All too often, Embassy Seoul receives calls from anxious American citizens who are stuck at Incheon International Airport. The stories are similar and often go something like this: “John” is traveling from Seoul to Thailand with non-refundable tickets for a dream vacation, but the airline denied him boarding. “Mary” is traveling from Los Angeles to Manila with a layover in Seoul, but was prevented from boarding her continuing flight to the Philippines. Both passengers are carrying valid U.S. passports. So what’s the problem? Their passports are expiring too soon. Or, their passport visa pages are too full.
These visitors learned the hard way that many countries in Asia and around the world will not permit travelers to enter unless their passport is valid for at least six months beyond the date of their intended departure. These countries include — but are not limited to — Thailand, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Laos and Cambodia. These same countries also require visitors to have at least one blank visa page in their passport. A handful of countries go a step further: China, Singapore and Indonesia (specifically Bali) require visitors to have at least two remaining blank visa pages in their passport.
Before packing your sunscreen and swimsuit, it’s important to carefully check your passport, especially the expiration date. The next step is to check the entry requirements for the country you are visiting. Begin by visiting Travel.State.Gov (http://travel.state.gov). Next, type in the name of the country you are visiting in the “Learn about your destination” box. The first item you’ll see are any Travel Alerts or Travel Warnings pertaining to that country. Below under “Quick Facts” is a summary of entry and exit requirements. In addition to passport validity and visa page requirements, you’ll also learn whether your destination country requires a visa or vaccinations.
Below the “Quick Facts” box, take a few minutes to read through the Country Specific Information (CSI), which includes important information about your destination country such as U.S. Embassy and Consulates contact information, security & safety concerns, local laws, LGBT travel and more.
Don’t let your travel plans get delayed by poor planning. If you discover your passport is expiring soon, visit the Embassy Seoul website (http://seoul.usembassy.gov/acs_us_passports.html) for information on renewing your passport. We recommend U.S. citizens renew their passport no later than 7 months before the expiration date. We can normally renew your passport in 2-3 weeks, so your valid passport won’t become invalid.