Do I Need a Passport to Cross the Border?

A U.S. passport is accepted at all crossings; whether it is by land, sea, or air. Some countries may not require a passport for entry. Nevertheless, it is best to have a valid passport to travel with. Where a passport is not necessary; you can use a passport card or government-issued ID. These other documents must be valid when returning to the U.S.

Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative

There is an agreement between the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean that makes traveling less restrictive when it comes to the documents use for entry. These countries are part of the WHTI zone and will accept a passport card or government-issued ID from U.S. visitors. So, not having a passport will not prevent you from going to any of the countries.

Border Crossing

Know the document a country will accept before you plan to travel to that country. Even though a passport is not necessary, not any ID is acceptable. For example, Canada may take a NEXUS card for entry, but Mexico will only accept a passport book or card. Even though these countries are in the WHTI zone, the rules for each differ for entry. While some Caribbean countries will accept a driver’s license or state-issued ID as identification.

Closed Loop Cruises

A “closed loop” cruise is defined as starting and finishing at the same U.S. port. Even if the trip includes a stop at a foreign country, it is still a closed loop. Closed loop cruises do not require the passengers to have a passport. The necessary identification required is proof of citizenship. Minors can use their birth certificate and adults a government-issued photo ID like a driver’s license. However, you should still carry a passport if you have one. It is best to take your passport just in case of emergencies.

U.S. Territories

If your trip includes any U.S. territories, you can go without a passport. Going to a U.S. territory is considered not leaving the states even though it is a foreign country. You can use a government-issued ID for identification purposes and entry. TSA will accept a military ID, driver’s license, or a permanent resident card. The U.S. territories you can visit using any of the ID mentions are Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Overall

The document you will use to travel to a neighboring country will be on the type accepted by the country. Know before you go which is necessary, but if you have a passport, it will work for all the countries. The other options you may use will vary. Any U.S. territories will accept your driver’s license or your green card. However, other nations will take a passport card instead of a passport book. Know this information before you go and avoid getting denied by immigration because of improper identification.

Travel Requirements for a Cruise

Most Americans will take a cruise at some point in their lives. The destination will determine travel requirements. Before you book a cruise, do your homework. Find out the specifications for the cruise. Like, what documents are necessary for entering the destination country or reentering the U.S. Also, if a visa necessary. Most of this information you will get from the cruise. The best advice is to get a passport even if one is not essential.

Provide Proof of Citizenship

As a U.S. citizen who will travel on a cruise, it is best to have proof of citizenship when returning home. You can have a passport book or a passport card. For minors, a birth certificate will do. If your trip is a closed loop cruise, it starts and ends at the same port; you can use a government-issued ID card. However, if your trip will stop at a port other than the one you started your journey, it is best to use a passport book.

Keep a Valid Passport

Make sure your passport has enough validity before you go on your trip. Enough validity is six months or more. Some countries require your passport has enough time for your stay. Also, to reenter the U.S. your passport must be valid. If your passport has less than six months validity, you should apply for a renewal. A renewal can take 4-6 weeks with routine processing or 2-3 weeks for expedited. An expeditor or a regional agency can get you a passport within 24 hours if your trip is sooner than two weeks.

Ask if a Visa is Required

Some countries will require a visa for entry. Since you are going on a cruise and most cruises stop in for a day, a visa may not be necessary. If you book an excursion that is not included in the cruise, you may need to get a visa. If the trip is part of the cruise, then a visa may be waved. Some countries also issue visas to cruise ships; therefore when this is the case, you don’t need to apply for one.

Overall

Know the travel requirements before you plan a trip. Make sure you have all the necessary documents that will allow you to enter the country on your cruise route. Also, a valid passport to reenter the U.S. If you will use a passport card, it must have enough validity similar to a passport. Once you meet all the travel requirements, you will not have any hiccups that will ruin your cruise trip.

Should I Get a Passport Card or a Passport Book?

As a U.S. citizen, you can get a passport book or a passport card. But do you need both? In this post, you will get the benefits of having both documents. If you think having both will serve your purpose, then go ahead and get them. There is one thing I can tell you about both documents; they are used to reenter the U.S. So, let us discuss the benefits of a passport card and a passport book.

Passport Card

A passport card is a document you would use to travel by land or sea. It is acceptable to use for reentry into the U.S. So; it will limit you to go to Canada, Mexico, Bahamas, and the Caribbean. Beyond these countries, you cannot use a passport card for reentry. Also, you can use the card when you fly internationally. When your card is not an acceptable document for travel, you must use a passport book.

Passport Book

A passport book is an acceptable document for international travels. Your U.S. passport, as long as it is still valid, is acceptable at any border crossing. Regardless if you are traveling by air, land, or sea, you can use a passport. Since a passport book comes with multiple pages, the cost is more than a passport card. The length of validity is the same for both documents, five years.

