Garrison agencies ready to assist when planning for guests

If you’re expecting guests this summer, make your life a little easier by including a few U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart agencies on your planning checklist.

While the cost of airfare often doubles between peak and off seasons, you may still be able to find a bargain for your guests through Sato Travel on Patch and Kelley Barracks.

“Some airlines offer discounted military rates to immediate family members for travel to Germany from the United States,” said Brigita Vrbek-Wessel, a travel consultant for Carlson Wagonlit Travel-Sato Travel.

There are also special rates for family members in the U.S. with Department of Defense ID cards. “Family members traveling from the U.S. to Germany can receive a special airfare. This fare can only be purchased at the Sato Travel Office on Patch or Kelley Barracks, and only with a personal credit card,” Vrbek-Wessel said.

Your visitors need to be aware of the restrictions imposed by German Customs.

“When entering Germany, German Customs inspectors will randomly select visitors and check their belongings,” said Kelly White, the chief inspector for U.S. Forces Customs in Stuttgart, Heidelberg and Mannheim.

A frequently checked item is medicine. A three month supply of prescription medicine is the maximum allowed, and the medicine bottles must be labeled with the traveler’s name. If not, they can be confiscated, according to German Customs regulations.

Lithium batteries must be packed in carry-on baggage and be associated with the traveler’s personal electronic devices, such as cell phones, laptops and cameras, White said.

There are also restrictions for live plants, food, dogs and more. A complete list is available at the German Customs website (

Once your visitors are on the ground, you may not always want to play chauffeur. With a little advance planning, your guests, as long as they are not residents of Germany, will be able to drive your U.S. Army in Europe-plated privately-owned vehicle.

In order to do so, a guest must have an international driving permit issued by either the American Automobile Association or the National Automobile Club, according to White.

The sponsor can begin the process before their guests arrive.

“The sponsor can bring in a copy of the visitor’s passport and international driving permit, valid in Germany … issued by AAA or NAC, in advance of their visitor’s arrival,” said White.

Two Army in Europe forms are required: AE 550-175C, Request for Exception to Policy for Authorization to Operate a Privately Owned Vehicle; and AE 550-175D, Authority to Operate a Privately Owned Vehicle. These forms are only available at the U.S. Forces Custom Office.

“All customs forms are completed by customer service representatives in our office,” White said. The sponsor will also need proof of insurance and the vehicle’s registration.

If guests decide that they want to drive after they arrive, and they don’t have an international license, all is not lost. The Stuttgart Law Center can help.

The sponsor can take the guest’s valid U.S. driver’s license to the civil process clerk’s office for an official German translation, according to Karin Hemberger, the Stuttgart Law Center civil process clerk.

There are several options for guests to gain entrance to military installations in Europe.

“All DOD ID cardholders [or sponsors] 18 years and above have sign-in privileges for any visitor with a passport, with the exception of those on the high risk country list,” said Renne McCormick, the Installation Access Control supervisor. “Sponsors can sign in up to four guests at a time, as long as the sponsor’s ID card is registered in IACS in the [European Union].”

If guests will be frequent visitors on any given installation, visitor passes are convenient.

“A visitor’s pass is a card we give your visitor that allows them to come on and off base without being signed in and out at the gate,” McCormick said.

The pass can be issued for the duration of a visitor’s stay in the EU, up to 90 days. Beyond 90 days, a visa is required. This is issued at the Rathaus (German city hall).

To be issued a visitor’s pass, both guest and sponsor must be present in the IACS office. The guest’s passport and a printed copy of the return flight are required.

A pass will give visitors access to three USAG Stuttgart installations of their choosing without an escort, and as long as they are accompanied by an ID cardholder, access to other installations in Europe (except for the United Kingdom) without being signed in.

“They can ride the duty bus between those three bases. However, the visitor pass does not give tax-free privileges. It’s only gate access … for friends and family, and not people here on business,” McCormick said.

Guests must have their passports in hand when entering any U.S. military installation in Europe, she added.

Residents of the European Union can only receive a visitor’s pass if the sponsor is an immediate family member and if the sponsor lives on base — no exception. An EU visitor can be signed in at the gate, but must be escorted 24/7.

Access to other garrisons may be different. Each garrison IACS office may have their own restrictions on access, McCormick added.

Sponsors can save valuable time by strategically planning their visits to the IACS office. “Coming in after the bird (flight from the U.S.) lands around 10 a.m. is not a good idea,” McCormick said. “Just call. We’ll tell you if it’s busy or not.”