Germany lets children of many in US military community enter the country for the holidays

A crowd sits around an open fire near the Stiftskirche in Kaiserslautern, Germany, during the 2019 Christmas market. Most Christmas markets in Germany have been canceled because of the coronavirus and large gatherings have been banned, but Germany has temporarily lifted a travel ban on Americans to allow the children of service members, Defense Department civilian employees and others covered by the Status of Forces Agreement and assigned to Germany to enter the country over the holidays.


By KARIN ZEITVOGEL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 25, 2020

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KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Germany has partially lifted a months-old coronavirus travel ban on Americans to allow the children of some members of the U.S. military community covered by the Status of Forces Agreement to spend the holidays in the country with their parents, Air Force officials said.

Dependents 23 years old or under of parents who are service members, civilian employees or other individuals assigned to Germany, can enter the country immediately and stay until Jan. 31, guidance posted on Ramstein Air Base’s website said.

Allowing them to enter is “an exception to current COVID-related travel restrictions,” the document said. It was agreed to during negotiations between officials at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin and the German interior and foreign ministries, the 86th Airlift Wing told Stars and Stripes.

Americans were banned from traveling to Germany and most other European Union countries as the coronavirus spread rapidly around the U.S., which has the highest number of infections and deaths from the disease caused by the virus of any country.

Once in Germany, the children must comply with coronavirus-related restrictions in the part of the country where their parents are stationed, said the guidance.

Rheinland-Pfalz, which is home to tens of thousands of Americans, many of them assigned to Army and Air Force bases, including Ramstein, requires travelers from high-risk countries, such as the U.S., to quarantine for 10 days after arrival.

Like the rest of Germany, the state has banned large gatherings, requires face masks to be worn in many settings, encourages handwashing and social distancing, and is under partial lockdown until Dec. 20 at the earliest. Most, if not all, of Germany's popular Christmas markets have been canceled because of the virus, and restaurants are only offering takeout and delivery meals.

The U.S. military has even tougher coronavirus restrictions, including 14 days of quarantine for incoming personnel and their families. Under an 86th Airlift Wing order, children visiting family in Ramstein or other Air Force installations in the Kaiserslautern military community will be barred from base facilities such as food courts and shopping areas for the first 14 days in Germany, the document said.

But they can opt to be tested for the virus on the sixth day of their stay in Germany, it said. If they test negative, they can move about freely, on and off base.

The installation restrictions and guidance are specific to the children of parents affiliated with the Air Force in the Kaiserslautern military community, wing officials said.

The children must carry several documents with them during travel and present them to officials if asked. These include a copy of the orders, with the child’s name on them, assigning their parent to Germany. If the child isn’t on the parent’s orders, they need to demonstrate the family relationship by another means, the wing said in response to a question from Stars and Stripes.

“The child will qualify if they can provide proof (of the parent/child relationship and that the parent is assigned to Germany), whether that be by orders or a letter from the parent’s chain of command,” they said. A birth certificate was also acceptable as proof, although it was unclear if it had to be the original or could be a copy, they said.

The children also need a valid U.S. passport; an ID card issued by the Defense Department; a statement from the parent’s chain of command saying the child will reside with parents while in Germany and abide by all German quarantine requirements; and a print-out of a completed online registration form for travelers from high-risk countries.

A list of the required documents and a template for the chain of command’s statement are posted on Ramstein’s website, in the COVID-19 section under travel restrictions.

“Failure to travel with the appropriate documentation may result in being denied boarding at the point of departure or denied entry upon arrival in Germany,” according to the guidance, which is similar to information that was published online by the Army in early November and again last week, before being removed from public view.

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Traditional Christmas cookies hang from a stand at the Christmas market in Baden-Baden, Germany, on Dec. 24, 2019. Germany is partially lifting a travel ban on Americans to allow children whose parents have SOFA status and are assigned to the country to visit during the holidays, but most Christmas markets will be closed because of the coronavirus.