WIESBADEN, Germany -- Beginning Jan. 1, 2020, certain veterans received access to Commissary and Exchange services, including those in Germany.
Within Germany, due to international agreements with the German Federal Ministry of Finance, this access also requires veterans to register with the U.S. Army Customs Agency-Europe and the German Zollamt (German customs office) in their areas. While purchases made at these facilities are free from U.S. taxes, German customs will levy duties based on the applicable euro rate.
To obtain installation access and a "Pink Card" to make purchases, veterans must be enrolled with the Department of Veterans Affairs. They, and their VA-documented caregivers, will need to complete these steps:
VETERAN ID CARD
To obtain post access and shopping privileges at garrisons within Germany, veterans must have a Veterans Health Identification Card issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs in the U.S. The VHIC must be the newest version that displays the veteran's eligibility status. Under the new authorization, eligible veterans include Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war, and veterans with documented service-connected disabilities or their VA documented caregivers. VHICs are not issued overseas. To learn more about the VHIC, visit https://www.va.gov/health-care/how-to-apply/.
OBTAINING INSTALLATION ACCESS
Besides their VHIC, veterans residing in Germany will also need to fill out Army in Europe Form 190-16A, which can be requested by emailing email@example.com or by calling (0611) 143-548-7080.
Forms should be returned to individual garrisons' Installation Access Control Services via encrypted email, dropped off in person at a garrison visitor center, or local ACS staff can provide a secure website link to which veterans can upload their completed forms.
Once background checks are complete in three to five days, veterans will be notified by IACS and can stop by a garrison visitor center to be issued an installation pass, which allows veterans to sign on spouses.
Veterans who are only visiting Germany may obtain a temporary installation pass with their VHIC through the same process.
U.S. CUSTOMS REGISTRATION
To register with the U.S. Army Customs Agency-Europe, Veterans will need their passport or Personalausweis, valid residence permit if residing as an ordinary resident in Germany (or travel itinerary to prove they are visiting Germany for at least 30 uninterrupted days), and their VHIC reflecting their eligibility status. Veterans can bring these forms to an installation Customs Field Office. A complete list of sites can be found at https://www.eur.army.mil/Community/Customs/Field-Offices/.
The Customs office will provide the veteran with a status verification form, AE Form 550-175K, which will need to be presented to the German custom office, or Zollamt. The customs office can provide information on area German customs offices.
GERMAN CUSTOMS REGISTRATION
AE Form 550-175K needs to be presented at the German customs office for further processing and issuance of the actual authorization, Form 0216 and Form 0217, which is also referred to as a Pink Card.
No later than the fifth day of each month, veterans must present their Pink Card to the issuing German customs office along with all of the original cash register receipts for purchases made the previous month. Purchase of rationed items, such as alcohol, coffee and cigarettes, is not permitted.
German customs will levy duties based on the euro rate applicable in the month when the purchases were made. For more information, visit www.zoll.de. For items with a single-item price of less than the U.S. dollar equivalent of 50 euros, duties will be charged at 17.5% MwSt (German Value Added Tax). For items equivalent to 50 euro or more, the regular tariff of 19% MwSt will be charged. For more information on tariff rates used to determine duty rates, visit www.zolltarifnummern.de.
Veterans who cannot access post can also authorize their VA authorized caregiver as their "shopping assistant." This person can shop or register on behalf of the authorized veteran. Caregivers need the following documentation to register:
• Primary or family caregiver letter issued by the VA
• Written request for Shopping Assistant Authorization, dated and signed by the VHIC holder
• VHIC, passport or Personalausweis with valid residence permit of veteran.
• Passport or Personalausweis of VA authorized primary or family caregiver with valid residence permit or other immigration documents.
• VA eligibility letter
After following the above process, the German customs office will issue the caregiver's Pink Card with the remark "Erfüllungsgehilfe." Only the authorized caregiver is authorized to shop on behalf of the authorized veteran. They are not authorized to shop on their own behalf.
OTHER EUROPEAN ACCESS
Veterans' use of DeCA and Exchange services at other European installations, such as those in Italy, Belgium, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, is still pending.