Passports – Visas

6-Months Validity Passport Rule

Everything is packed and you’re excited for your upcoming trip. Excursions are booked and you’ve now realize that your passport has expired. Many travelers are unaware  that some countries will not allow tourists to enter their country with a passport that is about to expire within three months sometimes even as much as six months! Most European countries require passport holders to have an expiration date of at least three months with the exception of the United Kingdom. Many Asian countries require passport with an expiration of six months or more.

As a general rule, passports should have at least six months of validity when traveling internationally. Most countries will not permit a traveler to enter their country unless the passport is set to expire at least six months after the final day of travel. That means if your passport has less than six months remaining until the expiration date, you should renew it right away! Adult passports (16 and older) for U.S. citizens are valid for ten years, while minor passports (15 and younger) for U.S. citizens are valid for 5 years. There are additional passport requirements though, and they differ from nation to nation. 

Learn about your destination

Exceptions –

Some countries are more relaxed about the 6-month passport validity rule. Canada and Mexico are the two most commonly traveled countries that now enforce the passport six-month validity rule. Again, please be sure to check with each countries entry and exit travel requirements before you go. As a general rule, you should have at least six months validity on your passport before you travel.

Important Passport Travel Safety Tips

1. Carry your passport on your person if possible

Money belts are a great way for travelers to keep the majority of their cash, their passports, and other critical documents on their person without advertising it. If you carry your passport in a purse, put it in an inside pocket and zip the pocket. A shoulder bag that’s worn across the body is best (less easy for a thief to steal). Keep the bag in front of you and keep the zippers and snaps closed up at all times.

2. One adult, One passport

Some people make the mistake of keeping all the passports together and held by one person. That action simply means losing more passports at once rather than keeping them all safe. Each person who’s old enough carries their own passport. Spread out the kids’ passports among the adults to minimize the impact of a single theft.

 3. If you leave your passport, lock it up

If you leave your passport behind, lock it up. If you’re relatively confident in the safe in your room, you can use that, but be sure that others can’t get into the safe while you’re gone. Many of the hotel and cruise ship safes are just not that safe.
If you can leave it with the hotel or hostel concierge and have them lock it in their safe, that can be better, but if you don’t trust that option, consider a locking travel safe – or lock it inside your luggage that’s locked to an immovable object in your room.

4. Check regularly – In private

Check regularly that you’re still carrying your passport where you think you are – especially if you are traveling internationally – but do this in private. If you make it obvious, a thief who’s watching will know just where to look for it.

Check in the privacy of your room before you leave for the day and use opportunities like visiting bathroom stalls to verify it’s still where you think it is throughout the day.  Always get in the habit of double-checking the back seat of a taxi, the seat-back pocket on the plane and your hotel room for your personal items.

5. Find Out If You Need a Visa

I’ve had friends show up to the airport only to be turned away from their flight because they forgot or didn’t know they needed a visa. For Americans, the best place to find out if you need a visa is to log on to the US State Department’s Office website where they provide country specific information for every country of the world. Here, you will find out whether you need a visa or not and other important information like the location of the US embassy and any consular offices.

6. Save Your Blank Passport Pages

Immigration procedures vary by country—and so do the sizes of the visas or stamps that are added to your passport. If you travel a lot, you may have noticed that some immigration agents will stamp your passport’s valuable blank pages even if they don’t need a whole page. If you’re worried about running out of pages, you can ask the agents not to stamp on particular pages. Saving pages now could save you having to renew your passport sooner than you’d like!

7. Carry copies

Apart from security checkpoints at airports and border crossings, it’s not necessary to drag out your actual passport book for everyone who asks for it, not even policemen. A copy will usually suffice. And if something should happen to your passport, a paper photocopy or scan will also help speed up the process of getting a replacement.

Here’s three ways to get duplicates of your passport to carry on your trip:

  • Copy and print the photo and signature page.
  • Scan the photo and signature pages and upload them to your cloud or a flash drive. You could also email them to yourself.
  • Obtain a certified passport copy:  it allows you to carry the copy around and not the original. Note that there’s a fee involved with this method.

Carry around two paper copies of your passport, one in your day bag, one in your main luggage or with the rest of your non-passport travel documents. Also consider memorizing your vital passport info: number, expiration date, issue date, city issued. Reciting numbers may not always suffice but it may save you some time digging through your belongings all the damn time.

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