Passports & Visas – Do You Need Them?
As the world becomes more global, traveling the world is on many people’s bucket list. Are there places that you’ve always wanted to go? Historic sites that you’ve wanted to view in person? Does the thought of eating authentic ethnic cuisine in the country of origin make you ready to jump on a plane? Well, before you go, you’ll need one vital thing…..
Planning to travel outside of the United States requires that you have a passport. If you haven’t left the country before this may not be something you would have, so it has to become part of your travel plans. Applying for your passport has several steps and you have to take into consideration the amount of time that it will take to get the passport before you can travel out of the country.
Currently it takes 4-6 weeks to get your passport back after you send in your application. However, there is a timing bubble on the horizon that you may want to keep in mind. In 2007, the US changed regulations requiring citizens to have passports when flying to or from any international destinations. Over 18 million passports were issued that year and most expire in 10 years. That relates to a huge bottleneck in the passport renewal system between 2017 and 2018, backing up the wait time to over two months. If you know that your passport is expiring in 2017, you may want to renew it early in order to avoid the extended wait period that’s predicted.
Another timing issue to keep in mind involves knowing what the regulations are for the country(s) you plan to visit. Many countries require that your passport be valid for six months BEYOND your return date, some are even longer. This is for them to be assure that if your departure from their country is delayed for some reason, you will still be able to fly back home at a later date.
Some countries also require visas for foreign visitors. This is in addition to having a valid passport and is a completely different process. If you are booking your travel independently, you will be responsible for acquiring your visa. If you are booking a tour through a tour operator, the cost of the visa and the application is often taken care of as part of your package.
If you have questions about what is required to travel to the country of your choice, the best website to check is www.travel.state.gov . The home page has links on how and where to apply for a passport and a search box for the country you are traveling to, which will bring up that country’s entrance requirements (passport validity dates and visa requirements).
There are passport and visa service companies that will take care of the application process for you for a fee. These are best used when you need a faster turnaround than the normal application process requires. Again, additional fees will be added to expedite the application.
In addition to having your passport, you can now apply for the Global Entry program in the US. This makes getting in and out of the airports a breeze….most of the time. But that topic is reserved for another blog, so make sure to check in again!!