Many Americans think their passport is valid for 10 years. However, you may not be able to travel with it, if it only has a few months of validity left. You don’t want to discover this at airport check-in, as the airline will deny you boarding if your passport doesn’t have enough validity remaining.
Countries can stipulate how long a passport has to be valid for, in order to get a visa. This ranges from simply requiring it be valid when a traveler arrives, Or, to requiring that the validity extend beyond a travelers stay in the country. That means your passport may need to be valid for several months after your planned trip.
Some travelers are aware that often you need six month left on a passport to use it. However, it may even be longer. A number of countries require “six months from the time you plan to leave their country.” That means if you are going to a country for three weeks and they require six months from when you leave, then your passport must actually be valid for SEVEN MONTHS when you first fly. In the Schengen area of Europe, if you plan to stay for full tourist visa time period of 90 days, for many countries you still need six months from when you leave. That means NINE MONTHS of validity left when you first fly to Europe.
We recently taught “Western Europe – Essential Tips & Tools for Travelers.” In it, we listed the Western Europe countries that require six month validity on a passport for someone to enter. Afterwards, several students told us this was valuable information and they had no idea. One student had a passport with only a few months validity left. She thought she would simply renew it when it expired after her trip to Europe. But actually, if she tried to travel with her passport, the airlines would not have let her fly, since it did not meet Germany’s visa requirement of having 6 months validity after you leave the Schengen area.
Required validity of three to six months is not just a European rule. Many countries around the planet have some requirement that requires your passport to be valid for longer than just your trip. Countries with validity rules are: Thailand, Indonesia, Honduras, Panama, Tanzania, and Botswana. Be aware there are many more with requirements, this is just a sample list.
On the other hand, some countries have no rules beyond your passport being valid when you arrive, or your planned stays. Examples of those destinations include: Great Britain, Romania, Australia, Peru, Costa Rica and Egypt. Since there is no international standard, you need to check.
The best source of information for Americans is the US Department of State website (travel.state.gov). They have a listing for every country which includes passport validity requirements. A good practice for international travelers, especially anyone considering an around-the-world trip, is to renew your passport after nine years. Don’t run the risk of your vacation being cancelled before it even begins by not having a valid passport!