I was recently in the Atlanta airport, headed for a flight to Tel Aviv, when I noticed something odd: a young man and his 3- or 4-year-old daughter were taken aside and asked to stand behind the security perimeter.
Were they carrying too many toys? Was there something wrong with their tickets? Did they fail the security screening? Could they possibly be terrorists?
None of the above. This gentleman, who was traveling from California to Israel for an important family gathering, had failed to check his passport. The passport hadn’t expired. In fact, it wouldn’t expire for five months and 22 days. But that wasn’t good enough. Like several other countries, Israel will not permit travelers to enter the country unless their passports will remain valid for at least six months after their scheduled departure.
This young father didn’t know the rules. Both he and his daughter were denied boarding, and they had to spend three days in Atlanta getting new documents. The airline kindly waived the customary change fee for rebooking their flights and upgraded them to business class. But, sadly, they missed their family gathering.
What to know about special expiration rules
It’s true: Some countries require that your U.S. passport be valid not only for the duration of your visit, but also for three to six months after your entry or return from their country. This means you have to check your passport expiration date carefully. For example, if your passport expires on March 1, 2007, and you want to travel this coming November, you may need to renew your passport before you go.
Here is a list of some countries that have special passport expiration rules.
There are many others. Some countries count their expiration windows from date of entry into their country, others from scheduled departure, so be sure to ask. For further information about special passport expiration rules, check the U. S. Department of State’s listing of foreign entry requirements. Other good sources of information are your airline, your travel agent, and the host country’s embassy or consulate.
What to do if your passport will expire in less than six months:
Only the U.S. State Department can issue you a U.S. passport. For information on all passport matters, consult the State Department’s Web site.
A few more things you should know about passports:
Don’t let your next overseas trip get tripped up by a passport fiasco. Check your passport well in advance, and make sure your paperwork is in order.
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Joel Widzer is an expert on loyalty and frequent flier programs. He is the author of "The Penny Pincher's Passport to Luxury Travel," a guidebook on traveling in high style at budget-friendly prices. E-mail him or visit his Web site.