No-Fee Passports and Tourist Passports, What is the Difference?

Your family is on orders to Italy. You know you will need a passport. You talk to friends or spouses that have been there and do that, but it still seems confusing. Do you need one or two passports? What is the difference between the passport that you apply for through the military installation travel office and a passport you can (usually) apply for at the post office?

This is my explanation of the no-fee (sometimes called official or diplomatic) passport and the tourist passport. Want more in-depth information? Consult the State Department Website.

No-Fee Passport (Official, Diplomatic)

The no-fee passport is the passport the government issues you  for official military-related travel. You can only receive this  type of passport if you are an “officer or employee” of the United States government traveling abroad for the government or their dependent. (There are a couple of other instances you might qualify for this passport, but it doesn’t apply to this situation.)

The installation travel office will apply for these passports for you and will gather all the required documentation from you at the time of application. You won’t pay anything for the passports and travel office will receive them in the mail when the passports are ready. You will go into the office to pick them up.

The n0-fee passport may or may not look like the regular tourist passport. I have talked to some folks who have no-fee passports that are blue and others that have maroon colored no-fee passports. I doubt there is any difference, it just depends on when the government issued them.

Tourist Passport

The tourist passport is the passport that you will need for any travel that is not considered “official” or military-related.  Fill out the passport application either online or by hand. Do not sign it, though. You will go to your local post office or passport office (Find the nearest office HERE.) Bring your evidence of U.S. Citizenship, application, passport photos, and method of payment with you.

A representative of the facility will complete their portion of the paperwork, collect the fee and forward the paperwork to the passport office. As long as all paperwork is accurate, you will receive your passport in approximately four weeks. You can pay for expedited service and receive a passport in as few as two weeks.

For the most current passport fees and requirements, visit the Travel.State.Gov website.

What about your kiddos?

Be aware that children have some extra requirements when applying for a passport. Both parents must be present or one parent must present a notarized statement from the absentee parent to complete the application process. The exception to this rule is if you have paperwork validating the fact that there is only one parent in the family. (Here is the link to this information.)

Do I Need Both A Tourist and an Official Passport?

The Travel.State.Gov Website states, “You may use your no-fee passport book only when traveling overseas in discharge of your official duties. For personal travel, you must to use a regular fee passport book or card. You may have both a valid regular passport book and a valid no-fee passport book at the same time.” 

My Opinion on Leisure Travel on the Official Passport

You may decide you can’t afford a regular passport or just don’t want to bother with applying for one. I know people who travel on their No-Fee Passport. I wouldn’t do it. If someone on a border decides to be difficult, you may not be able to complete a trip you have planned. If you can afford a trip to another country, then spend the extra money on the tourist passport and do it the way you are “supposed” to do it. My two-cents worth. Take it or leave it.


  1. Do you know of any non-US citizen military dependents over there? I have read in one place that they will not need a no-fee passport, just a SAFO (?) stamp in their passport.

    • P. Crippen says:

      I know several non-US citizens. They are citizens of countries that are part of the EU, so they need different documentation than U.S. citizen spouses. I have not done much research into it, but I will ask and see what I can learn, then share it here.

  2. CJ Rich says:

    We are considering a move to Vicenza and we have a question : what is the procedure and cost to bring a family pet. We have a Yorkie that we dearly love and would want to bring.

    • P. Crippen says:

      If you go to your vet, you can get a pet passport. Your state government should have a place to get forms that you will need for your animal to enter the EU/Italy. If you have a Yorkie, it should be able to ride in the cabin, so you will just have to make sure your tickets are booked on an airline that allows pets in the cabin. This is getting harder to find. I believe Delta no longer allows animals. Here is the Italian Embassy to the U.S. information on shipping pets to Italy.

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