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  • Writer's pictureJuliet Weller

Five Things You Need to Know About Your Passport

You've heard the horror stories: travel-eager friends who submitted their passports for renewal but are caught in gridlock and had to cancel or reschedule their trips amid disappointment and/or panic. It's one more thing we can blame on the disease-that-shall-not-be-named. That, and procrastination, 'I forgot' and 'I didn't realize', as so often happens with passport expirations anyway. Just so you know, one of my jobs to provide reminders to my clients of upcoming expiration of their passport; so if you think you might like that kind of memory-jogger, hit me up.

In 1996, the U.S. Department of State issued 5.5 million passports; in 2019, that number was just under 21 million. The total was smaller in 2020 (of course), but I imagine that the 2021 count will be astronormous (yes, new word). But that's not why I'm here. I have some interesting facts you should keep in mind when it comes to your passport. Diving in...

1. You may need to renew sooner than you think. Why? Don’t take your passport’s expiration date at face value. Some countries require your passport to be valid for a certain amount of time after your date of entry. For example: if your passport expires in December, but your trip to Mexico is in October, that's a no-go for you, because Mexico requires that upon your arrival, you passport must be valid for another six months, i.e., until April of the following year. If you remember nothing else from this article, remember this first point. The time requirement varies per country so check with your travel advisor. It's another reason to have your trip planned waaaay in advance of your desired departure.

You may still need to renew sooner than you think if

2. You need more blank pages. If you’re planning a trip and are running low on blank pages in your passport, it behooves you to take a look at the country information for your destination, since a few countries require you to have up to three blank pages in your passport for visa and immigration stamps. Most countries want you to have at least one blank page for stamps, so if you’re traveling to multiple countries on the same trip, make sure you’re prepared.

In preparing your application, follow directions meticulously in order to avoid delays in processing. This is particularly important when it comes to the rules for you photograph, because

3. If your photo is not in accordance with the criteria, it may be rejected, thus delaying the processing of your renewal. The photo must have been taken within six months of your application date, and needs to reflect your current appearance. You must directly face the camera and your expression should be neutral. According to the Bureau of Consular Affairs, “Photos with exaggerated expressions and squinting will not be accepted.” Uniforms and clothing that looks like a uniform are forbidden as well. If your appearance changes significantly and you no longer look like your photo, it's time to apply for a new passport: if you’ve lost or gained a lot of weight, undergone significant facial surgery or trauma, or if you’ve added or removed large facial tattoos or piercings, it's time.

So you've filled out the paperwork and are ready to mail your docs. Since you're including your old passport, it's important to

4. Protect the package by using a Tyvek envelope for mailing, and a trackable shipping method like USPS Priority Mail or other service. Both of these recommendations come from the State Department. Keeping tabs on your package lets you know it arrived, and the sturdy Tyvek keeps your important papers immune from moisture, damage, breaching of the packaging material, footprints and other hazards. I'm sure you've received packages that looked like they skidded across the delivery truck floor or served as a surface for a tap-dancing routine.

5. If your passport is significantly damaged, it's time for a new one. Normal wear and tear, and dog-eared corners are fine, but significant damage like water damage, a torn cover, torn personal data page or photo, unofficial marking on the data page and torn out visa pages are among the types of damage that may render your book invalid and will likely mean you need to apply for a replacement.

Well, I think these five will help you avoid being caught unawares by passport surprises. When it's time to renew, there are services available to expedite the process, should it be necessary. If you are considering traveling next year, go check your passport's expiration date right now. Go.

'til next week


Did you miss any of my articles? They are all here.

I create indulgent, transformative vacations for people who crave immersive travel. If you don't have the time to plan the details of your own well-deserved escape, don't know where to begin, or are simply longing to make unforgettable memories with those you love, then don’t wait another day. Let's talk.

Contact: GLOBAL EXOTIC ADVENTURES - Juliet Weller, Founder

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