If you are planning a trip outside the United States, check the expiration date of your passport. Many countries will deny entry if your passport will be expiring within three to six months after your return date.
Be sure to allow at least six weeks (or more during busy travel times) for your renewal or a new application to be processed.
Passports are valid for 10 years. All passports (since 2007) are electronic passports (e-passports), which means they have a small chip embedded in the back cover to provide additional anti-fraud and security measures when scanned into the computer.
Passports are 28 pages, and 17 of those are blank for visa and country entry/exit stamps. If you are a frequent international traveler, you can request a larger passport (52 pages) at no additional cost when renewing or applying for one. You can no longer purchase stamp pages only. If you need additional blank pages, you’ll have to replace your current passport.
For those of you embarking on a cruise, it is recommended that you carry a passport – even one is not required at the ports of entry. If you are unable to board your ship on time because of a flight delay, traffic problems, etc., you would have to book a flight to the next port. A passport may be required to do so. If you had a medical emergency and needed to be flown to the nearest country, you would need a passport to get back home. It is the responsibility of the passengers to make sure they follow the country’s entry/exit requirements — not the cruise ship.
Your Name on ID’s Need to Match:
If your name has changed and is not the same as the name on your passport, you will need to renew it.
The name on your photo ID (driver’s license, etc.) must be exactly the same as the name on your passport and airline ticket. For example, if you have your maiden-married name (Anna Smith-Jones) on your driver’s license ID, make sure your airline ticket and passport correspond. Or if your ID shows your name as John Michael Smith, but you go by Michael Smith, put your ticket and passport in John Michael Smith.
When your identification does not match, you could face delays or not be allowed to enter that country.
Country Entry, Exit, and Visa Requirements:
Before traveling abroad, check country-specific information under Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements on the U.S. Department of State’s website. It provides information on passport validity and whether a visa is required. A passport may not be valid if it is expiring in three to six months after your return date or if there are not enough blank passport pages available.
If the country requires at least two to four blank visa/stamp pages in your passport, you will not be allowed to enter or even board the plane in the U.S. if you do not meet this requirement. When traveling to more than one country, be sure to have enough blank pages to accommodate each country.
As a general rule, you will need one blank visa/stamp page for each country you are traveling to; however, some countries require that you have two or more blank visa/stamp pages. It is important that you check on the entry requirements for each country you are traveling to. For example, to enter South Africa, you must have two consecutive blank visa/stamp pages in your passport.
If the country requires you to fill out an Immigration Form or other documents when you arrive, be sure to keep these with your passport. You will need to turn this form in upon departure or face being detained, fined, or having to get special permission to depart. You will most likely miss your flight because of the delays.
Required Documents for Renewing or Applying for Your Passport:
You can renew your passport by mail. If applying for the first time, or if your passport was lost or stolen, you will need to do this in person. Check with the U.S. Post Office to see which facility in your area offers passport services.
You can find a list of Regional Passport Agencies on the U.S Department of State’s site.
You’ll need the following information to apply or renew:
- If mailing your application, fill out Form DS-82 (on the U.S. Department of State’s website). Be sure to sign and date it.
- If applying at an acceptance facility, use Form DS-11 Apply In Person
- Your most recent U.S. Passport (book or card).
- A new Passport Photo – staple it to the application within the designated space using four vertical staples with one in each corner at the edge of the photo. Glasses must be removed for passport photos. The photo will not be accepted if you have your glasses on.
- Evidence of U.S. Citizenship (certified birth certificate, certificate of Naturalization or Citizenship). Bring an additional photocopy of both sides of the document.
- If your name has changed, include a certified copy of a marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court order.
- Present an ID. Bring a photocopy of both sides of your identification. This will be submitted with your application.
- Passport Book and Card: $140 + $35 Execution Fee
- Passport Book only: $110 + $35 Execution Fee
- Adult Passport Card: $30 + $35 Execution Fee
Need a Passport in Less than Two Weeks?
If you need a passport in less than two weeks, there are some options available. You can make an appointment with a Regional Passport Agency and provide the following:
- Proof that you will be traveling abroad in two weeks or less.
- Proof that your passport is needed within 4 weeks in order to obtain a foreign visa.
To schedule an appointment, call 24/7: 1-877-487-2778
If your travel is because of a life or death emergency such as a serious illness, injury, or death in your immediate family, and you need to travel within 24 to 72 hours to a foreign country, there are options available to assist you in this difficult time.
Contact the National Passport Information Center: 1-877-487-2778 (TTY/TDD 1-888-874-7793). An automated system is available 24 hours a day, and the hours of service are 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., EST Monday through Friday (except Federal holidays) and Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
If an appointment is not available and you are calling during the hours of service, stay on the line to speak to a customer service representative for additional guidance.
For emergency assistance after hours call 1-202-647-4000 and explain your situation to the operator.
You will need to appear in person and documentation of the emergency may be requested.
Passport for a Child:
Children of all ages must have their own passport for international travel. It is valid for five years.
If you are a single parent or guardian traveling with a child, be sure to have the appropriate signed and notarized permission, death certificate, or court documents. If not, you could be denied entry into countries requiring this.
Parents (or guardians) will need to provide evidence of their relationship to the child and will need to present a photo ID and one of the following:
- The child’s certified U.S. birth certificate with both parents’ names
- A certified foreign birth certificate with both parents’ names
- A Report of Birth Abroad with both parents’ names
- Adoption Decree with adopting parents’ names
- Court Order establishing custody
- Court Order establishing guardianship
If the name of a parent/guardian has changed since the original documents were issued, you will need to provide evidence (i.e. photocopy of marriage certificate, etc.)
Passport Card vs. a Passport Book:
What is the difference between a Passport Card and a Passport Book?
- A Passport Book provides the necessary identification for all international travel by land, sea, or air.
- A Passport Card is used for entering the U.S. at land or sea ports from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, or the Caribbean. It is less expensive and is a wallet-size card. It is not valid for air travel to these countries or for any other international travel. Regulations change frequently, so confirm entry requirements in advance.
A person who is a national of two countries at the same time is considered a dual nationality. They are required to follow the laws of both countries. In addition to a U.S. passport, a passport may be required for the foreign country as well. If these entry requirements are not followed, you may be denied entry or be subject to unexpected hardships.
Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP):
When traveling outside the United States, enroll in STEP with the U.S. Department of State. This will inform the State Department on the dates and location of your travels. In the event of an emergency, disaster, or acts of terrorism, they will be able to quickly provide assistance or contact you. You can enroll on the U.S. Department of State’s website.
For more travel insight, check out my book,