I am assigned overseas. Can I use my no-fee Passport for Space-A?

  •  (As of 2012): This topic is not unique to Space-A but comes up all the time. Historically there have been two camps in this debate - Camp #1 insist that using a no-fee passport for leisure travel is OK as they have traveled to/from USA in the past without any issues. Camp #2 has a hissy fit when someone mentions using a no-fee passport for leisure travel. The answer isn't totally clear cut so let's see what the facts are.
  • The Department of State "No-Fee" Passport web site states:
  • "You may use your no-fee passport book only when traveling overseas in discharge of your official duties. For personal travel, you must to use a regular fee passport book or card. You may have both a valid regular passport book and a valid no-fee passport book at the same time."
  • That's fairly definitive unless one argues that traveling between your assigned overseas duty location and the the USA is considered "official duties."
  • Most/all no fee passports also contain an endorsement stamp that states:
  • "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." This is a little less definitive and one could argue that traveling between your assigned overseas duty location and the the USA is "in connection with the bearer's residence abroad."
  • So, if a border control agent for a country other than the one where you are assigned reads that endorsement then they can deny a traveler access to their country or detain you to find out what "official military business" you have in their country. If the countries you are using the no-fee passport to enter are the USA and your assigned country (e.g. Germany) then the border control agent should have no problem with the no-fee passport and explains why folks in Camp #1 have not experienced any issues traveling back and forth to the USA (e.g. Space-A from Ramstein to BWI).
  • Now, let's look at the Foreign Clearance Guide (FCG) (Manual) - this is the document Passenger Service Agents normally use to determine if your border clearance documents are valid. In December 2011 the language in the FCG was revised to clarify this issue. The FCG now states:
  • "Service members and their eligible family members stationed abroad and issued no-fee passports may use these passports for incidental personal travel during the period of their overseas assignment. While outside the United States, no-fee passports may be used for incidental personal travel between foreign destinations providing the foreign government concerned accepts no-fee passports for personal travel. If the foreign government does not accept no-fee passports for personal travel, travelers must obtain regular fee passports at their own expense." The FCG defines "Incidental Travel" to be: "Travel DoD-sponsored travelers for purposes other than in the discharge of U.S. Government business." For example, France REQUIRES a Tourist Passport (as of 2012) and you could be fined for using a no-fee for leisure travel.
  • Normally, transit of a country by travelers that do not exit the airport transit area (immigration control) do not require a passport or visa for that country. However, some countries (i.e., Russia, China, etc.) require both a passport and a transit visa. Refer to the Entry/Exit requirements listed on the various Dept of State Country Pages and the FCG to determine what documents /passports/visas are required for each country.
  • So, based on the latest revision of the FCG, what travelers have experienced and my own experience here's my "unofficial" view/opinion/recommendations etc....
    • Go ahead and get a regular Tourist Passport. If you are going to do any sort of traveling while overseas then it is probably going to be required to legally visit places like France, England etc.... The passport will be good for 10 years (adults) and you'll be able to use it for overseas travel after your overseas duty assignment. Bring both passports with you when you travel (I do).
    • If you refuse (or can't afford) to get a Tourist Passport then, according to the Dec 11 version of the FCG incidental travel (directly between your assigned duty location and the USA (e.g. Ramstein to USA)) is authorized. If you try to travel (Space-A) through another country (England, Spain etc...) or if your flight gets diverted en-route to another country you "could" run into problems.