Your passport is good for 10 years — or is it?

Lisa Schwarz,

Most travelers who cross international borders are savvy enough to check their passport expiration date before booking their travel plans.

You check. The passport expires sometime after the trip. Good to go!

And then, at the airport, or cruise port, a strange look crosses the airline agent’s face. The next thing you know, your trip is in smoking ruins. Worst of all, there’s no refund of your ticket or cruise fare coming.

What happened? Let’s break it down.

Standard U.S. passports and passport cards are valid for 10 years. For children, the validity period is five years.

Within those windows, you can re-enter the United States with no problem. But you might not be able to enter your destination country if the expiration date is near. And “near” can mean days to several months, usually three or six. Every nation sets its own rules for who can come in and out of its borders. A person whose passport expires on foreign soil might not be able to go home — and then they’re stuck with you, at least for a while.

If you can’t enter your destination country the airline or cruise company will turn you away before you ever get on board — because illegal immigrant smuggling (or what passes for it in bureaucratic circles) tends to be bad for business.

Why no refund if you make this mistake? In the fine print of contracts of carriage is verbiage that it’s the passenger’s responsibility to have valid travel documents. If you don’t, they don’t have to give you your money back.

Check your passport. Then go to to check your destination’s entry requirements — and have a good trip.

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