SCHWEINFURT, Germany -- As the garrison's closure date nears, the military personnel division here has advice that could save you from one of the biggest hassles of your life before departing Schweinfurt.

All Soldiers with foreign born spouses, newborns and stepchildren must schedule an appointment, initiate the application process for passports, visas and birth certificates, and avoid unnecessary separations during your permanent change of station.

The application process is complex and requires extensive paperwork and weeks, if not months, to finalize.

An immigrant visa for a foreign-born spouse or fiancé, for example, could take anywhere from 12 weeks to six months. Likewise, the average turnaround for a newborn's birth certificate and passport is eight to 10 weeks, according to the Schweinfurt MPD birth registration checklist.

And these are mandatory documents for a permanent change of station, or PCS, said Nacomas Jones, who is the passport agent at Schweinfurt's Military Personnel Division located on Conn Barracks, Bldg. 40.

"When a child is born outside of the United States, the child is not recognized as an American citizen," said Jones. "Therefore, the purpose of the birth registration is for the child to establish U.S. citizenship, get a Social Security number and a U.S. passport to travel back to the United States, and live there legally."

"The longer you wait and the closer you get to your DEROS, the less chance you have of having that process completed in time for your family to PCS with you," said Jones. "And right now, the U.S. Consulate does not consider a PCS move a valid reason to expedite a passport."

The DEROS is a Soldier's date of eligibility for return from overseas.

There are circumstances, however, such as a birth that occurs shortly before the DEROS, when the consulate will expedite the process. In such cases, options to apply for emergency travel documents are indeed available, Jones said.

Delays are typically due in great part to applications with incorrect, insufficient or outdated information, according to the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs, the official U.S. government travel portal.

Jones said that many sponsors have been unable to even start the process because they were unaware their passports expired.

Do yourself a favor, he says. Check your passport's expiration date today.

"Soldiers are having their assignments curtailed and their DEROS changed. My advice, is to renew the passport one year out from the expiration date, no later than 90 days from the expiration date to ensure they can PCS with their family together in a timely manner," said Jones.

Whether you have started the process on your own or not, making an appointment with the MPD at DSN 353-8919, CIV 09721-96-8919 will set you on the right track for a comfortable PCS with your family. But it is essential to take this step without delay.

"I encourage the leaders to check their Soldier's documents because, as we are closing as a community, the longer they wait the harder it's going to be," Jones said.