Your military CAC is your life. It gets you into your shop, through the commissary and to medical for some Motrin.
Everything you’ve needed to do is handled by that one card. But now, you’d like to travel or maybe you’ve got an OCONUS tour in the works. Will your CAC get you onto the plane or train?
Do Active Duty Troops Need a Tourist Passport?
Short answer: everyone needs a passport for international travel. Generally, except for a few circumstances, passports are required to leave the US. Yes, that includes on cruises and jaunts just over the border to Canada or Mexico.
So, yes, even active duty troops do need a US Passport (or passport from their home nation) to travel around the world.
However, there are some instances that do not require a tourist passport for active duty troops.
- OCONUS PCS
- CONUS to OCONUS TDY
- OCONUS to OCONUS TDY
- Deployment, to and from deployment location
- Other official travel
Some Tourist Passport Exceptions
Under these very specific circumstances, active duty troops are not required to have a valid, current passport. That’s because you’ll be on official military business.
For travel to, from or around OCONUS locations on orders, you’ll need a copy of those specific orders and your CAC card. Make sure that your orders specify where you’re going to and from, the dates you’ll be traveling and have your personal information on them. You’ll be showing these documents to customs and immigration at your OCONUS destination, if traveling by commercial air.
If you’re PCSing to or from an OCONUS location, you’ll need to bring a copy of those orders, your CAC and your area clearance. For travel with dependents, they’ll need to be listed on your area clearance and orders, too.
Your family might be authorized “official” or no-fee passports. These are just for travel on orders to and from your next duty station(s). Even though they look the same, you aren’t really supposed to conduct personal travel with these special passports.
On deployment, you might be flying on a military-provided flight or via commercial airlines. But the same rule applies: copy of your orders and your CAC. That’s it. Yes, even if you’re coming and going from R & R and even if you’re IAD.
There might be other reasons for your official travel. Most will simply require your CAC and a copy of orders.
Times Active Duty Troops Will Want a Tourist Passport
Say you’re a service member and you’d like to go on vacation…
If you’re going outside of the US, you’ll need a passport. 100% and all the time for personal tourist travel. That’s it.
Applying for a passport is fairly quick and easy. There’s a handy online questionnaire that will guide you to the correct form and let you know all the fees upfront. All you’ll need to do is fill in the online application and make an appointment at your nearest passport office.
Some military bases might be able to help you process tourist passport applications, but often you’ll need to visit a federal passport office yourself.
Important Passport & Travel Reminders
Getting a passport is fairly simple, but there are important things that everyone should know before they go.
- Minor children need to have consent from both/all custodial parents or guardians; consent can be shown via additional forms for parents unable to appear in person
- You passport and your booking information should match, down to the middle name or middle initial; especially important for newlyweds or other name changes
- Passports can take 6-8 weeks between application and arrival at your door; plan your trip with this in mind
There are also special concerns for military troops and families.
- Foreign travel must be approved by your chain of command, with requirements and training varying by location or unit; see your CO or authorized unit member for guidance
- Some locations may be considered off-limits to troops; always check with your command and monitor the travel advisories issued by the State Department
- When traveling to/from your OCONUS duty station, military families should always carry a copy of orders, area clearance, a DoD ID and have a valid multiple entry stamp in their tourist passport
Passport + DoD ID Perks
When traveling, you might also want to consider bringing along your military ID, even though you’ve also got a passport. There are definitely some travel perks that could apply!
Some US airlines allow military troops and veterans, with ID, to board the plane first. Others allow complimentary additional baggage, even when you’re not traveling on orders! And sometimes, just sometimes, you might even score a small (or big) upgrade. Some troops traveling, both on orders and for personal reasons, report that they’ve scored class upgrades or been placed in seats with extra legroom.
Having your ID with you at check-in could also score you passage through the coveted TSA Pre-Check line! You’ll cut tons of time off your security clearance and be able to keep your shoes on.