Check Your Passport Before Your Destination Trip
When is a valid passport considered not valid? Yes, even with a perfectly valid passport, you can be turned back at a foreign border. Some countries, and not just a handful, won't let anyone enter unless her passport has at least six months time left on it before it expires. So beware.
The Six-Month Rule
Your passport's validity depends on how old you were when it was issued. The passports of your older children are valid for 10 years, as is the U.S passport of anyone 16 years old or older at the time of issue. Your younger kids' passports are only valid for five years from the date of issue, which makes sense considering how quickly young children grow up and no longer look like their photos.
If you forget the date of issue, no problem. It's printed on the first page of your passport. Add 10 years to find out the actual date of expiration. Add 9.5 years to figure out the end of validity in countries imposing the six-month rule, since these countries won't let you pass their borders and enter unless at least six months of validity remain.
The justification for the rule is that it's to make sure you can still get back home in the event of an emergency that requires you to stay in the country for some time, such as a car accident. Note that some countries require six months of passport validity from date of entry, while others, like Russia, interpret the rule to mean six months from the day of your projected departure.
Other countries have a six-month rule from entry date and a three-month validity rule from departure. Some countries, such as the UK, require passport validity simply through your stay.
Countries Enforcing the Six-Month Rule
Lots of countries enforce the six-month rule. Our neighbor to the north, Canada, is not on the list; nor is Mexico to the south. Countries that require six months time on a passport to enter include many African nations, China, Russia, Vietnam, and Middle Eastern countries such as Iran, Iraq, Oman and Saudi Arabia.
Since the status and rules of any particular country can change, it's best to look on the U.S. State Department Country-Specific information page for your destination country before you plan your trip. Just type in the name of the country, and you'll get the most current news about passport requirements.
The U.S. also requires that citizens of other countries have at least six months time on their passports to enter the U.S. However, the list of exception countries is long, and it includes many of our closest allies.
Steps to Take
Check your destination country to know its passport rules before you and your family head out. Then check each and every family member's passport. You can renew your own passport nine months before it expires, and that's a good idea.
You can't renew the children's passports or any passport issued to someone younger than 16 years old. Instead, you must apply for new ones, so watch those expiration dates carefully. You will have to go in person to the passport office to apply for the kids' passports. If you don't want to pay extra fees for hurrying up the process, you'll have to count six to eight weeks from the date you apply for new passports.
From Alaska to California, from France's Basque Country to Mexico's Pacific Coast, Teo Spengler has dug the soil, planted seeds and helped trees, flowers and veggies thrive. World traveler, professional writer and consummate gardener, Spengler earned a BA from U.C. Santa Cruz, a law degree from Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and an MA and MFA from San Francisco State. She currently divides her life between San Francisco and southwestern France.