HEIDELBERG, Germany -- One advantage Americans living and working in Germany enjoy is the opportunity for their family members and friends to visit from the U.S. and travel around Europe.

But U.S. Army Europe customs officials remind members of the U.S. forces community in Europe that they must get customs approval to allow their visitors to drive USAREUR-plated vehicles.

"Just go to your local military customs field office and fill out the application form," said Fred Evans, chief of services for the USAREUR Customs Executive Agency.

To prepare the paperwork before relatives or friends arrive, he said, owners must take their vehicle registrations and clear copies of their passports, stateside driver's licenses and official German translations of their licenses or international driver's licenses, to their customs office.

"The international licenses should be issued by the American Automobile Association or National Automobile Club," Evans added.

Visitors from countries other than the U.S. can check with local military customs officials to determine wheter an international driver's license or translation is required.

Evans stressed that owners cannot request driving permission for their dependents, residents of Germany, or others who plan to establish residency in Germany. He also recommended ensuring that automobile insurance policies cover guest drivers.

Approved guest drivers can use this exception to policy to drive a USAREUR-registered, privately owned vehicle in Germany for up to 90 days within a six-month period, customs officials explained.

The 90-day period begins on the day the visitor arrives in any European Union member state. The permission documents, operators' passports and international driver's licenses (or official license translation), vehicle registration and proof of insurance must be carried in the vehicle when guests drive independently.

The customs authorization is required because driving in Germany is a tax- and duty-free privilege for U.S. forces personnel and their dependents, Evans explained.

He cautioned that an exception to policy to allow guests to drive does not give them the privilege of buying gas at Army and Air Force Exchange Service gas stations or using AAFES fuel ration cards. The same is true for visiting friends and family who rent cars, he added.

For more information, members of the U.S. forces community in Germany can call their local customs office.