Just a head’s up y’all… this post will not be very interesting to the general public; it is merely informational. If you’re wife or husband is stationed overseas and you’re confused about what it takes to move on to base, read on.
When my husband and I were researching what it was we had to do in order to get me over to Naples where he is stationed, we came up with nothing. Even meetings with agents who knew what we had to do were confusing, and sometimes contradictory. It was very stressful trying to figure out everything, and we spent too much time doing research and asking questions. Now that the process is almost over, I want to help other couples in the same boat.
To clarify, this is what we had to do in order to get me on to the Naval base in Naples, Italy. There are many Naval bases throughout the world, so the process may be different depending where you are going, but I’m fairly certain everything should be the same for bases in Italy at least. This is much easier for couples who marry before the military spouse receives his/her orders, but this post is for those who marry after the military spouse already lives at their current station.
First of all, get married, and get multiple copies of the marriage license (these are obtained at your county Auditor’s office prior to the ceremony, and returned promptly after to be signed by the Auditor). My dad brought our license to the Auditor’s office while we were on our honeymoon, and they signed and stamped multiple copies for us immediately when he told them the situation. Make sure you have a certified copy and your wife/husband in the Navy has one as well.
The very next thing you want to do is visit your nearest Naval Base and obtain a Military Dependent ID and get enrolled in DEERS, which is the key to getting your TRICARE benefits eligibility established. Your military spouse (also known as your sponsor) must be present for this. You will have to return to the base, and you will need your dependent ID to get on without your sponsor. If you can on the same day, talk to a passport agent on base to get all the information you need to obtain a No-Fee Passport. The basic traveler’s passport that most people have only allows you to stay in another country for three months. The No-Fee allows you to stay longer, and the military will pay for it. Our agent gave us a check sheet for everything we needed to apply for the passport, and we brought these items to a later visit (more about that in a bit). Also, on the same day if possible (why not save gas, right?), visit medical to set up an appointment for an overseas medical screening and a dental screening. You can do this over the phone, like I did, but it may be easier in person.
Next, you want to take care of that No-Fee Passport checklist you got from the passport agent. The Application to Apply for No-Fee Passport (DD1056) must be completed by your military spouse and signed by their Authorizing Official in blue ink. This means that he or she will have to send the completed form to you. My husband scanned ours and e-mailed it to me so I could print it at home, but it can also be snail-mailed. You’ll also want to include your spouses orders and a copy of his/her ID–all will be needed to apply. You will also need to complete a Passport Application Form which can be accessed at pptform.state.gov. Check “None” when it asks if you have a passport (even if you have one), and “$110” for the price (the Navy will pay this). DO NOT SIGN THE FORM. It must be signed in front of the passport agent. When you have the completed DD1056, Passport Application Form, your spouse’s military orders, and a copy of his/her ID, bring those along with your evidence of citizenship (driver’s license plus birth certificate works–the birth certificate will be sent with the application), two identical 2’x2′ passport photos (there are many places to go to have these done–I went to Hi-School Pharmacy), and your marriage certificate to the passport agent at the same Naval base you visited before. He/she will take care of everything from there, and will contact you when the No-Fee Passport has arrived. It is supposed to take four to five weeks–usually closer to four, according to my agent, although that wasn’t the case for me (mine ended up taking closer to six weeks! grrr). It can be expedited for $60, but that will make it take four weeks, which really doesn’t buy you a whole lot more time if you are in the majority… unlike me (can you tell I’m still a little bitter about it?). Before you leave base, ask the agent what needs to be done to obtain a “missione” visa. He/she will probably give you another check list and possibly an application. You may fill it out before, but the agent will assist you when you return to sign your No-Fee Passport.
You’ll also want to get the first part of your overseas medical screening done. This can be done before or after you turn in the No-Fee Passport Application. I did both in the same day to save gas since my nearest base is three hours away with no traffic. Be sure to have a copy of your medical and immunization records–they’ll want to see those. In the first part of my screening, I filled out a bunch of paperwork, took a pregnancy test (you take this even if you’re 100% sure you’re not pregnant), and got some blood drawn. Then you need to schedule the second part of the screening as well as a dental appointment. The dental appointment can probably be done earlier or on the same day as the first part of the medical screening, but I didn’t know about it until after I completed the first part. In the dental appointment, you’ll have x-rays done, and then a Navy dentist will poke around in your mouth to make sure everything looks fine. It’s pretty quick and simple. My guy spent more time chit chatting than looking in my mouth.
