AF News

Friday, September 20, 2013

Dependent travel out/in of Okinawa

***UPDATED*** 3-Feb-16

So…if your dependents want to fly out on a commercial flight out of Japan, their better have their SOFA entry/re-entry stamps in their passports before they try to go! We learned this the hard way when they tried get checked in for their flight. But some background first…when we landed on Kadena AB via the Patriot Express, my Korean wife and our little girl got SOFA entry stamps put in their passports right there in the terminal. Cool, press on. Well fast forward a month later, and the wife is off to Korea via JinAir (way cheap by the way!) to show off our little girl to her family, since they haven’t seen her in person yet. In preparation of this trip, I knew they needed their passports and I figured they got their “stamp” when we got here, so they should be good to go. Wrong! They need more stamps in there, in particular the SOFA re-entry stamp. This allows them to come and go from Japan without having to get a visa every time and what not. BUT I didn’t even think to ask someone about any of that, because well…I thought I had it all figured out for their travel! I even read the fine print on her plane ticket purchase, which stated that the credit card used to purchase the ticket online, MUST be presented at check-in(she doesn’t normally carry that card on her). I got you JinAir! But nice try though, because this flight is going to go super smooth because I “prepare” more than most people do, so HA! So as we make our way to the Naha airport, we hit a ton of traffic, and that extra buffer of time I gave us basically was wasted on Hwy 58. Luckily, my “preparedness” basically kept them from missing their flight completely, and was not used to enjoy a relaxed send off like I planned. So we get to the check-in counter of JinAir and I give them their passports and even that credit card before they even asked, and they were impressed (not really)! But then I noticed the clerk fumbling through their passports, like she was looking for something and not finding it. Well I figure she is having an issue finding the “stamp” that is clearly in there, and I point it out to her. Then she tells me that is not the right stamp and I clearly stated that it is indeed the stamp she is looking for, because there are no others in there that we got when we got here. This of course is around the time we were approaching 30 mins from the flight actually leaving, the baby was starting to get fussy because we haven’t moved around for some time, and the wife was starting to give me the look that said, “I am getting on that plane no matter what!” Well, one of the supervisor comes by and presents us a book with a image of what the stamp is supposed to look like, and low and behold, it doesn’t look like anything they got in their passports. And now we are all just staring at each other as the clock is just ticking along, but the other numerous travelers on that flight are checking in easy breezy all around us; well they must have their stamps then! Well, it is super rare for me to be caught in these types of situations, so I started asking what are we going to do. We can’t just stand here staring at each other! So they asked me if I had copies of my PCS orders on me, and if I did, we could get through immigration here and on the flight. Well of course I do, I have stacks of copies, but back in my house on Kadena AB! Now we are back to staring at each other. And then it hit me, I remembered I had emailed them to my sponsor before I got on island and they should be in my email sent folder. So I searched my email folders through my Iphone (god this phone is a life saver!) and, bingo! I found them! I told the clerk that and she told me I needed them on paper, not on a digital screen. Ok, we are in an Airport, there must be some computers I could use to print something up. Wrong! There is NOTHING like that in Naha airport, never mind that Japan is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world to boot! So back to staring at each other…and then hope! The JinAir supervisor was kind enough to let me email the orders to him and he would print them up in his office and give them to me. Success! We did that, got checked in, and off they ran through security to immigration. Hardly the send off I was planning, but they managed to get on that plane and off to Korea by the skin of their teeth!

Lessons learned…

1. Get your dependents passports stamped with the SOFA entry/re-entry stamps BEFORE they leave commercial out of Japan. For us, when they get back I will take their passports to the passenger terminal here on Kadena AB and they will get their stamps. They just need a copy of your orders and military ID and that’s it. The stamp is good for the length of your tour, so once they get it, they can come and go all they want.

2. Military travelers don’t have this problem. We fly on our orders or leave forms and military IDs when we travel in/out of Japan, so that is way easy. I even saw this while we were going though our issue at the check-in counter, with plenty of young military guys on leave flying over to Korea to have some fun.

Finally, I have to give props to JinAir for making it happen. I know my wife would have been PISSED (at me of course) if she missed that flight, since her family made plans for her to be there that day. I also do want to state that my writing tone of these events may come off as way snarky, but I was completely cool, calm, and courteous the whole time, and I am sure that made them more willing to help us out. Plus I think having an adorable baby making all the ladies there swoon had something to do with it as well.

Here is link to more info on the SOFA entry/re-entry process and where you can get it at different bases on the island. I also have the link to JinAir, since they are way cheap for flying to Korea and other Asian destinations.


  1. Thanks for providing this post! I am civilian but will PCS to Okinawa in 2 months. Can you post a picture of what the stamp looks like? My co-workers here who lived in Japan said they got their stamp when they went through immigrations (flying out of Narita) so I'm a bit confused. Thanks!

  2. Can I hair say how helpful this blog has been. My husband has soft orders to Kadena this August so I only have 4 months to do everything you did in a year. And we have a yorkie too! Go figure. And a 1 year old! Passport application done just have to turn them in, microchip and first rabies for dog, turned in medical forms to be filled out by our civilian Drs done, just waiting for them to return them to me. So much more to do and to get the official orders. Oh and this is our first pcs ever. Also, do you know if a repaired cleft lip and palate on a 1 year old would disqualify you from going? Our daughter had both and they are fixed just had appointments every few years or so now. Thanks again!

    1. Bri,

      congrats on your Okinawa assignment! And wow, 4 months to get ready to PCS for the first time?! That is going to be stressful, but I am sure you guys will be fine.

      As far as your daughter goes, I can't say one way or the other, as I am not a doctor =) But it doesn't sound like a serious condition, so you should be ok. I do want to mention that there is are ton of Facebook groups out here, and just search "Okinawa", and you will see them all. You could ask your question in there, and there may be someone that has dealt with the same medical issue as well. take care and good luck!