Before you pack your bags for your summer travel, you’d be wise to check the passport requirements for your destination! Entry requirements for international destinations aren’t set in stone; they can and do change frequently. Nations including Italy, France, Kuwait, and even the US have recently changed their entry requirements for foreign visitors.
Until quite recently, both Italy and France required that US citizens have a passport valid for at least three months past the planned departure from Europe. This has changed, and both France and Italy now require that travelers have a passport valid for at least six months past the end of their trip. Quite a few travelers have learned about this the hard way, when they are not allowed to board their flight to Italy or France!
Although some European countries still allow US citizens to enter with less than six months passport validity – such as Germany and the Netherlands, which ask for only three months validity – we highly recommend that all travelers to Europe make sure their passport will be valid for at least six months beyond their return to the United States. The majority of European countries also share a common visa regime, known as the Schengen scheme. US citizens are allowed to stay for up to three months without a visa in the countries that make up the Schengen area. All Schengen nations require that travelers have at least three months of passport validity, but others require six months validity. With Italy and France joining the list of nations that require at least six months validity, it seems likely that more European countries will also start to require a longer passport validity.
In other European passport news, Germany has announced that they are going to keep doing passport checks at their land borders and rail stations. Passport control at land borders was reintroduced by Germany, France, Austria, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark in January, after many years of open borders between European nations. These passport controls were put into place in the wake of the November 2015 terrorist attacks on Paris, and were partly prompted by fear of terrorism, but were considered more important to control the waves of refugees and migrants fleeing unrest in Syria and other locations in the Middle East. As this refugee crisis continues unabated, the European Commission has recommended that passport checks should continue for at least another six months.
What does this mean for international visitors from the US and other nations? It simply means that you may be asked to show your passport when traveling between countries in Europe. As long as you have your passport – and it’s valid for at least another six months! – you have nothing to worry about.
Kuwait has recently made headlines with its plan for one of the world’s most bizarre entry requirements. Starting later this year, a valid passport won’t be enough to gain entry to Kuwait. All visitors will be required to provide a DNA sample upon arrival! Immigration officials at Kuwaiti airports and borders will collect DNA from every visitor via a saliva swab or a finger-prick blood collection. This is part of a wider Kuwaiti law, which also requires that every Kuwaiti citizen and resident have a DNA sample on file with the government. The universal requirement for DNA samples is intended to help prevent crime and terrorism by making it easier for law enforcement to find out who was at the scene of a crime.
Our neighbor to the north, Canada, introduced a new entry requirement earlier this spring. Now, every visitor who does not require a visa to Canada must apply online for an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) before flying to Canada. US citizens are exempted from getting the ETA. In fact, the law specifies that ETAs are required for just about everyone except for US citizens and the British royal family! However, US Permanent Residents (“green card” holders) do need to get an ETA before boarding a flight to Canada. ETAs aren’t required for entry to Canada by land, though.
Far to the south, Argentina has now made it easier – or at least less expensive – for US citizens to visit. Argentina used to require US citizens to pay a “reciprocity fee” of $160, the same amount of money the US government charges Argentine citizens to get a US tourist visa. This fee, which had to be paid online before travel, was tied to the traveler’s passport number and was valid for 10 years or until the passport expired, whichever came first. But the good news is that as of March 24, this entry fee is no longer required! Experts suggest that the fee has been dropped because Argentina hopes to join the US Visa Waiver Program, which would allow their citizens to visit the US without a visa. (Sorry, Canada and Australia – your citizens still need to pay reciprocity fees to enter Argentina!)
The United States isn’t exempt from the trend of new entry requirements! As of April 1, the US has been enforcing the requirement that all international visitors to our country must have a biometric passport. Biometric passports contain a small radio-frequency chip that links the passport to electronic data about the passport holder. They can be easily identified by the small gold rectangle icon on the cover of the passport. Biometric passports are now the international standard, but some travelers still hold older passports that do not contain the biometric chip. It’s estimated that there are five million people with non-biometric passports in the United Kingdom alone!
How to Check the Latest Entry Requirements
If you’ve been left wondering how you can keep up with the fast-changing passport and entry requirements for your travels, we have recommendations for you! The US State Department’s Country Information page is a great place to start. You can look up any country in the world and learn about their passport and visa requirements. You can also get information about health and safety concerns, local laws, and other helpful information. You can also check out the embassy website for the country you will visit. The US State Department maintains a directory of the websites of all foreign embassies in the United States – your destination is sure to be on the list!