Passport Card vs. Passport Book

Let us start with the passport card. The card is the size of a credit card. That makes it easy to carry. The card is made from plastic and contains your information and picture. However, the passport card has limit use. You can you use it for reentry into the U.S. if you are coming to a few neighboring countries. Because of its limitation, the cost for an adult passport card is $65 for the first-time applicant and $30 for renewal. A minor passport card is $50 for a first-time applicant and $15 for renewal. For an adult, the card is valid for ten years and five years for a child.

A passport book is a book with 28 pages. Since it can be used at any border crossing and some countries require a visa for entry, the pages are used for visa stamps. The cost for a passport book is $145 for an adult and $115 for a minor. The validity for both adults and children are the same as a passport card.

Overall

So, if you are a frequent flyer or will travel internationally, a passport book is the best choice. However, if you go to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean and would prefer a passport card, then you should apply for one. Most people who use the card prefer it for the convenience of carrying and storing it. Unlike a passport which is bigger and can be damaged by water, a passport card is made of plastic and will not get damage easily.

The choice of where you will travel can determine which of the document you should get. Keep in mind a passport has no limitations like the passport card. Also, they both serve the same purpose and getting both documents will cost more. I think the passport book is a better choice and having one will keep you prepared for your future international trip.

Applying For a Passport After Naturalization

Now that you are a U.S. citizen through naturalization, you should apply for a U.S. passport. You will need a passport to travel internationally. Another document you can use to go outside the U.S. is a passport card. However, a passport card can only be used to reenter the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean. So, it best to get a passport.

Steps to Apply After Naturalization

Every U.S. citizen, whether by birth or naturalization, should have a passport. Applying for one requires some documents and a fee. The State Department provides a list of all the necessary documents on the application form. So, when you get the application form, you will have all the information on how to apply.

Get the Application & Gather the Supporting Documents

To start the process, you must get the application. You can get a copy at any acceptance facility or download it here. Once you download form with instructions and print it, you can start gathering the supporting documents.

Since you had to give your green card at the ceremony, you can use your Certificate of Naturalization as proof of citizenship and your identity. So, you must make a copy of the certificate and keep it safe. As one of the supporting documents, you must submit the original Certificate of Naturalization. Don’t worry; you will get it back 1-2 weeks after to get your passport.

In addition to the Certificate of Naturalization, you must submit a passport size color photo. You can have your picture taken at the nearest CVS pharmacy or Walgreens. If you want to do it yourself, make sure you follow the instructions that apply to a passport photo.

Applying for a Passport

Now that you have the application complete it with a black ink pen. Do not sign it yet. Since it is the first time you are applying for a passport, it should be done in person. Locate the nearest acceptance facility to submit your documents. You can go to the post offices, clerk of court offices, public libraries, and other government offices to give the application.

When you apply, you will have two options to process the application. The standard processing takes 4-6 weeks and costs the cheapest. It will cost $145 for a new passport. If you need a passport sooner, pay the additional $60, and you will get it in 2-3 weeks.

The facility will accept a check, money order, credit or debit card, and a cashier’s check. You must make your check or money order payable to “U.S. Department of State.”

Getting Your U.S. Passport

After the agent accepts the documents and payment, you can now wait until you receive the passport in the mail. The waiting time is going to be on the type of processing you choose.

Once you receive your travel document, open it and sign it. Your passport is invalid until you sign it. You must sign with a pen and not a pencil or marker. For a minor’s passport, a parent or guardian can sign for the child.

Understanding the Six-Month Passport Validity Rule

Traveling to another country can be fun. But before you go, get to know some laws that may affect you during your trip. For instance, did you know that your passport must have a specific time before it expires before you can enter another country? Now, countries have their laws and can change them whenever they see necessary. So, know if the country you plan to visit has this requirement. It is known as the Six-month Validity Rule.

What is the Six-month Validity Rule?

The Six-month Validity Rule is the time your passport must be valid before you enter another country. Some countries require your passport to have enough time for your stay. If there is more time before your passport expires, it is even better.

Even though there are some countries with this requirement, there are others who impose a three-month validity and others that require a valid passport for entry. Regardless of the rule and the place you plan to go, it always better to have a passport that will not expire sooner than six months.

Which Countries Impose the Six-month Validity Rule?

