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When traveling internationally, no item is more important than your passport. Although passports last a long time (U.S. passports for those 16 and older are issued for 10 years), they do have an expiration date.
It makes sense that if your passport is expired, you won’t be able to visit another country. But many countries have another passport rule that isn’t common knowledge. They may require that your passport remains valid for up to six months after your return date, otherwise, you can’t visit. Here’s how it works and why you shouldn’t wait until the last minute to renew your passport:
How passport validity rules work
Many countries have passport validity rules as part of their entry requirements. If a country has this type of rule, it’s not enough that your passport is valid for your travel dates. It also needs to remain valid for a certain amount of time after your trip. This is normally one, three, or six months, depending on the country.
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For example, the 26 European countries that are part of the Schengen area all have a passport validity rule of three months after your departure date. Let’s say you plan to visit one of those countries from May 1 through May 10, 2023. Your passport expires on June 20, 2023.
In that case, you’d need to renew your passport before your trip. If you tried to visit with your current passport, you’d most likely be denied boarding at the airport. Not only do you miss out on your trip, you also aren’t entitled to a refund in this scenario. You could potentially cancel or change your ticket, but this depends on what type of airfare you booked, and there may be airline fees for doing so.
Why do countries have rules like this? They don’t want to risk travelers overstaying past their passport’s validity. Even though you know you aren’t going to stay longer than your passport’s expiration date, the country you’re visiting doesn’t, and immigration prefers to play it safe.
How to check a country’s passport validity rule
The U.S. Department of State website makes it easy to check passport validity rules wherever you’re going. Here’s how:
- Visit the U.S. Department of State Country Information page.
- Search for the country you’re planning to visit in the “Learn more about your destination” box.
- On that country’s page, go to the “Quick Facts” section to see the passport validity requirements.
Note that some countries have a validity rule that starts on your entry date, whereas others start the clock from your departure date when you leave the country.
The simplest and safest approach is to have a passport that’s valid for at least six months after your scheduled departure date. So, if you’re visiting another country from May 1 to May 10, make sure your passport doesn’t expire until Nov. 10 or later.
Renew your passport early to avoid issues
There’s already enough planning involved and costs of international travel. The last thing you need is wondering if your passport’s expiration date is going to be an issue or scrambling (and paying extra) to renew it at the last minute.
Renew your passport with plenty of time to spare so you won’t have this problem. You can do this whenever you want. There’s no rule that it needs to be within a certain amount of time from your passport’s expiration date for you to renew it.
The USA.gov website recommends renewing your passport approximately nine months before it expires. After you apply, it can take up to two weeks until your application is in process. Processing takes seven to 10 weeks for routine processing or four to six weeks for expedited processing. Mailing times vary across the country.
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To learn more about renewing your passport, visit the Renew my Passport page on the U.S. Department of State website. Most adults must renew by mail and pay using a check or money order. A small portion of adults are eligible for a pilot program that allows them to renew online and pay using other methods, including credit cards and debit cards.
Passport validity rules can put your vacation on ice before it even starts. Now that you know how they work, you can ensure your passport won’t be an issue the next time you travel abroad.
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