Command Sponsorship, SOFA Stamp, and Overseas Screening and stuff

Being a Filipino married to a US Navy stationed in Japan isn’t easy. Like every navy wife, I’ve gone through very difficult situations figuring out how to join my husband PCS-ed to NAF Atsugi, Japan.

So, Let me tell you a brief background of myself and my husband before I show you the grueling process we’ve gone through just so I could finally be with my husband again. Singing *Together again* by Buck Owens

Background

I’m a Filipino citizen and my husband is an American US Navy. We got married in the United States last year. Actually, it’ll be our 1st year anniversary in 2 days as of writing this. Two weeks after our marriage, my husband has to return back to Japan to report back for work. Nothing beats the depth of loneliness I felt when we were apart from each other after our wedding. *Sob..* I entered US on a Fiance Visa (K1 Visa) so I had to wait for my Residency Card (commonly known as Green Card) before I could travel outside US.

I waited and waited and waited. It was when I’ve gone through the toughest times of my life. I lived with my in-laws and was away from my family and friends in the coldest state of US without access to public transportation. Whilst the waiting, I completed the Overseas Screening process for Command Sponsorship. Snowstorms and ice storm would always come along which made several appointments either moved or canceled causing frustration on my end.

PLEASE TAKE NOTE: Doing the Overseas Screening while you are outside Japan is optional! If there are hospitals affiliated with Tricare Standard from where you live, you are very welcome to do this (so that when you arrive in Japan, doing the Overseas Screening should not take that long). So, yeah. OK. After 2 months from the time we submitted my Green Card application, I finally received a notice that my green card was approved and will be soon mailed. YAHOO! I can finally travel outside US!

But wait. Hey. Here’s the catch. Even if I’m a green card holder, I’m still a Filipino Citizen and therefore still required a Visa to enter Japan. What’s next? I immediately applied for a Japan Tourist Visa through Consulate General of Japan in Boston. They asked for several followup documents which delayed the process and it took 2 weeks before my Visa was approved. I was granted 90 days of stay by the way. HURRAH!

OKAY next, flight ticket to Japan. Since my husband’s savings was in near death experience from our wedding, he had to book me the cheapest flight which was from Boston to Tokyo Haneda. From the state of Maine to Boston, I took a bus and spent the night at the airport’s USO Lounge (for members of the US military and their families) and was treated like a princess.

Finally, after almost 16-hour flight, I was reconnected with my hubby after 4 months of being apart! But wait, there’s more. It didn’t stop there. We immediately processed the Command Sponsorship. My husband was an E-5 already living off base so my accommodation was not a problem. We had a checklist that was provided by his command to guide us with the process. The good news, our command sponsorship was approved after 4 ½ weeks of ridiculously following it up back-and-forth.

WHEW! That was long.. Anyways, going back; here’s the summary, some weren’t mentioned above just to cut the story short.

How to Join your Husband PCS-ed to Japan: Step-by-Step Process

1.

Go to Japan on a Tourist Visa

If you’re a citizen of a country which requires Tourist Visa to enter Japan, you must acquire a Tourist Visa first. When applying for a Tourist Visa, you should, as much as possible, request for the maximum number of days you can stay in Japan because the Command Sponsorship is a long process. For Filipino citizens like me, the maximum is 90 days.
2.

Documents to Bring When Getting to Japan

Already got your Tourist Visa? Book your flight now! But you have to bring the following documents and show it to the immigration officer upon your arrival in Japan to stamp your passport with SOFA.

  • Passport
  • Copy of Letter of Dependency (you can get this from your husband’s command).
  • Military ID
  • Military orders

Please bear in mind that you don’t need to be command sponsored to acquire the SOFA Stamp.
3.

Start the Command Sponsorship Paperwork

Welcome to Japan! Once you arrived, immediately start the Command Sponsorship Paperwork. If your husband has absolutely no idea on how to start this, he should ask his command. He should be given a Command Sponsorship Checklist which include the Overseas Screening (medical and dental). Vaccination is case-by-case basis. I heard that some navy wife was given a Japanese Encephalitis Shot during their Overseas Screening, this didn’t happen in my case.
4.

The Waiting Process

Once you’ve completed the checklist, submit the paperwork to the right personnel who will take care of it. I forgot the name of the office, sorry. Sometimes, they don’t notify you whether your Command Sponsorship was approved or not. So, make sure to follow it up from time to time to check the status. Ours was approved after 4 ½ weeks. HURRAY!
5.

Get the Multiple Exit and Entry Permit Stamp from the PSD Office

Once your Command Sponsorship was approved, your husband need to bring your passport to the PSD along with the Command Sponsorship Letter to get the Multiple Exit and Entry Permit Stamp. By acquiring this, your Tourist Visa is officially cancelled and therefore you can now stay in Japan with your hubby until his PCS ends. This stamp also enables you to travel outside Japan and return without getting a Tourist Visa. Oh yeah.
6.

Sit back and relax. Explore Japan or Attend the New Spouse Orientation

Congratulations! You are now officially a Navy wife based in Japan. Welcome to the club! Start exploring the nearby interesting places around the base or attend the New Spouse Orientation Training conducted by the Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC) at the base.

Points to remember:

  • This may not apply to everyone.
  • My husband was an E-5 and living off base so my accommodation wasn’t really a problem.
  • If your husband is currently in an unaccompanied housing, you’ll be temporarily staying in a Navy Lodge or hotels outside the base until you get an on base or off base housing (for E-4 and above).
  • Command Sponsorship is not guaranteed and may be denied. Click here for more information.
  • To learn more about Command Sponsorship, click here.
  • This blog entry is for Navy Military Branch. Process of Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, etc. may be different.

Helpful Facebook Groups for Military Spouses in Japan

Even if you’re not in Japan yet, you may join this group.Don’t forget to request permission by PM-ing the Admin.

  1. Atsugi Military Wives and Friends
  2. Yokosuka Military Spouses
  3. Kadena Wives Group