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On Thursday, the Defense Department authorized eligible family members, located on the island of Honshu, Japan, to depart to safe haven locations in the United States.

Following the announcement, Navy officials posted the following questions and answers on the Commander Naval Force Japan Facebook page.

Topics discussed include eligibility for departure, payment for the flights, reimbursement for relocation, what people can bring with them, and where will the flights take them.

What is authorized departure?

Authorized departure is a voluntary program in which U.S. government employees and eligible dependents who are stationed abroad are permitted to depart a foreign area at government expense.

Why is departure authorized?

Departure is authorized due to the deteriorating situation at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant following the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami.

My sponsor is deployed, will he/she come home?

Return of deployed members will be on their normally scheduled rotation.

Who is in charge for military/military dependent movement?

The Defense Department will arrange transportation for DOD personnel and dependents.

Who is eligible?

The current departure is focused on command-sponsored dependents and non-command sponsored dependents, who at the time of the authorized departure, are permanently residing on the island of Honshu, Japan. Others are to be determined.

Is there a mechanism in place to identify who is in the affected area? And therefore authorized travel?

All eligible family members on the island of Honshu, Japan, are authorized travel.

How does this apply to joint spouses or single parents?

If you have children, the commander may authorize a parent/guardian to escort children to the safe haven. For joint spouses, this should be coordinated through your unit commander.

If pregnant, can I travel?

Yes, if approved by appropriate medical personnel.

Will non-DOD American citizens be allowed to travel?

The U.S. Embassy is making arrangements to assist all other American citizens interested in departing Japan via U.S. government-chartered transportation. Interested persons should proceed to Narita and Haneda airports, or contact the US Department of State and U.S. Embassy in Japan by sending an e-mail to JapanEmergencyUSC@state.gov or by calling 1-202-501-4444.

Please provide the following information: name, age, place of birth, U.S. passport number and any special medical needs. Immediate family members (spouses and children) who are not U.S. citizens must be documented for entry into the U.S.

Are third-country nationals allowed to travel?

All DOD dependents with travel entitlements are eligible for relocation by the DOD. Allowances are determined by the status of the sponsor and whether the dependents are command-sponsored or not.

What about people without passports?

All travelers are required to have valid travel documents. U.S. citizens who do not hold a valid U.S. passport should contact their installation passport office or the US Department of State and U.S. Embassy in Japan by calling 1-202-501-4444. Additionally, as applicable, travelers should carry their common access card; dependent ID card; PCS orders bringing you to Japan; and, for newborns, proof of birth. Non-U.S. citizens should bring their respective country’s passport or, if unavailable, contact their embassy or consulate to solicit assistance in obtaining appropriate travel documentation.

Who pays for our travel?

The Defense Department pays travel expenses for military dependents and dependents of DOD civilians who have transportation agreements. (See JFTR U6004).

Who pays for our living expenses?

Command-sponsored DOD dependents will receive a Safe Haven Evacuation Allowance that is equivalent to the lodging, meals, and incidental expense allowance for the safe haven. Non-command sponsored dependents are not authorized a safe haven allowance. (See JFTR U6005).

How do I get my safe haven allowance?

Complete and submit DD1351-2, Travel Settlement Voucher, to your nearest finance office. Allowances for the uniformed services will be in accordance with the Joint Federal Travel Regulation, Chapter 6. Allowances for civilian employees and others will be in accordance with the Joint Travel Regulation, Chapter 6.

If I purchase a ticket myself, will I be reimbursed?

Reimbursement for personally procured transportation is uncertain at this time. The Defense Department will make travel arrangements for you if you are eligible for and desire to depart.

Can I bring pets?

Maybe. The Defense Department is currently confirming that the capability exists to transport pets and that proper support can be provided to pets at en route locations. Priority of movement is personal and eligible family members. Horses, fish, birds, and rodents are not authorized transportation.

How much luggage can I bring?

DOD is confirming luggage entitlements based on operational capability. Recommend travelers prepare one carry-on bag with essential items and one additional piece of checked luggage. Specific luggage rules will be published when instructions for signing up for travel are announced. Priority of movement is personnel and eligible family members.

