Passport prerequisites

This item appears on page 52 of the November 2011 issue.

Sure, we know that US passports are good for 10 full years. Well, almost! In some cases, it’s 9½ years.

Many travelers are not aware of the “six months rule”: your passport must be valid for six months beyond the end of your intended trip. If it isn’t, don’t expect to get past the airport check-in counter when heading overseas.

In another nightmare scenario, what if you reached your intended destination halfway around the world only to be turned away because your passport is competely full, with no pages left for an entry stamp? Don’t bother pointing out that there are two empty pages labeled “amendments”; those cannot be used for entry or departure stamps or visas.

On a July ’11 trip I organized to Bali, these passport situations happened to three people in my group. One man drove from SFO to the passport office in San Francisco, renewed his passport and missed only one day in Bali. Two other people were not allowed to enter Bali.

The lesson is simply this: your passport is your responsibility. Be fully aware of the expiration date, and keep track of how many empty pages there are; they can get filled up rather quickly.

Sacramento, CA

If your passport’s expiration date is less than a year away and you’re wondering if you’ll be allowed to enter a particular country, contact its embassy or consulate. US citizens also can check on the State Department website (Click “International Travel,” “Int’l Travel Information” then “Country Specific Info,” pick a country and click “Entry/Exit Requirements for US Citizens.”)