Job loss, divorce can mean loss of SOFA status

Some Americans want to remain in Germany even after their official connection to the U.S. military has ended. Maybe they lost their job with the Army, Air Force, Navy or Marines, their sponsor has left the country, or they have been divorced from a spouse who was stationed in Germany.

Photo by Photos.comPurchasing tax-free fuel after a U.S. civilian or contractor retires, resigns or is terminated from a U.S. government job, is illegal.

Photo by Photos.com
Purchasing tax-free fuel after a U.S. civilian or contractor retires, resigns or is terminated from a U.S. government job, is illegal.

“Whatever the reason, personnel are required to properly out-process and relinquish any documents such as ID cards, ration cards, SOFA certificates, vehicle registrations, fuel cards and unused VAT forms that entitle them to tax-free privileges,” said David Kuik, the chief inspector at the Stuttgart Customs Office. “Subsequent use of these documents to buy fuel, register vehicles or shop in U.S. forces sales facilities is illegal,” he added.

People who are not German citizens also need to contact German immigration authorities if they plan to stay in the country after their official connections to the U.S. military have ended.

On the day that a U.S. civilian or contractor retires, resigns or is terminated from a U.S. government job, he or she loses their Status of Forces Agreement status in Germany, and tax and duty free entitlements (Exchange, commissary, Army Post Office, tax relief, U.S. Army Europe vehicle registration and fuel card, etc.).

This individual logistic support also ends on the day a dependent child turns 21 years of age (or 23 if enrolled in higher education) or whenever the child establishes a separate residence. The same applies when someone is divorced from a U.S. citizen with individual logistic support in Germany.

However, family members keep their logistic support for 90 days if their sponsor leaves Germany on a permanent change of station move or after a spouse has died.

“Sponsors who are leaving Germany must tell their local U.S. Forces customs office if family members plan to stay in Germany beyond the 90 days,” Kuik said.

He added that active duty Soldiers deploying on unaccompanied hardship tours can extend their family’s logistic support in Germany until the sponsor returns. Exceptions are also available for family care providers who look after the children of military parents who have to deploy outside of Germany. Requests for exceptions should be submitted as early as possible to allow sufficient time for processing.

U.S. Government organizations have a responsibility to ensure that any employees who lose individual logistic support in Germany properly out-process and hand over relevant documents to the proper agencies. They should also report violations to their local U.S. Forces Customs Office.

For more information on loss of status or applying for an exception to policy for unaccompanied hardship tours, call the Stuttgart Customs Office at 431-2731 or 421-4317/civ. 07031-15-2731 or 0711-729-4317.