You Could Be Denied Entry to a Foreign Country With a Valid US Passport
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Make sure to monitor your passport’s expiration date and renew nine full months ahead of time so you won’t be turned away from entering countries that have a six- or three-month passport validity rule.
Ken and Silvia were heading to Italy for their honeymoon. Everything on the two-week escape to the Mediterranean paradise was organized down to the last detail: flights, hotels, tours, wine tastings, even an overnight in a castle. But when they showed up at New York’s JFK, Silvia was denied boarding, even though her passport was valid. Why? Because it was due to expire in four months.
She was able to expedite her passport and fly a week later but the couple missed a large portion of their honeymoon and lost out on a lot of money and time. It was a very stressful situation instead of what was supposed to be a relaxing, romantic getaway.
A similar situation happened to Melissa, who was stunned when an airport employee told her she couldn’t board her flight to the Netherlands for the same reason. “My best friend had planned an entire birthday trip for me abroad, and there we were in the airport…not able to go,” she explained.
For those of you who thought you could travel carefree up until the exact date your passport expires — think again. Although some countries might allow you in, many won’t. You could be denied boarding at the airport or even denied entry into the country upon arrival and sent home. This is because of some countries’ rules that require passports that will not expire within six or three months, meant to ensure travelers don’t overstay their passport expiration dates.
Don’t Be Denied Entry Because Your Passport Expires Soon
We pulled together our own master list of those countries based on information from the US Department of State. If the country you’re traveling to isn’t listed here, or even if it is, it’s best to double check as rules can change at any time.
Note that our chart is only valid for US passport holders; rules can be different with passports from other nations. Also keep in mind that our list doesn’t include visa requirements, vaccines necessary to enter a country, or travel advisories — just passport rules. Each country has its own specific set of rules for entering, which may include such things as showing a return ticket, having blank pages in your passport for a visa or having proof of funds. Some countries peg their rule to six or three months beyond your entry date and others use six or three months beyond your departure date, so make sure to read the fine print at the US Department of State before traveling.Countries With a Six-Month Passport Validity Rule:
- Central African Republic
- Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
- Eswatini (Swaziland)
- French Polynesia
- New Caledonia
- North Macedonia**
- Papua New Guinea
- Republic of the Congo
- Saudi Arabia**
- Sierra Leon
- Sri Lanka
- South Sudan
- United Arab Emirates
*Some airlines may deny passengers boarding if they are US passport holders traveling to Israel with less than six months validity on their passport — check with your airline. **Six months of validity recommended, not required. ***Must be valid six months beyond date of visa application to obtain visa Countries With The Three-Month Passport Validity Rule
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Czech Republic*
- French Guiana
- New Zealand
*Although only three months is officially required, six months is recommended, especially for Europe’s Schengen Area countries (26 European countries which have largely abolished internal border checks for things like short-term tourism).
What To Do If You Get Denied Boarding/Entrance
If you end up detained at the border, contact the nearest US embassy to see how you can proceed. If your airline denies you boarding, head to your nearest passport renewal center to see what you can do about expediting your documents. If you need to be abroad immediately, some US cities have rush/emergency passport services — but plan to pay a hefty price. Contact your travel insurance provider or credit card company to see if your plane tickets or hotels can be reimbursed, and reach out to the airline for rebooking.
How To Avoid This Situation
You can avoid this sticky situation by simply staying organized and renewing your passport well ahead of time, as well as knowing the rules of the country you’re entering.
The first step is to check out your passport. The date of expiration is towards the bottom of the photograph page, right next to your photo under the issue date. If it says nine months or less, you should immediately begin the renewal process. Although the passport process typically only takes a few weeks, it can take longer in some cases; rush options are also available.
If you have plenty of time left before your passport expires, it may seem easy to just let it go. After all, adult US passports have a 10-year shelf life, and if yours expires in seven years, who wants to think about it right now? But it’s not the worst idea to set a calendar alert nine months ahead of the expiration date to remind yourself when to renew. If you have a family or small children (passports for minors 15 and under expire after five years), the best plan is to set alerts for the whole family, ensuring everyone’s passport will be renewed on time.
Finally, don’t forget to take into account extended stays or long trips when considering your expiration date. Treat it like your 10-year passport isn’t valid for a full 10 years — more like nine and a few months — and plan accordingly.For the latest tips and tricks on traveling big without spending a fortune, please subscribe to the Million Mile Secrets daily email newsletter.
Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)