Woman pushes her daughter in a shopping cart filled with food and drinks.

How the status of forces agreement can affect your military exchange and commissary privileges

When you spend time in another country as a service member, the Status of Forces Agreement, or SOFA, between the United States and your host country protects your legal status as military personnel in another nation. Luckily for active service members, 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 don’t allow you to buy rationed items
  • Similarly, some SOFAs also impose a monthly spending cap, depending on your situation and family size.
  • Finally, limits are also required on items that could be resold on illegal markets outside the installation

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

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

It’s a good idea to learn about the SOFA between the United States and your destination country before you travel.