A growing number of Americans have been shocked when their international travel plans were cut short due to a new passport validity rule enacted in many foreign countries. The new rule requires that a traveler’s passport must have six or more months of validity in order to travel to that country. This rule change has most recently occurred in the European Union’s Schengen area, affecting more than 25 European countries such as Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland and Spain.
The new policy is technically a matter of reciprocity. Reciprocity is the policy by which corresponding advantages or disadvantages are granted by each country to citizens of the other. In this case, the United States requires foreign visitors to have six months validity on their passports in order to travel to America, and now many countries are applying the same passport validity rule to American travelers. Some European countries are also requiring passports to have six months’ validity because they assume travelers will stay the full three months allowed for visa-free visitors.
The State Department website lists the passport requirements on each country’s travel advisory website, though few travelers seek the information out unless they have concerns about the safety of a region or possible visa requirements. Travel booking sites such as Expedia and Orbitz mention passport expiration restrictions on their sites, but there is no notification that it may cause possible problems at the airport. Airline websites also mention passport requirements, but these requirements are often overlooked as they may be listed in the fine print.
Americans who have experienced these issues have had varying results. Some people in larger cities have been able to push back their flights and rushed to an emergency passport facility to get a new, up-to-date passport within a day or two in an attempt to salvage some of their existing hotel reservations. Others have had to completely cancel their vacations, costing hundreds or even thousands of dollars in cancellation and rescheduling fees.
With the holiday travel season right around the corner, this new passport validity rule could affect thousands of unsuspecting American travelers. It is vital for travelers to be sure their passports have more than six months’ validity. Information on passport renewal can be found at http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/passports/renew.html.
The Department of State is currently processing routine passport renewals within four to six weeks, and expedited passport renewals within three.
Remember, Berardi Immigration Law always helps you cross the border with confidence. If you have any questions about the passport validity rule or crossing the border, please schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today!