Thursday, January 31, 2008

Passports - They do Expire!

Often we get Passports and think "Wow, these are valid for such a long time." And then, if not traveling outside the country often, you kind of forget that they do, in fact, expire.

We have some visitors coming in March - I am sooooooo excited - and due to an experience an acquaintance from school recently had, I thought to ask 'my other mom' when her passport expires. I'm glad I did. It expires in Sept. '08. Which will be fine for coming to Switzerland(CH). Because the Passport expires AFTER the 3 month expiration window.

Yes - there are expiration windows that certain countries have. If your passport expires less than 3 months after the return travel date from CH back to the US - they aren't going to let you outside of the airport when you get here. And preferably, they have not let you depart from the US to take an overnight flight scrunched up in a little airplane seat only to find yourself stuck upon arrival.

Belgium also has this law along with several other countries. You can easily find this information out from any travel agency or by searching "passport expiration rules" and your browser should direct you to several sources.

You see - a family we know from the school was traveling to Australia for Christmas and figured to break up the flight by staying over in Singapore for 2 nights and sightseeing on the way. They landed in Singapore only to be told by immigration there, that it was not possible for them to leave the airport. Their passports expired in June 08 and Singapore has a 6 month expiration window.

They were faced with the prospect of waiting 44 hours in the airport (brutal!) for their scheduled flight or get re-booked on an earlier flight if available. Fortunately, the whole family was able to re-book together on a flight that left several hours later. Mind you - they were traveling with 5 & 7 yr olds and international flights very often leave once a day (ex. Zurich flights leave the East Coast btwn 5 - 8 pm depending on the airport). They were really lucky.

And because their final destination was Sydney and the return was Sydney, the agent in Zurich did not notice the "long" layover in Singapore. Ouch!

We find it interesting that for the past year - each time we've flown back to CH from the US, they've required us to show our B Permit (resident alien Visa) for CH. Bart doesn't always get this but I have for the last 4 returns. Most other families we know are never asked for their B Permits and usually don't even take them along on their travel. Anyway....

Moral of the story is - If your passport is expiring within the next year and you are expecting to do some overseas travel, make sure to check the immigration laws in the destination country and start your passport renewal process before you desperately need it.

I won't get into all the Middle Eastern immigration laws - suffice it to say that if you've traveled to Israel and then want to go to another Middle Eastern country, you'd better get yourself a new passport.

PS - In case you ever wonder why we refer to Switzerland as 'CH' or the Swiss franc as 'chf' - 1. it's a lot easier to type than 'Switzerland' and 2. is the official shorthand for the country dating back to the original "Confederation of Helvetia" in 1291AD.

Fascinating history incorporating wars (and their 'neutral' stances), Reformation, technical and social world contributions and Banking. But you'll have to look it all up yourself. My next long-term project for German class is to write an essay "auf Deutsch" to explain the US Presidential election process. Can that be a prayer request?


Anonymous said...

happy birthday sue!!! -jnk

Julie said...

Hi Susan!
Got your phone message and it was great to hear your voice! Always a bright burst of sunshine from afar!
I second the sentiment...Happy Birthday!
Hopefully we'll catch up soon!

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday to a great first granddaughter. You have been a pleasure from the beginning.
God bless you and keep you as sweet as you are now.
GMA Stone Davis