What is the priority of departures?

No specific criteria have been identified except that consideration will be given to those closest in proximity to the threat and those with medical conditions that warrant earliest departure.

What is the schedule for flights?

DOD is currently working to obtain required transportation support. Schedules will be announced when available.

Will departure become mandatory?

Possibly. Whether an ordered departure takes place will depend on developing conditions.

If non-SOFA, will travelers be allowed into other countries? (South Korea)

The State Department and Pacific Command are working all immigration/SOFA issues to ensure entrance of all persons being relocated under this operation.

If medical care is needed, how is that handled?

Medical assistance will be available at all stages and locations used during the relocation operations. Medical requirements must be identified at the time family members sign up for relocation.

How do we evacuate individuals hospitalized in U.S. or Japanese hospitals?

Relocation of hospitalized individuals will be coordinated by the local US military medical authorities.

What must I have to travel?

Travelers should attempt to have valid travel documents. U.S. citizens that do not hold a valid U.S. passport should contact their installation Passport Office or the U.S. Department of State and Embassy Japan by calling 1-202-501-444. Additionally, as applicable, travelers should carry their common access card; dependent ID; PCS order that brought you to Japan; and, for newborns, proof of birth or command sponsorship. Non U.S. Citizens should bring their respective country’s passport or, if unavailable, contact their Embassy or Consulate to solicit assistance in obtaining appropriate travel documents.

What about my house/household goods/cars?

Presently, this authorized departure is anticipated to last for at least 30 days. All persons are encouraged to prepare and secure their residence for several week’s vacancy. Persons should make a personal inventory of household goods prior to departure.

Are military members/essential civilian allowed to accompany dependents to port of embarkation? Allowed to accompany dependents to the states?

Military members should not plan to accompany their family members beyond the departure location. Although specific departure locations have not yet been identified, processing centers will be established at each location to assist departing family members. Some military and civilian personnel may be permitted to escort minor children to safe havens. Commanders and supervisors will determine whether to permit such personnel to escort the minors or whether the sponsor will need to execute their family care plan.

Must I depart during an ordered departure?

If you fail to evacuate during an ordered departure, the Defense Department cannot guarantee continued provision of base services.

If I don’t depart, will schools and child development centers remain open?

Schools and child development centers will continue to function so long as demand and staffing permit.

If I don’t depart, will the commissary and exchange remain available to me?

Commissaries and exchanges will remain available so long as demand and staffing permit.

Where will I go? Intermediate stop? Will there be follow on to the States?

The Office of Under Secretary of Defense has identified the United States as the designated safe haven. Prior to traveling, each departing family will need to identify the location within the designated safe haven to which they want to travel. Per JFTR U6003B.1.b.(1), travel to the designated safe haven of the U.S. will be to the continental United States, which is defined as the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia (JFTR Appendix A, Part 1).

For those who seek to travel to Alaska, Hawaii, or U.S. Territories or Possessions, we are seeking a waiver to permit those non-foreign locations be included as designated safe havens. We will try to get that waiver prior to departure. If we are unable to get a waiver prior to travel and it is later granted, travel to that alternate Safe Haven will be at government expense. (See JFTR U6004F).

For those who seek travel to foreign locations, authorization from the Secretary of State is required. (See JFTR U6003B.2.a.)

Do I need to register my children in school after we leave Japan? If so, how do I register my children in school following departure?

The duration of this authorized departure is unknown. If you volunteer for this authorized departure, withdraw your children from school, and are concerned your children will fall behind during their absence, you should hand carry their records so that they may be registered at your final safe haven location.

Is this a temporary move or permanent change of station to the United States?

This departure is anticipated to be a temporary relocation to the continental United States at this time.

Will we get to return? Will we be allowed to return?

Once the immediate adverse conditions are sufficiently resolved, the Defense Department will evaluate the situation and, if the conditions are safe, initiate action to return all relocated personnel to Japan.

I am a civilian employee, if I volunteer to go, will I have a job to return to?

Yes, so long as you depart and remain in a leave status.

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