two continents is hard on a family!

  8. Betsy says:

    I’m wondering if you can use your no-fee passport for entrance into countries other than the one where you are assigned. We are in the process of doing this now, and they are telling us that we have to also get a tourist passport. Has this been true for you?

    • Betsy says:

      I just saw your post on tourist passports…you already answered my question. Thanks for your great blog!

  9. […] as soon as you can. Peg Crippen describes her extra lengthy experience  and advises spouses to “hope for the best, but plan for the […]

  10. Interesting that you couldn’t apply for the passport until he had orders. My husband couldn’t get his orders until I had applied for my passport (they wouldn’t release it to us, though, until he had his orders).

    • Peg Crippen says:

      You know, sometimes different offices handle things differently. I am really not sure how it is supposed to go. That is why moving overseas can be so frustrating, I guess!

      • That could be. Heck sometimes in the same office we’d have two people tell us two different things. And that did make it frustrating. Half of what we found out we would need to do we found out from people who’d been in Germany before we found out from the people who were supposed to tell us.

    • Marissa says:

      wait… my no fee passport with the visa in it, is now blue. just like my regular passport. should i be doing something else? You need his orders’s first, i had the same problem, its not the right information. first get his orders that have you on his orders, than apply for the no fee passport.

      • Peg Crippen says:

        If your passport has the Visa in it, I guess I would not worry about the color. They change things and mine may be different because my husband is a DOD Civilian and not active duty. Thanks for the information on the process.

      • They give blue ones now (at least to military dependents; I don’t know if they’ve changed civilian employees) because they look just like the tourist passports unless you open them up. If you look on the front under endorsements it will direct those who need to know to page 27 where it says: “THIS PASSPORT IS VALID ONLY FOR USE IN CONNECTION WITH THE BEARER’S RESIDENCE ABROAD AS A DEPENDENT OF A MEMBER OF THE AMERICAN MILITARY OR NAVAL FORCES ON ACTIVE DUTY OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES.” They seem to have finally realized the maroon ones were like a beacon to anyone who knew to look for him that you’re traveling in connection with the government which isn’t something you want to broadcast.

      • Peg Crippen says:

        Thanks for letting me know that. It is good to hear up-to-date information from everyone!

      • You’re welcome 🙂

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