Are your ready for your long-awaited trip to Europe?
No, allow me to rephrase: Are you REALLY ready for your long-awaited trip to Europe?
Whether you're going on a business trip, a semester abroad, or simply want to tour the Old World, chances are you've done plenty of research about what to pack and how to get around. But there's one item too many long-term travelers to Europe often overlook: how your passport expiration date affects traveling to other countries.
Who Should Care About Passport Expiration Dates
First off, a disclaimer: If you're traveling outside the country for the first time, this post isn't for you because chances are you applied recently and now hold a new passport that will be valid for years to come.
But what if that isn't the case? You may have made a trip to Mexico, the Caribbean, or other countries some years back, and made sure you had a passport then. Now, before your trip to Europe, you check that passport and realize that it will still be valid just about for the duration of your trip. All is well, right?
It’s not always that simple…
What Expiration Date Matters? And Why?
Depending on the countries you plan on visiting, your passport will have to be valid for at least three months, in some cases even six months, after your return date. That's worth reiterating:
The expiration date we'll refer to throughout this post has to be calculated from the end of the trip, meaning the date you return to your home country, not the beginning.
If your passport does not meet these requirements, you may either be turned away at your point of origin—before you even get to Europe—or as soon as you get there.
The reason for this needed delay in expiration date is simple: Countries want to be sure that you don't travel on an expired passport should something go awry and you have to stay longer than anticipated. That's why you may be turned away at some borders due to insufficient time left on their passports.
Which Countries Require Which Expiration Dates?
All European countries who are part of the Schengen Agreement require a passport that is valid for at least three months after the end of your trip. These countries include:
- Czech Republic
- Slovak Republic
Some countries, such as Ireland and Russia, even require passport validity for at least 6 months after the end of your trip.
If one or more of the countries you intend on visiting is not mentioned above, check the U.S. Department of State's country information page for more details on your destination. For U.S. citizens, the State Department recommends passport validity of at least 6 months after the end of your stay, regardless of your destination, noting an increasing number of travelers being turned away at the borders for these reasons.
Passport Expiration Date: An Example
Imagine you're going to Germany on a business trip. You are scheduled to arrive in November 2015 and plan to stay for three months until February 2016. You will need a passport that is valid until at least May 2016, but we (and other travel authorities) strongly recommend a passport that's valid until at least August 2016.
Understanding the validity of your passport and how it relates to your long-term travel to Europe is a crucial part of being prepared for your trip. For more information about traveling to this beautiful continent, and how to get around, don't hesitate to contact us!
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