Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA): What Is It, and How Has It Been Utilized? [June 18, 2009] [open pdf - 308KB]
"The United States has been party to multilateral and bilateral agreements addressing the status of U.S. armed forces while present in a foreign country. These agreements, commonly referred to as Status of Forces Agreements (SOFAs), generally establish the framework under which U.S. military personnel operate in a foreign country, addressing how the domestic laws of the foreign jurisdiction shall be applied toward U.S. personnel while in that country. Formal requirements concerning form, content, length, or title of a SOFA do not exist. A SOFA may be written for a specific purpose or activity, or it may anticipate a longer-term relationship and provide for maximum flexibility and applicability. It is generally a stand-alone document concluded as an executive agreement. A SOFA may include many provisions, but the most common issue addressed is which country may exercise criminal jurisdiction over U.S. personnel. Other provisions that may be found in a SOFA include, but are not limited to, the wearing of uniforms, taxes and fees, carrying of weapons, use of radio frequencies, licenses, and customs regulations."
CRS Report for Congress, RL34531