US Passport renewal strategy
September 12, 2016 11:05 AM   Subscribe

On October 5th (about 3 weeks away) I leave for Spain, I'm a US resident. I just realized my passport expires on Jan 31, 2017. According to the State department's website 6 months of validity is "recommended" for Spain. Should I risk mailing my passport for expedited renewal, which can take 2-3 weeks, or should I risk that 6 months of validity is really just a recommendation?

Is there another strategy like renewing in person I should explore?
posted by nowoutside to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I should have added - I am returning directly to the US after 8 days, it won't expire while I'm abroad.
posted by nowoutside at 11:06 AM on September 12, 2016

You should be all right, but going to a Passport Agency would be a good idea to be more certain.
posted by Etrigan at 11:07 AM on September 12, 2016

I have friends who were turned away from their flight to Italy recently, because one member of the party had a passport that was going to expire some months after the round-trip. Seems crazy. But I mention it to say, there is some enforcement of provisions like that. Don't know whether it varies by country of destination, or what. But I would not assume that it is just a suggestion.
posted by sheldman at 11:11 AM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

It seems like most of Europe, including Spain, requires 3 months, not 6 months.

I might go ahead and check at an agency, though.
posted by Huck500 at 11:12 AM on September 12, 2016

Despite what they tend to say on their website you can generally walk into a passport office and out the same day with a passport. It's just a time suck and it helps if you don't have a 5 hour drive to get to an office.
posted by bitdamaged at 11:20 AM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

IATA says:
Passports and other documents accepted for entry must be valid for a minimum of 3 months beyond the period of intended stay.
If you have a ticket that returns you to the U.S. more than 3 months before your expiration date, you should be fine.
posted by grouse at 11:22 AM on September 12, 2016

I just renewed mine for a trip I am taking in December (it was due to expire in February), and it took about a month, regular processing. Just a datapoint.
posted by bolognius maximus at 11:41 AM on September 12, 2016

I recently renewed mine, regular process, and it was back in under two weeks, so there clearly is some variation in the wait times.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:44 AM on September 12, 2016

I would do an expedited passport renewal, because you're very close to the three months requirement. This a real requirement - I wouldn't have thought so, but my friend was recently turned away to Spain specifically because her passport was not good for 3 months past her trip.

If you live near a passport agency, they can do it that day or next day - it requires some waiting and you have to show that you have tickets booked. By mail will take a little longer and probably feels more risky.
posted by vunder at 11:45 AM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Strictly anecdata from friends who travel frequently, but I am hearing that they have felt like immigration control agents in Europe have been prone to touchiness recently, though even before Brexit, that might be some kind of political tension with US immigration demands, and in short they are being super-careful about their passport expirations, etiquette, and presentation manners.

I would do the fast-turnaround renewal, just because the inconvenience of being turned away would be so significant.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:24 PM on September 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

The three month are a real thing. I had a guest speaker in May who was denied boarding his flight from US to Europe. Had to buy him a new ticket, and with this new ticket he was able to renew his passport within a few hours . He did this in Boston. He was in Europe less than a week, but that made no difference the determining factor was the passport not meeting the requirements.
posted by 15L06 at 12:28 PM on September 12, 2016

My wife recently did expedited processing and got her new passport in about two weeks. That said, I'd go to a passport office if I were you. Better safe than sorry.
posted by breakin' the law at 12:38 PM on September 12, 2016

New York City's passport agency will do a turnaround on passport renewal or replacement in 8 business days. You will need to apply in-person, and provide proof of travel. That link takes you to their expedited page, which explains how you can expedite your passport at that agency location in 24-48 hours.

I did expedited renewal at that agency last year and it was quick and painless. Dropped my old passport off in the morning, picked it up the following morning. The extra expense was worth the peace of mind.
posted by zarq at 12:50 PM on September 12, 2016

My wife just renewed her passport a month ago using the expedited option - it came in 8 days.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 12:57 PM on September 12, 2016

I recently had a friend whose passport expired within a year get refused to be ticketed at the airport. He was going to Spain. I would do what every you can to get it renewed.
posted by slogger at 1:05 PM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was able to renew my passport in one day at the Dallas passport office. I had to make an appointment in advance though and there were no appointments available for a couple of days. But once I got in I applied, showed them my travel itinerary and they said come back in 4 hours. I had my passport at 4:00pm.
posted by Grumpy old geek at 1:54 PM on September 12, 2016

Just last week I had a friend denied entry into the Netherlands because her passport expired 84 days after her flight back to the US, instead of the 90 days required. She had to divert to London and go through the embassy to get an updated passport before she could resume her business trip to Amsterdam. Just a data point.
posted by raisingsand at 8:12 PM on September 12, 2016

I've had to get expedited passports at my local Passport Agency for myself and also for family members. The 3 or 6 months left on your passport is real. And, that's measured against your return date, not your departure date. I ran into many people at the Passport Agency who had been turned away from their flights hours before making their way to the Passport Agency to try to get a same day renewal. If you live near a Passport Agency, it's worth it to wait until you're 2 weeks (or less) from your departure date to go and take care of it in person. You can show up without an appointment, you just have to spend more time there as you're behind those who have appointments.
posted by quince at 9:30 PM on September 12, 2016

... who was denied boarding his flight from US to Europe.

Yeah, keep in mind you actually have two gatekeepers in your way. If you get as far as passport control, they will take a strict reading of their rules - so if it's 90 days, and you'll have 91 days, you are probably fine; if you'll have 89 days, you are probably not fine at all. But you might not even get that far, because the airline itself can and will refuse boarding if they think you are in violation - and they aren't always as well versed in the rules as the folks at passport control. I'd go for the expedited renewal myself.
posted by solotoro at 3:23 AM on September 13, 2016

nthing waiting until 2 weeks before your trip (or 4 if you need a visa!) and applying in person at an agency if you have one nearby. I went to the Minneapolis agency on a Tuesday in July and I got my passport in the mail that Friday. The $60 expedited processing is totally worth the peace of mind (plus you have to pay that anyway to do it by mail).
posted by substars at 8:33 PM on September 13, 2016

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