When airlines send a reminder to check your travel documents before flying, how many of us think to look at expiry dates? Avoid the last minute scramble for passport renewal forms with Skyscanner Australia’s country-by-country guide to the requirements for travel.
Imagine if you purchased an annual gym membership only to find out it’s actually only usable for 11 months. The swipe card is still yours for that final month, but they’re not going to let you in.
Well… you’d probably feel rather cheated, report them to Consumer Affairs and storm off looking for another gym.
It’s a similar scenario with passports – but unfortunately we have no choice in the matter! Passports all have a use-by date, but seeing as most countries require at least six months’ validity to allow entry, its actual expiry date is rendered useless. Instead of a lifespan of 10 years, you have nine and a half.
This is a lesson our Deputy Editor Valentina Todoroska recently learned the hard way when she was due to travel to Singapore and found out three days before that she required at least six months validity to fly.
“I had no idea about the six month passport rule. I only came across it when looking at the Smart Traveller website the weekend before I was due to fly.”
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“I thought it best to follow up and confirm as I had five and a half months on my passport, I was sure it’d be okay. As it turns out it wasn’t. I spent almost half a day on the phone to the visa office and Singapore embassy before calling the Australian passport office and being told I needed a new passport or I wouldn’t be able to fly.”
“Thankfully I was able to get a straight renewal as my personal details hadn’t changed and my passport hadn’t yet expired. It was still incredibly stressful though.”
“I needed to book in a time to go to the passport office (thankfully I managed to get a time the following morning which I know is rare), go to the post office to get new passport photos and get my employer to write me a letter explaining why I needed to travel. I also had to pay a priority service fee so overall it cost me close to $500.”
“I was incredibly lucky to be able to pick it up within a few hours of my interview with a passport officer. It was a very close call.”
So why do passports need a buffer for travel? This is mostly to do with visa precautions – ensuring that you have valid national identification documents once your visit draws to a close and you need to depart the country.
It’s a bit of a pain for travellers, but governments tend to err on the side of caution with these things, factoring in any unforeseen circumstances that may cause you to extend your stay. This is why some countries are more conservative than others when it comes to buffer times – most Asian countries require 6 months from departure date whereas Canada only needs your passport to be valid for the duration of your stay.