Five Things: Traveling to Foreign Countries
By: Oriana Pawlyk
Have you booked an airline ticket lately? Make sure your destination gets a thumbs-up before you take off.
The Air Force is reminding military personnel that any travel planned outside the continental United States while on leave must abide by the Defense Department’s Foreign Clearance Guide, which outlines specific requirements for each country and type of travel.
“The anti-terrorism officer has an obligation to educate our airmen because there have been many cases where airmen have booked airline tickets to restricted areas and we have to tell them otherwise,” said Steve Brady, public affairs specialist for the 21st Space Wing, which includes the Antiterrorism/Force Protection Office. Failure to follow the correct procedures could result in disciplinary action and forfeiture of money spent on travel.
Before you finalize your next trip, here’s what you need to know:
1 Who to notify
The Antiterrorism/Force Protection Office says to notify your supervisor and consult with your anti-terrorism representative at least 60 days before submitting a leave request or booking travel outside the U.S.
2 What to double-check
The FCG lists the credentials, immunizations, uniform requirements and embassy information and other information you need for each country. The State Department also lists up-to-date information under its “Travel Alerts” and “Travel Warnings” sections detailing the instability and risk of travel to overseas areas. Visit http://www.travel.state.gov/ for more information.
3 Get a clearance
Most countries require country and/or theater clearance from the combatant commander for all active-duty military, including active reserve and Guard members. Consult the FCG to see if a country or theater clearance is required, with steps on how to apply. It could take up to 45 days for clearance approval. The Antiterrorism Office says not to request a clearance “within the lead time specified in the FCG unless an exceptional situation arises, in which case proper justification must be provided.”
Remember, it can take about six weeks to process an application for a passport as well.
4 Some off-limits countries
Warnings and restrictions change often, but in recent months, various unified combatant commands have warned personnel about unofficial travel to countries that include: twelve of Mexico’s 31 states, with Nayarit as the most recent restriction; Egypt; Kazakhstan; Lebanon; Syria; Yemen; Bahrain; Kenya; Somalia; Tajikistan; Qatar; Algeria and Libya. Unofficial travel to Afghanistan, Iran or Iraq is not authorized, but exceptions may be requested.
5 The SMART program
Another program that could help is the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. SMART is a free online service that helps the State Department contact you in case of a family emergency stateside, or if there is a crisis where you are traveling. At https://travelregistration.state.gov/, you can fill out your emergency contact information, passport information, copies of itineraries and medical insurance information.