It is always a good idea to check your itineraries periodically and the same could be said of your passport. The end of the year is a perfect time especially as there are going to be some changes for the coming year.
Passport Visa Pages
Many countries, such as South Africa and China, require travelers to have between two to four blank visa pages in their passports. After Jan. 1 the US Department of State will no longer offer the 24-page inserts that have been available when you run out of pages to existing passport books. After January 1st, if you run out of space for new visas in your 28-page passport, you will have to pay $110 for a new passport of either 28 or 52 pages. While the price is slightly lower for children, their passports are only valid for 5 years. Information on where to apply may be found at US Department of State.
According to the Department of State, “If your passport has been significantly damaged, especially the book cover or the page displaying your personal data and photo, you will need to apply for a new passport. Conditions that may constitute damage requiring you to replace your passport include water damage, a significant tear, unofficial markings on the data page, missing visa pages (torn out), a hole punch, or other injuries.” The last thing you want to do is to be turned around at immigration and be put right back on a plane to the US. Passport covers are almost a ‘must’ to prevent damage and possible issues.
Passport Expiration Date
Countries around the world have different requirements as to the amount of time left before your passport expires. Many countries will not allow your entry with less than six months left before expiry or you even could be denied boarding at the airport. I found myself scrambling before I visited China last year. At the time I would be going, I would only have four months left on my passport. Because I needed six months, and was going to purchase a ten year visa, I found myself having to expedite its renewal about four weeks before my trip because I was still going to have to send it off for the visa.
It is best to obtain a visa as far in advance as you can and, depending on the country, the process can sometimes be complicated. Requirements for a country’s visa can vary slightly from consulate to consulate. I am in the process of gathering information for my Brazilian visa. In New York, it is possible to just show up for service on a first come first served basis while Atlanta not only requires an appointment, but also requires the information be uploaded ahead of time. The Department of State’s travel portal lets you type in the name of the country you’re planning to visit so that you can check on requirements. The information page will show you if a visa is required.
If you have a tourist or work visa and you decide to renew your passport, check the regulations carefully. Depending on the country, the visa may no longer be viable once the passport is not current. It is not as simple as just taking the old passport with you. You may have to allow time for a new visa application to be processed.
Has any of your personal information changed? Have you moved or gotten married since you last used your passport? The same is true if your photo does not look like you. Did you stick to last year’s New Year’s resolution to lose a lot of weight? If you have changed dramatically other than by the typical aging process, you may want to apply for a new passport. While growing a beard or coloring your hair would not constitute a significant change, it’s important to make sure your passport photo closely resembles what you actually look like. Again, the Department of State offers specific information on changing or correcting your passport.
A little checking goes a long way when it comes to having your passport in order and ready to travel. Being a little proactive now can save you a world of headaches and the possibility of having to cancel your travel plans in the future.