When you travel abroad, you’ll need a passport and possibly visas; in fact, a passport is now required for all international travel. There is a difference between a passport and a visa. A passport allows you to easily enter other countries and re-enter the United States. A visa authorizes you to enter a specific country and is typically a stamp placed in your passport.

The rules and guidelines are complex and can change daily, so we’ve put together some tips to help you navigate visas and passports. If you need more information, visit the U.S. Department of State website at http://travel.state.gov/.

**Always check with your travel advisor for current guidelines for the countries that you’re visiting.**

Make sure you have a certified birth certificate to apply for your passport.

Many people make the mistake of trying to use a hospital-issued birth certificate to apply for a passport. You need the state-issued certified copy, which will have a state seal. Passport application rules state that the birth certificate must show:

  • Your full name, as well as the full names of your parents
  • Date and place of birth
  • Seal of issuing authority with a registrar’s signature
  • Date the certificate was filed with the issuing authority or registrar’s office (must be within one year of your birth)

If your birth certificate does not meet these requirements, contact your passport issuer for guidance.

Your child does need a passport.

No matter what age, every person traveling must have a passport in his or her name.

Understand passport expiration rules.

For those 16 and over, a passport is valid for 10 years and for those 15 and under, it’s good for 5 years. If you are traveling within a year of your passport expiring, talk with your travel advisor, as you may want to renew before you travel. Typically, countries will not allow you to enter if your passport has expired or will expire within 6 months from the date of entry. Although some countries only require your passport to be valid 3 months after your departure, it’s better to be safe than sorry and ensure that your passport won’t expire for at least 6 months after your departure.

Depending on the time of year you apply, it can take anywhere from 6 weeks to several months to get your new passport, so apply as early as possible. If this is your first passport, you must apply in person.

When you are booking airline tickets or a cruise, the name you use to book your ticket has to be exactly as it is on your passport or government issued I.D.

Not all countries require a visa.

Some countries accept a passport for entry, while others require a visa issued by their government. To find out if the countries you’re visiting require a visa, check with your travel advisor, or visit http://www.travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_4965.html. If you do need a visa, your travel professional will help you apply.

 Do you have any passport or visa tips based on your past experiences that you’d like to share with us?