After being locked down for over a year due to the pandemic, many of us are itching to travel again! The demand for international travel has started to skyrocket! Just this week alone, I’ve gotten at least five inquiries for Italy and Greece! And this Fall, I’ll be heading to South Africa and Ireland for a back-to-back adventure of my own. The one thing all these vacations have in common – passports.
I have often carried this essential document with me through airports worldwide, largely unaware of its weight in my hand. Think of it as a magic key that unlocks the door to different destinations! That’s pretty remarkable. As I look closely, each page not only shows creative and colorful stamps, but it holds so many fantastic memories that I love to relive.
A passport is an internationally recognized travel document that verifies your identity and citizenship. Only the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Embassies and Consulates have the authority to issue or verify them for U.S. citizens. Most foreign countries require a valid passport for entry and exit, and all U.S. citizens traveling internationally by air must present a valid passport to re-enter the U.S.
Although not required in most situations, it is a good idea to have a passport in this situation. When you depart and return to the same U.S. port, you must have proof of citizenship. This proof includes a passport or your official birth certificate, government-issued I.D. (driver’s license), plus a copy of your marriage license for women whose last name has changed since birth. However, if an issue should arise while you are abroad (such as an injury or illness) and you need to fly home, you’re in trouble if you don’t have a passport!
Yes! Even an infant must have a passport to fly to a foreign country. Be sure to check the expiration date on your children’s passports because they expire in five years if the child was 15 or under when his passport was issued. Some countries have instituted requirements to help prevent child abductions and may require travelers to present proof of relationship to the children and evidence of consent from any non-accompanying parent(s).
Anyone can understand how romantic it sounds to use your brand-new last name on your honeymoon. However, your experience at airport check-in will be anything but. You must travel under the name on your passport. Usually, that is your maiden name, so use that for your airline ticket. Your name on your airline ticket must match the name on your passport exactly. Once you arrive at your honeymoon destination, people will be happy to address you both as Mr. and Mrs. “Newlywed.” When you return and have the time, you can apply to have your name changed on your passport.
This is a call no travel consultant likes to get. Ever! But it does happen, rarely. Make three photocopies of your passport before leaving home. Give one to a friend or relative to keep handy, give one to your trusted travel professional to keep in your file, and carry the other copy with you, stored separately from the original. Doing this makes it much easier to have a replacement issued, if necessary. If your passport is stolen, contact the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. Let them know when you are scheduled to travel home, and they will do their best to help you. It is also a good idea to take an extra set of passport photos to simplify the transaction. Keep your original passport in a safe place (like a room safe) when possible to minimize the risk of theft. You don’t need to carry it around with you at all times while overseas.
Now that we’ve established the importance of having a passport, here are a few questions worth considering, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve used it.
Your passport’s expiration date isn’t the only thing that indicates its validity. You should also pay attention to the following essential conditions:
1. What is your passport’s “Date of Expiration”? Most countries require a passport to have six months of validity, BEYOND the dates of your travel. Also, many airlines will not allow you to board if you don’t meet this requirement. You can renew at any time, but I recommend you do it nine months to a year before it expires.
2. Blank Pages – Many countries like Canada, Mexico, Peru, the United Kingdom, Italy, and Iceland require at least one blank passport page for valid entry. Several others like China, Belgium, Norway, Portugal, and India require two entirely blank pages. You may be sent away if you don’t have the necessary empty pages. Keep in mind the last two pages of a U.S. Passport do not qualify as visa pages. So, if you need a visa, make sure you have an empty page with “visa” at the top.
3. New Passport, New Visas – When your passport expires, even if your visas are still valid, many countries won’t recognize a valid visa in an expired passport. China, India, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil are the exceptions, but you’ll have to carry both the new and expired passports.
4. Has your appearance changed significantly since you took your last passport photo? – This applies if someone has been in an accident resulting in major facial surgery that alters their appearance or those that may have added facial tattoos or piercings that significantly alter their appearance. You’ll need to renew your passport and passport photo.
Even though passports are valid for ten years, time can go by quickly, and you may find your passport is expired when you need it most. As you can imagine, the State Department is so backed up with passport applications and renewals that it could take several months to process yours (even with expedited service, it can take 6-8 weeks). If you’d like to travel but discovered your passport is expiring or expired, I can help.
The world is opening back up. Where would you like to go? I hope you have gotten the point that it is worth the time, energy, and financial investment to be a U.S. Passport holder. Don’t miss out on a great travel opportunity because you aren’t prepared! If you need any assistance with the application process or have any questions, please feel free to contact me. What stamp do you want in your passport next? Happy (and safe) Travels!
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