Before you pack your bags and head for the airport, there are important things to understand about your passport and international travel. Save yourself time and avoid headaches with these 3 helpful things to know about passports.
1. Be Aware of Expiration Dates on Passports. Passports expire. Many countries require your passport to have six months remaining validity. “I think the most important thing for people to be aware of is to check the expiration dates of their current passports. Many countries will need the passport to be valid for 6 months or more beyond the return date of travel,” said Jenny Ruff, senior travel advisor at Compass Travel in DeKalb. Some Caribbean cruises do not require a passport, however if an emergency should occur, a passport would be required to fly home from many of the ports that cruise ships visit. Compass Travel strongly encourages its clients to travel with a passport.
2. Allow enough time for your passport to process before your departure. On average, most passports take 6-8 weeks to process, but Ruff recommends paying an additional fee to expedite the process if travel will occur within the next 2 months. Expedited processing times are 2-3 weeks. If you are applying for your first passport, you will be required to complete a Form DS-11 and provide a Social Security number. You must also provide evidence of US citizenship with a birth certificate or another approved form of documentation listed on the US State Department’s website. Photo and payment are also required. “For people applying for first time passports, be sure to visit the U.S. State department’s website to get a clear understanding of what type of documentation will be needed,” Ruff said. 3. Ensure your driver’s license is travel compliant REAL ID is a coordinated effort by the states and the Federal Government to improve the reliability and accuracy of state-issued identification documents, Illinois residents who fly domestically, effective Oct. 1, 2020, the federal government will require you to use a valid U.S. passport or obtain a REAL ID from the Illinois Secretary of State’s office. Travelers can always travel within the U.S. using their passport instead of a driver’s license.