Mark Pestronk is a Washington-based lawyer
specializing in travel law.
Q:Is there really a law that requires that my U.S. passport be valid for six months after I travel to a foreign
country? If so, what law is it, who applies it
and what happens if a client doesn’t obey
it? Could a travel agency be liable for failing to warn a client that his passport must
be valid for six months? If so, has a travel
agency ever actually been found liable for
A:Each country has its own entry re- quirements for U.S. citizens. The laws or policies of some countries do
indeed require that a passport be valid for
at least six months from the date of entry.
Other countries, including most of those
in Europe, require three months’ validity
from the planned date of departure from
the country, and others have no law or policy on the subject at all. Finally, to confuse
matters, there are sometimes differing rules
on different but authoritative websites.
The U.S. State Department lists the entry requirements of each country here, by
searching by country name: https://travel
mation-Pages.html, but there is no actual
list of countries. The best lists I have found
are at https://thepointsguy.com/2017/08/six
-month-passport-validity-rule, which lists six-month rule countries, three-month rule countries and even a few one-month rule countries.
Immigration authorities in each country are tasked with enforcing the laws. In
at least one reported case, Panama put an
incoming U.S. citizen in jail until the airline
agreed to fly him home.
The traveler sued the airline for negligence in failing to advise him about Panama’s six-month rule. As far as I can tell, the
case is still pending, but I think the plaintiff
has a good case for negligence.
Airlines try to enforce the rules of each
destination country, either because they are
required by law to do so or because they
don’t want to take you home when you are
denied entry. Out of an abundance of caution, some airlines probably adopt a uniform rule requiring every U.S. passport to
have at least six months left.
To complicate matters, if you are visiting
multiple countries, ticket-counter agents
in your second destination country may
enforce the entry rules of your third destination country. In another reported case, a
U.S. traveler ended up stuck in Russia because Aeroflot agents refused to allow her to
travel to France because she had less than
three months left before her planned departure from France.
Travel agencies have a legal duty to advise
their clients about important information that
Clients should be made aware of passport expiration rules
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have a legal duty to
advise their clients
the clients would not necessarily be expected
to find out on their own. Although there are
no reported cases against travel agencies on
passport-expiration issues, I am certain that
a judge or jury would decide that the duty
would include providing such information.
However, it would be unrealistic to ex-
pect every agent at every agency to know
every country’s foreign entry requirements.
Therefore, I recommend that you put a
highlighted general statement in your con-
firmations or an email signature.
Here are three examples from my files:
• “Please note, a valid passport is now required for all travel outside the U.S. A ‘valid’
passport is defined as one that expires more
than 6 (six) months from the date of a passenger’s return.”
• “When traveling internationally, pass-
ports are required. Make sure that you have
at least six months on your passport after
your return date to the U.S.”
• “Many countries require your passport
to be valid for six months beyond the date
of entry. Please take a moment to verify the
expiration date of your passport now to allow
time to renew prior to departure if necessary.”
To submit a question for Legal Briefs,
email Mark Pestronk at email@example.com.