Passport Maintenance: Keeping Up With Your Passport
Planning an international trip can be stressful. There’s often flight information, hotels, transportation and safety to concern yourself with. Many countries also require visas before you board your flight, adding another round of paperwork before the trip begins. With so many pieces to put into place, many people forget the single most important documents for international travel: their valid passport.
Working for a company that expedites passports, I can’t begin to tell you how many people have run into issues and errors with this particular document. New travelers are often surprised that they need a passport for travel into Canada or Mexico. Even seasoned travelers are caught by surprise at recent changes to required validity of their passports for some countries.
Whether you think you’re good to go or you’re unsure, below are common issues that are catching travelers by surprise, and what you can do to prepare.
Passports Are Needed for Any International Travel
While there are some cruise lines that will allow you to travel with an I.D. and birth certificate, all other international travel (and other cruise lines) will require a valid passport.
The process for the new passport can be tedious. You must fill out your application and provide your proof of citizenship (birth certificate or naturalization certificate) and have the documents sealed by a local acceptance agent at a courthouse or a post office before you send your documents in. The routine process can take 6-8 weeks on average, though many people have reported the process sometimes lasting for as long as 12 weeks. The Department of State has a 3-4 week expediting service, and companies such as A.P.V.I. can get the documents through in 2 weeks or less. Both routes will accrue extra costs to process the application, so if you’re planning international travel and do not hold a valid passport, it’s best to start the process as early as possible.
Lost Passports Must Be Replaced
People often ask if they can just show a copy of their passport for travel if they’ve lost the physical book. The answer is a very emphatic, ‘no.’ Passports must be physically present during the time of boarding, as the passport must be scanned and any visas needed must be verified. There is no way to look up a lost passport in any system.
Any person that has lost a passport must follow the new passport process and include a Statement Regarding a Lost or Stolen Passport (DS-64). As with a new passport, the process can be lengthy, so it’s best to plan ahead. It’s not uncommon that people discover their passport has been lost or stolen before their trip. In that case, companies like A.P.V.I. are a life-saver for getting the passport through The Department of State and back to you before your trip, as well as assisting if there are any visas that will need replaced.
Passports Must Be Valid
You cannot travel on an expired passport at any time. While this problem pops up with many people, the good news is that, so long as the passport is a 10-year passport that has expired within the last five years, the applicant is eligible for renewal. A renewal process is very easy, as you will only need your old passport and your application with your photo and government fees, and you will not need to have the documents sealed ahead of time (though the processing time remains the same as all passport processes).
There is a catch to this; parents traveling with a minor should know that any passport issued before the age of 16 is a child passport and cannot be renewed. If the child is still under 16 when the passport expires, the parents listed on the birth certificate will be required to follow the same process as the first time they applied and will need to turn in both the expired passport and the birth certificate during the process. If the child is 16 years old or older, they will be filing for their first 10-year passport and will sign the application in front of the acceptance agent themselves. They will also be required to turn in their expired passport, which can count as their proof of citizenship if they are unable to locate a birth certificate.
Some Countries Have Validity Laws
Even when your passport is valid, it may not be valid for travel into certain countries. Mexico requires that your passport be valid for six months after your departure from the country in order to even enter. In Europe, many countries have either a three- or six-month validity rule. When traveling, it’s best to check the requirements for the country that you’re visiting. If you find that your passport does not have enough validity remaining, you will need to have the passport renewed. There is no problem with renewing your passport up to 2 years before it expires.
Some Countries Require Blank Pages
If you travel frequently to a country that stamps your entry visa in your passport upon arrival, you will need to make sure that you have blank pages to enter and exit the next time. It’s advised to have two blank visa pages side by side (not including the endorsement pages in the back of the book), and it’s a good idea to renew the passport after your trip if you are down to your last two. While countries such as Canada do not stamp your passport and won’t bar you entrance, countries such as Italy or Spain may not allow you to enter if you don’t have the pages to stamp.
Requirements for visas also vary from country to country, and the types of visas needed (tourist, business, etc) will require different paperwork submitted. While this part of traveling seems tedious, it is unquestionably the most crucial. Passport processes can take a long time to get through The Department of State, so if you’re trying to leave within two weeks, it’s best to go through an expediting company such as A.P.V.I. to have the documents back before your trip. Once your passport is set, you will be much closer to finalizing your trip and looking forward to the travel.