Here is a list of the countries that impose the Six-month Validity Rule:

 

Regions Countries
Central America Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua
Panama, Honduras (3-month validity)
Caribbean Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Martinique,
St. Barthelemy, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, Trinidad & Tobago
South America Bolivia, Ecuador, Guyana, Suriname, Venezuela
Europe Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland,
France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland
Africa Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia
Middle East Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, The United Arab Emirates, West Bank/Gaza Strip, Yemen
Asia & India All Asian countries except Hong Kong and Macau, Russia, India
South Pacific French Polynesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu

Apply For A U.S. Passport

If you need a passport, you can visit your nearest post office and apply. You can also submit an application at a county clerk’s office, courthouse, and a public library. You can have your application process at the post office using routine or expedited processing.

The difference between both options is the time it will take for you to get a new passport. Routine or regular takes 4 to 8 weeks. Expediting processing will take 2 to 3 weeks. However, the cost is more if you need a passport sooner than the average processing time.

If you have an emergency and you must travel within days, you can hire an expeditor. Expediting companies can get a passport in 24 hours is necessary. The cost to accelerate the application will have a substantial cost. You can visit a regional passport agency to get the same service.

Regardless of choice you make to get a U.S. passport, have one with enough validity to so will not have any issues when you travel to any country that impose the Six-month Validity Rule.

What You Need to Know When Traveling with Dual Citizenship

What does it mean to have dual citizenship? When you are born in a country, you automatically gain citizenship of that country. Later, you can become a citizen of another; now you have dual citizenship because you are a citizen of both countries. Getting citizenship from another country can be achieved in different ways. Once you have dual citizenship and you travel, there could be some difficulties you encounter going to other countries. It is best you do your research before visiting.

Gaining Dual Citizenship

You can obtain citizenship from another country in a variety of ways. If you reside in the country as a permanent resident, you can become a citizen through naturalization. You can also become a citizen by marriage or as a child of the union. Some countries also use a lottery system to grant citizenship to others who are seeking asylum for prosecution.

Once you have dual citizenship, you must now know the laws of the countries you plan to travel. Keep in mind that countries have their rules and you as a citizen must abide by the laws when you go to it.

Prepare for a Trip

Maintain Valid Passports

When you plan to travel to the country you hold citizenship, make sure you have a valid passport. Most countries like the U.S. requires its citizens to leave and enter the country with a valid passport of the country. So, if you have dual citizenship, it is best to use a passport of the country you will visit to enter or exit.

Some countries, especially in the Middle East, scrutinize travel documents from anyone who is traveling from countries they deem hostile. For example, Syria does not permit entry to anyone who visited Israel.

Military Obligations

Some countries require their citizens to serve a minimum number of years in their military. If the country you plan to visit is one which implements this rule, make sure you are exempted from this law. Some countries do have an exemption for non-resident citizens. If there is not clear law for it, it is best to consider not to travel until you have some clarity on your safety before going.

Tax Laws

Again, having dual citizenship does not exempt you from tax laws in a country you carry citizenship. Some may consider you pay tax on income earned abroad. If you travel to a country will similar regulations, you may require paying your share of taxes, or you could be held until you do. Speak with a financial adviser with who knows the tax laws in the country you will visit.

Dual Citizenship by Marriage

Gaining dual citizenship by marriage can be legal in one country and not another. Some countries do not recognize a marriage outside its borders, particularly to partners who are not a citizen of that country. Similarly, children of the union are not considered a citizen of their parents’ native country. But some countries give citizenship automatically to a husband and wife who gets married if one or the other is a citizen of the country.

For example, a woman who marries an Iranian national automatically gains Iranian citizenship. However, the woman cannot leave without her husband permission. Also, she cannot fly with the kids without his consent. She can divorce and renounce her citizenship, but the kids cannot.

So, traveling to countries with strict laws can create a significant issue when you plan to depart. Know the country’s laws and how they will affect anyone who carries dual citizenship when they travel to the country.

Can a Convicted Felon Get a Passport?

Having a felony conviction does not disqualify you from getting a passport. However, the type of conviction may disqualify you, but because the rules that define felons are not well defined, you may be able to get a passport. So, if you want to travel outside the United States and need a passport, you can apply for one the same way everyone else does.

Felony Disqualification

In the U.S., most individuals who have a felony conviction because of drug trafficking across borders will not get a passport. That means, if you are convicted of other felonies you can still get a passport. A felony is classified as a crime for which the penalty exceeds one year in prison. So, if you commit murder, treason, or financial crimes, which all have lengthy sentences, you may be able to get a passport.

Remember, a passport is merely a document which allows you to enter the country. Getting one does not mean you can travel to another country. Each country has its laws and if they don’t allow a felon to enter, having a passport will serve no purpose.

So, the State Department will likely not disqualify anyone, except for a drug trafficking conviction across borders, from getting a passport.

Other Reasons For Disqualifications

There are other reasons apart from a criminal conviction that will disqualify you from getting a passport. Even if you have a clean slate from any criminal activities, but fall into one of these categories, your chance of getting a passport is slim.

