New Passport Rules | Traveler Beware

Anyone who has seen me within the last week now knows of the new passport rules governing international travel. And while this may not be within my usual topic of discussion, I feel it prudent to share my recent experiences.

new passport rules

I was scheduled to leave for Paris the Tuesday evening before last. Due to the snowstorm, I was skeptical that we would leave on time. Little did I know that should have been the least of my concerns. It took 3-1/2 hours, for what is normally about a 45 minute to an hour trip, to travel to JFK from CT. But miraculously, it looked like my Air France flight was still scheduled to take off within 15 minutes of its scheduled time. Relieved to have finally arrived, I approached the check-in counter and handed the attendant my pre-printed boarding pass. All proceeded smoothly until she took a look at my passport. I was then informed that I would not be able to fly because my passport expired on March 30. While normally that would of course have been well within the time limits, a new passport regulation, instituted last summer, stipulates that all travel to France (and many other European countries) must be completed within 3 months of the passport’s expiration. I would not be able to fly until I renewed my passport.

A bout of public hysteria revealed that clearly no begging, pleading or entreaties were going to change the situation. I immediately texted video partner Susanna Salk to let her know of my change in plans, as we were scheduled to shoot designer Timothy Corrigan at his chateau the coming weekend. No more than 5 minutes later, we both coincidentally received another text from Tim in Los Angeles informing us that he had encountered the exact same situation there – he had also been disallowed to fly due to an impending passport expiration! What were the chances?!

What followed was a rather unbelievable series of both good luck and mishaps too lengthy to share here. But both Timothy and I were ultimately able to renew our passports and fly to Paris the next day. I must single out the Stamford, CT Passport Agency as that rare example of organized and efficient governmental bureaucracy. After arriving promptly at opening (prepared with passport photos and completed required found online here), I received my new passport in hand less than three hours later. Please note that this is only possible with a printed airline reservation confirming imminent travel. And I’m sure during the busy summer months such incredible turn around is unlikely.

Since my travel debacle, I have encountered many with similar, or even worse, tales to tell. Those who use travel agents are of course informed of the new regulations but the thousands of travelers like me, who book their own flights, have no way of knowing. While these are government directives, it seems to me that airlines flying internationally should be doing a better job of posting this information somewhere during the booking process. I wouldn’t want anyone else to unnecessarily encounter such travel disasters.

32 thoughts on “New Passport Rules | Traveler Beware

  1. Hi gorgeous. This is actually very common. This is not remotely a new situation. When you come to the US as a tourist you are granted a 6 month tourist visa. If you are an EU citizen and your passport is expiring within 6 months you are similarly denied boarding rights to come to the US as you cannot then be subject to an accident etc and risk being abroad with an expired passport. Many countries have started to impose reciprocity conditions on US passport holders as the US is such a cumbersome country with respect to foreign entry. Enjoy Paris. Best. J.

  2. This is news to me because, although I have been aware of this rule for years, I was under the impression (by the international visa company I use) that a passport is “expired” six months, not three, prior to the date stamped inside.

  3. Glad you made your flight. Your comment regarding the CT Passport Agency “as that rare example of organized and efficient government bureaucracy” reminds me of how many times I’ve encountered many highly qualified government employees who do their job well.

  4. We are traveling extensively next summer, internationally, and I had seen the new rule. I too thought it was 6 months, but it could be based on destination. My daughter’s passport expires in August, so this is a great reminder to go ahead and get it renewed ASAP!

    Thank you so much for this post, I am sure it will help a lot of people.

    – Holly

  5. Thanks for the tip. I just went to look at the expiration date of my family’s passports. I knew we were well within the time frame of expiring when I booked our upcoming trip to London, yet after reading this I went to confirm we would be fine with the new regulations. Miss you!

  6. This exact same thing happened to my husband last Summer…and he wan’t even flying to Europe. He was simply going from Boston to Quebec to meet a group of friends for a 3 day fishing trip. A nightmare ensued and after a missed flight and a day of running around and dealing with the passport agency he finally made it out a day late.

