Don’t let this passport quirk upend your next vacation

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Passport processing times are back to normal after big delays in 2023, making it less likely travelers will miss a trip because of a stalled renewal.

However, another common passport snafu threatens to upend your trip overseas — and it involves passports that haven’t yet expired but are close to doing so.

Many countries require that Americans have at least a few months of validity remaining on their U.S. passport in order to travel there, or to secure a visa to that country.

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For example, the Schengen Area, which encompasses 27 European nations, requires a U.S. passport be valid for at least 90 days beyond the end of your trip (i.e., your return date), according to the State Department.

Many countries in the Asia-Pacific and Middle East regions require at least six months of validity for permission to enter. Other areas like Hong Kong require one month.

What this means: Gatekeepers like border officials will deny travel if your passport doesn’t have a certain amount of validity remaining. Some airlines won’t even let you board the flight. In these cases, your nonexpired passport would cost you a vacation.

The requirement “trips a lot of people up,” said Charles Leocha, president and co-founder of Travelers United, a nonprofit advocacy group.  

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When to renew your passport

“It’s just really important to plan ahead,” said Sally French, a travel expert at NerdWallet.

She recommends applying for a new passport if it will expire within a year.

A traditional passport — a passport book — costs $130 for adults. First-time applicants must pay an additional $35 acceptance fee. Travelers can also pay more for faster service: Expedited passport processing costs an extra $60.

Passports are generally valid for 10 years. (They’re only valid for five years if the traveler was under age 16 when it was issued.)

Passport processing times are back to normal

Processing times don’t account for mailing. It can take the government up to two weeks to receive an application, and another two weeks for travelers to get their new passport.

Almost half, 48%, of Americans have a passport, up from 5% in 1990, the State Department said. There are more than 160 million valid U.S. passports in circulation, nearly double the amount from 2007.


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