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How to Check if a Passport is Valid For Travel

A completely valid passport belongs in every traveler’s bag!

A valid passport is a passport that isn’t expired, right? While it is important that s passport hasn’t expired, there are other reasons that the passport might not be valid for travel. Before heading out on your business trip or even your summer adventures, check the passport validity to make sure it will be accepted everywhere you go.

My passport is expiring in two months. It’s still a valid passport, right?

Your passport might not have expired yet, but many countries around the world insist that you have at least three to six months validity remaining on your passport. This is commonly referred to as the “six month rule.” Some countries enforce this rule by requiring that you have at least six months validity on your passport when you enter the country, and others want to see that you will still have at least six months left at the time you are scheduled to leave.

Unfortunately, travelers get caught out by the six month rule every day. One Californian couple recently was featured on the evening news with their tale. They were denied boarding of their flight to France because their passports had less than six months validity remaining. They had to delay their trip until they could renew their passports, while the 8 friends they were traveling with went on without them.

If you’re traveling soon, you can check whether your destination country enforces the six month rule by visiting the State Department’s Country Specific Information website.

My passport is out of blank pages. Is it still valid?

It’s a lot of fun to collect passport stamps… until the day you discover that your passport has run out of blank pages.   Your passport contains two types of blank pages. The ones at the back of the book, marked “Endorsements,” are meant for the use of the US State Department only. All the other blank pages are labeled “Visas.” These are the pages that are used for travel visas and entry and exit stamps.

As a rule of thumb, you’ll need at least one blank visa page in your passport for every country you will visit. If you need to get a travel visa for your destination, you should have two blank pages, one for the visa and one for your entry and exit stamps.

If you run out of blank pages, your passport will need to be renewed in order to be fully valid for travel.

I’ve changed my name. Can I still travel with my valid passport that shows my old name?

If you’ve legally changed your name, you should update the name on your current valid passport. For passports that were issued less than one year ago, you can use the special “re-application” name change procedure. Passports that were issued more than one year ago need to be renewed to change the name.

However, if you have to travel immediately after changing your name — for instance, if you’ve just gotten married and are planning an international honeymoon — you can still travel with the passport showing your old name. Just make sure that your plane tickets are booked with the same name shown on your passport, and get a passport with your new name after you get home!

My valid passport has been damaged. Can I use it for travel?

Passports that have seen better days can cause serious problems for travelers. Even minor damage, like mildew spots or threads hanging from the cover, can be cause for an airline to refuse to let you board! This recently happened to comedian Jordan Peele. A Transportation Security Administration agent turned him around and did not allow him to board his flight to London for his honeymoon because his passport was damaged.

Serious damage to your passport, like a torn or missing cover, ripped pages, or unauthorized markings on the information page, automatically makes your passport invalid, even if you still have lots of time left before it expires.  Badly damaged passports have to be replaced using the mutilated passport procedure. But if your passport is just starting to look shabby, it’s a good idea to renew it so you’ll have a fresh, crisp book that will be accepted everywhere.

Our Top Tips to Keep Your Valid Passport Ready for Travel

  • Keep an eye on your passport’s expiration date, and renew it at least six months before it expires.
  • Flip through your passport and make sure you have plenty of blank pages.
  • Frequent flyer? You can request a large 52-page book when you renew. These are issued at no additional fee, at government discretion.
  • Protect your passport from damage by keeping it inside a protective case.

If you need to renew or replace your passport for any reason, is here to help!