  7. I had the same last-minute experience in Stamford last summer. Like you arrived early, concerned about my flight the next day and pleasantly surprised how efficient the process was. Glad it all worked out for you… and look forward to posts from your trip. – Carol

  8. Somehow, somewhere the news is out about this….we have known for a few years that it’s a six month window (never heard about three!). I can’t imagine the panic when arriving at the ticket counter…

  9. There are some great services out there that will expedite first time passport applications. as well as renewals for you, and foreign visas. In NYC, Passport Plus ( ) is great – one day service, they actually will walk you into the passport bureau by appointment and you walk out with a new passport.

  10. Wow, what an experience! The bad and the good! So glad you got out the next day. I’ve never heard of this rule either. Two summers ago I went to Bermuda within a month of my passport expiring and had no problems. It must vary by country. But, why this rule in the first place? It means we have to renew up to 6 months before expiration?

  11. I wonder where you buy your tickets online; I am pretty sure I get notified on the American Airlines website when I but my tickets, but I have been under the impression for years that your passport has to be valid for six months, not three, as others here have stated.

    The Stamford passport agency is terrific; I got my first passport ever there, and just as you did, in about three hours.

  12. What a bad start to an otherwise, I hope, wonderful trip. And so kind of you to inform the rest of us. I surely had never heard of that as we never use travel agents!

  13. I so agree with you that as a “courtesy” the airline or cruise company could put a “notice” on the ticket!! We ran into this in Denmark and I was “pulled out of a very LONG line” and questioned quite extensively (we had been in Sweden for a baptism.) Puts the “fear of the Lord” in you!! franki

  14. Stacey, thank you so much, really, how could the average traveler ever know this!
    I am just happy that it was resolved so quickly for you, Susanna and Time, and I look forward to your feature from the chateau!

    The Arts by Karena

  15. Friends left U.S. without hearing a peep but had an unexpected long weekend in London waiting for new passports before they could proceed to Isreal. Good reminder to check ahead of travel dates.

  16. Begs the question….why is the “expiration date” not the “expiration date”? HMMMM. Bureaucracy at its best.

    • The question answered is quite simply that your passport needs to be in effect and valid the entire time you’re out of the United States; in essence, the entire length of the visa granted to you by the country (countries) you’re visiting. So yes, your expiration date is still the “drop dead/no more” date but you do have a grey area of sorts depending on your destination.

      I know it sounds like “bureaucracy at its best” but it’s ensuring that you don’t find yourself in a much stickier situation should your passport expire while you’re abroad. Better to have the incident on home turf rather than wasting valuable time overseas standing in line at a Consulate.

  17. Thank you Jacqui! You made me look at my passport and it expires late this Fall and I have plans to teach abroad shortly afterward. That was so thoughtful of you to post.
    I hope you did have a great trip after all.
    Best, Nan (Hass Feldman)

  18. Stacey……As your fellow traveler with a defunct passport I want to thank you for spreading the word…..but then everything that you do on Quintessence is the best. I think that Quintessence should be a household term…if it isn’t already! xo

  19. As a Brit I am allowed two official passports because of my constant travels. They expire about 5 years apart so I never have to worry about one of the being in the 6 month ‘dead zone’ since there is always one well within limits. My American chums who are also frequent travellers are allowed to do the same by the US Govt. So if you travel a lot apply for a second passport!

  20. Traveling to Bali has always been like this- you have to have at least 6 months or a year left in your passport ( I can’t remember which!)- and airlines never warn you! You would think it would be in their interest to have everyone flying out as scheduled!

  21. So… will they now renew for 5 years and three months?? The price has increased and the duration has decreased…sounds like our government SNAFU!

  22. Stacey,
    I’m so glad that you were able to renew and get back to your scheduled trip. I have no doubt I would have been a hysterical mess had I encountered that type of delay.

    This is truly good to know as we just booked tickets for Rome and Florence for this summer. I’m running upstairs to see when all of our passports expires!

    Do you have your Global Entry yet? It has made recent trips go so much smoother!
    xo Elizabeth

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