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How the Status of Forces Agreement Can Affect Your Military Exchange and Commissary Privileges

When you spend time in another country assigned with the U.S. military, the status of forces agreement, or similar agreements, between the United States and your host country protects your legal status in that nation. Luckily for active-duty service members, DOD civilians, and their dependents, your privilege to shop in military stores is almost always covered under the agreement, too. But there are some restrictions, and here’s what they mean.

What are the reasons for status of forces agreement restrictions?

When you buy a product from an overseas commissary and exchange, it’s considered custom-, duty- and tax-free when it passes across international borders. Depending on where you’re traveling, some SOFAs or supplementary arrangements may:

  • Restrict you from buying rationed items
  • Impose a monthly spending cap depending on your situation and family size
  • Limit the purchase quantity on certain items to prevent resale in illegal markets or in a commercial capacity outside the installation

Where can I find out about specific status of forces agreement regulations?

Check with your military command, which typically publishes the military exchange and commissary regulations based on the SOFA’s terms. Or, you can check with the installation pass and identification office.

SOFAs and similar supplementary agreements govern more than purchases. They also regulate other elements to taxation, importation, criminal jurisdiction and cross-border transit. It’s a good idea to learn about the SOFAs between the United States and your destination country before you travel.

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