Here are some reasons that will disqualify you from getting a U.S. passport:

  •         You owe $2,500 or more in back child support
  •         Owe the government because of loans

Other reasons to get denied are:

  •         You are currently charged with a felony or a felony arrest warrant is outstanding
  •         You are currently in prison
  •         On parole for felony drug charges
  •         You have a court order, a probation order, or a parole order status that you cannot leave the country

These are some of the reasons you will get disqualified from getting a passport.

Can I travel until my passport expires?

Traveling with an expired document is a significant risk to take; especially if it is used as identification. If you want to remain stranded a foreign country, that is likely to happen if you are traveling with an expired passport. Also, most countries will not allow anyone with an expired passport to exit. So, before you take a trip, make sure your passport will remain valid up to the end of the journey. If not, apply for a new one before you go.

Passport Validity

Many foreign countries require a US citizen to have a passport and visa to enter and exit. But like many documents, a passport expires and must be renewed before used. An adult passport is valid for ten years, and a minor’s for five years. During that time, it is valid for travel. However, within the last year of validity, it is recommended to apply for a new passport. One primary reason to do so is that of the six-month passport validity rule. How does the six-month passport validity affect US citizens?

Six-Month Passport Validity Rule

The six-month validity rule is a law enforced by foreign countries and applies to anyone who wishes to visit for a short period. According to the rule, all visitors must possess a passport with a minimum of six months validity. What does it mean? If you plan to vacation in the country with this law, your passport cannot expire within six months of the day you will enter the country. Most countries provide tourist a thirty to sixty days stay except if the trip is business related. In such cases, then a passport must have more than six months validity.

There are a few countries that implement a three-month validity instead of the six-month. However, the trip time must be less than thirty days since the visitor’s passport cannot expire during the stay. Anyone with a passport with less than the six-month validity must obtain a new passport before traveling.

So to answer the question, the best advice to give is not to travel until your passport expires. If for some reason your trip became longer than you had anticipated, you must apply for a new passport at the nearest US embassy or consulate in the country you are currently staying. You will receive a temporary passport that may expire in two years or less. Once you are back in the states, you can apply for a passport that will expire in ten years.

What can disqualify you from getting a passport?

There are plenty of reasons for a passport application denied to occur. So, not every applicant will get a passport after submitting the documents and paying the fee. Apart from getting a notice of denial, your money will not be returned to you. Before you submit an application and fee, read this article to be sure your application will not be denied.

Reasons for a Passport Application Denied

The most common reason for an application to be rejected is submitting a form with incomplete documents. Read the instructional guideline that is with the form to get all the information about the supplemental documents when you are completing your application. Completing the form is part of the process. Without the supporting documents, your application will be denied.

One of the supplemental documents is passport size photo. The State Department has stick guidelines that you must abide for your photo. Some applicants prefer to take the picture instead of paying for it. The cost of a photo is not that expensive at a Walgreens or CVS. It is best to seek a place that is aware of the criteria so that your application is not rejected for this sole reason.

If the application is for a minor, both parents are required to participate in the process. If one parent is absent, then a consent form must be included with the application. Whether the absent parent is involved in the minor’s life or not, proof must be given to complete the application process. When a consent form is missing, the application will be denied.

An application without a signature will result in a denial. Small as it may seem, you must carefully review all your documents before you submit them. It is best if you complete your application in one sitting instead of over some time. If you are applying for a child who cannot sign his or her name, then you the parent must sign on the child’s behalf. Do not leave it blank.

Other supporting documents are essential to submit to prevent rejection. These documents are in different forms of identifications. First-time applications must send copies of an ID card such as a driver’s license or state-issued car. The copy must be of the front and back of the card. For a minor, the official birth certificate must be submitted.  The State Department has a list of additional supplement identifications to send if you cannot provide the initial ones.

Parents who owe child support cannot get a passport until proof is provided that arrangement of payment is in process. The laws in regards to child support vary by state, check with local authorizes to see how you are affected by this.

Probation or felony problems will also deny your passport application. It is undeniable that if you are on probation and in some cases, you cannot leave the state or country. Similarly, if you commit a felony, you will not get permission to travel outside the United States. In some instances, some applicants may still get a passport. However, the better chance of getting it is to hire a passport expert to complete the process on your behalf.

Overall

If you do not have any of these issues, you will likely get a passport the first time you apply for one. However, if you do it is best, you hire a passport expert. An expert, for some reason, is more familiar with the process and can help. When you apply, and you use the post office, the average processing time takes 4 to 6 weeks. You will also have an expediting process that will get you a passport in 2 to 3 weeks. However, expeditors can get it in less than two weeks and even in 24 hours. It is an option to consider if you are in a rush to travel.