Knowing which documents you need when traveling internationally is essential to having a stress-free vacation. Prepare yourself by learning about the latest travel requirements and important information you need to know before traveling.
What documents are required when traveling internationally?
You are required to have a U.S. Passport Book when traveling by air to any international location.
If you are traveling by land or sea to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda or the Caribbean Region (Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Jamaica, Montserrat, Netherlands Antilles, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Turks and Caicos), you are required to have a U.S. Passport Book or Card.
Please note: U.S. citizens who board a cruise ship at a port within the United States, travel only within the Western Hemisphere, and return to the same U.S. port on the same ship may present a government issued photo identification, along with proof of citizenship (an original or copy of his or her birth certificate, a Consular report of Birth Abroad, or a Certificate of Naturalization). Please be aware that you may still be required to present a passport to enter the foreign countries your cruise ship is visiting. Additionally, if a problem arises on your cruise, or you are injured, and must be flown back to the US for treatment, a passport is essential, and not having one can delay the process. I suggest you have one whenever leaving the US.
You can no longer get additional pages to add to your passport. Since a passport lasts 10 years, if you plan on traveling abroad at least twice a year, I would opt for the larger 52 page passport. This should be ample for most casual travelers.
What is a U.S. Passport Card?
The U.S. Passport Card can be used to enter the United States from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda at land border crossings or sea ports-of-entry and is more convenient and less expensive than a passport book. The passport card cannot be used for international travel by air. I recommend just getting a full passport, or opting to have both.
How long does it take to get a passport?
Processing times can vary depending on workload and occasional unforeseen circumstances. During busier times, such as the summer travel season, customers are encouraged to expedite their applications if traveling in less than 10 weeks.
If you need to expedite a passport, I strongly suggest using a service that can make sure all the requisite items are completed, and can push your application through. My preferred service is aptly named Rush My Passport
How long is a passport valid and when should I renew my passport?
- If you were over age 16 when your passport was issued, your passport is valid for 10 years.
- If you were age 15 or younger when your passport was issued, your passport is valid for 5 years.
The Issue Date of your passport can be found on the data page of your Passport Book or on the front of your Passport Card. If possible, you should renew your passport approximately nine (9) months before it expires. Some countries require that your passport be valid at least six (6) months beyond the dates of your trip. Some airlines will not allow you to board if this requirement is not met. If you passport has already expired, you may still be able to renew your passport by mail.
How do I purchase or renew my passport?
Detailed information about passports and international travel requirements, along with instructions for applying for a passport can be found at travel.state.gov.
*For more information about passport requirements, please contact the U.S. Department of State.
Do I need a visa if I am a U.S. citizen?
U.S. citizens don’t need a U.S. visa for travel, but when planning travel abroad they may need a visa issued by the embassy of the country they wish to visit. When planning travel abroad, learn about visa requirements by country by visiting the U.S. Department of State’s Country Specific Travel Information.
*Find out more about both the immigrant and non-immigrant visa process at the State Department’s visa main page. U.S. Passports and International Travel.