The second part of the medical screening is basically the same as the first, except a doctor asks the questions. Seriously, most of them are the same as what you’ll see on the paperwork in the first part–personal and family medical history, drug/alcohol problems, medications, etc. They’ll also take your blood pressure and weigh you. I have no idea why this whole medical/dental process couldn’t be done at one time. It’s super repetitive and quick. I’m pretty healthy, so the process could be different for someone who has medical problems.
Make sure to get the results of your overseas medical screening and dental screening, and have them sent (mine were able to be e-mailed) to your spouse immediately because they are required for you to gain command sponsorship, which ultimately allows you to live on base. It is also needed to obtain your visa.
Once the passport agent informs you that your No-Fee has arrived, go visit him/her again to sign it. The next step is obtaining the “missione” visa, which says you are in the country for “mission” purposes. When you go to sign your No-Fee, make sure you bring your visa application (if it’s not completed, the passport agent with help you), identification (driver’s license), birth certificate and your spouse’s orders (which the agent should still have from before), your No-Fee passport (obviously the agent will have this), your marriage license, and another 2’x2′ passport photo. The application and your identification must be notarized, and there should be a notary on base. Mine was just two doors down from the passport agent’s office. From here, the passport agent will send your No-Fee to the Italian Embassy so you can get the visa. At first they told us it would take four weeks, then we heard two to four, and then mine arrived in nine days. So who knows what happened there. I can not tell you how relieved I was; everything seemed to take the longest possible amount of time up until this point. Here’s a fun little hiccup we encountered…
I went to my nearest Naval base on October 9 to sign my No-Fee Passport and have it sent off for the visa. I was so excited because from then, there was just one month to go. Turns out–about a week and a half later–they still hadn’t sent it, even though the passport agent told me he would send it that day, the 9th. So my husband calls to find out they were waiting for confirmation that I had received command sponsorship. They didn’t think it was necessary to inform us that they had forgotten that little bit of info. So my No-Fee wasn’t sent to get a visa until November 6th. Beware of stuff like this–many couples we’ve talked to say it took forever for them to get overseas because the agent they were working with didn’t seem to know what they were doing and did not communicate any issues. It’s as if they’ve never had to assist a military spouse in moving overseas! So really, be pushy. Call them to MAKE SURE they have everything, that things have been sent, that everything is on track, etc.
Anyway… once your No-Fee and visa arrive back to the base, the agent should inform you, and you can either go retrieve it or have it sent to your home (which is what I did since the base is so far). Once your No-Fee Passport containing the “missione” visa is in your grasp, you can get a plane ticket to your spouse’s base in Italy! But once you arrive, there’s still one more thing to do. You must obtain a Soujourner’s Permit within eight days of arriving on base. You can get this at your legal office. It’s basically a green card. You’ll also get some fingerprints done. The legal agents will help you through the process.
You may be wondering about the cost of your flight. First we thought it would be taken care of, then we heard otherwise, then again it sounded like the Navy maybe could cover it… in short, you’re on your own. Of course, military spouses are free to use Space-A flights, but those are first-come, first-served, and military spouses are not high on the priority list. If you want 100% confidence that you will arrive in Italy on a specific date, you’re better off purchasing tickets on a commercial flight.
In short, here’s the list of everything you need to get overseas:
- Military Dependent ID
- DEERS enrollment
- Overseas medical screening (part 1 and part 2)
- Dental screening
- Command sponsorship
- No-Fee Passport
- “Missione” Visa
- Soujourner’s Permit
Everything prior to the Soujourner’s Permit MUST be obtained before leaving the states. That means it must be IN YOUR HANDS, not processing, not in the mail, but actually with you. You never know if something will go wrong or if a document will get lost in the mail (trust me, it happened with my social security card a while back–eek!).
Everything happens differently for everyone, but for me it took four months. I’ve heard it taking everything from a month and a half to six months or more. Yes, it is a long and tedious process, but it will all be worth it when you can finally be with your new husband or wife. Plus, you get to live in another country! Not everyone has that opportunity.
Don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you have questions. It’s also a good idea to ask other couples on the base you’re planning to move to how they did it–that’s how we got most of our information. Good luck, congratulations, and I hope everything goes smoothly and quickly for you!