An Overview of Official No-Fee PassportsPosted: 05/25/2011
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!