Many countries require United States citizens to have a passport with an expiration date of no less than six months from the date of travel. It is common for travellers to be unaware of such a requirement, and too often, such people are refused boarding.
Requirements for International Travel
U.S. citizens are required to have a passport for international travel which is used for gaining entry to another country and re-entry into the United States. In addition, all countries have requirements for travelling within their borders. These requirements can range from obtaining a specific visa to having stipulations on the U.S. passport.
Method of Counting
"Six months" is not the same in each country. Some nations count the expiration date as six months from the date of entry into their country, while others use the scheduled departure date as the six-month marker. Brazil, Israel, Malaysia and Indonesia use six months from the date of entry; Paraguay, Romania, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands use six months from date of departure.
Many countries have the six-month rule. Others include China, Argentina, Aruba, Myanmar (Burma), Singapore, Fiji, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Barbados, Spain, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, United Kingdom and Belgium. This is only a brief sampling meant to indicate the diversity of countries that have this requirement. Because the list is extensive, it is advisable to err on the side of caution and renew a passport that is approaching the six-month window of validity. Also bear in mind that countries that do not have a six-month requirement might have a three-month one.
If Your Passport Will Expire
If your passport will expire within six months of your trip, the first step is to look into renewal. Typical processing time is six weeks but has been known to take significantly longer. However, an applicant can apply for an expedited passport. These have a turnaround time of about two weeks but are more expensive. Provided neither option is available, you can contact the host country's embassy or consulate to obtain a special visa for travel during the expiration period.
Expedited Passport Services
A £39 fee, in addition to application cost, is required for an expedited application. This is in addition to the overnight delivery fees required to receive your documents in a timely fashion. If your current passport is undamaged, you can renew by mail. When doing so, the Department of State recommends that all expedited passport applications use a traceable delivery method. The expedited renewal available through mail is faster than the regular process but slower than visiting a Regional Passport Acceptance Facility.
If a passport is needed for travel in two to four weeks, a visit to a Regional Passport Agency is required. However, you can visit a Regional Passport Acceptance Facility only if you are in the two- to four-week window. It is recommended that any applicant who needs expedited service because of a life-or-death emergency contact the National Passport Information Center at 877-487-2778; TDD/TTY: 888-874-7793.