Passports and visas are crucial documents when traveling internationally. A passport is a government-issued identification document that allows you to travel internationally, while a visa is an official authorization allowing entry into a specific country.

Before you book travel, check to make sure your travel documents are in order.

    • Check Your Passport Expiration Date and Blank Pages
      Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your planned return date. Some countries require this as an entry requirement.  Make sure you also have blank visa pages in your passport.  Some countries require a certain number of blank pages for visa stamps and may not allow you to enter the country if there’s nowhere for the stamp.


    • Renew Your Passport if Necessary.
      In the US, you can renew your passport up to one year in advance of expiration.  Make sure you submit your passport renewal at least 90-120 days before you’ll need it for a trip, even if you select expedited service.  Even though processing times have improved post COVID, it’s still highly variable.


    • Research Visa Requirements for your Destination.
      Check the visa requirements for the countries you plan to visit.  If required start the process early and for most, you’ll need to submit your passport with your visa request.  While some embassies and consulates process them quickly, it can take time.  You’ll also want to double and triple check your applications for accuracy.  If it isn’t, they may return it to you and you’ll need to start the process over again which just adds more time to the issuance process.


    • Visa Entry and Exit Dates: Be aware of the validity period of your visa, including entry and exit dates, and adhere to these dates to avoid legal issues. When you receive your visa, check and make sure the dates are correct.  We’ve had an issue once where they were not and we had to scramble to get them corrected.  Also check if your visa allows for single or multiple entries, as this can impact your travel plans.


    • Copy or Scan your Passport and Visa.
      You never know when you might lose your passport while traveling.  It’s a good idea to scan or make a copy of your passport and visas before you leave.   If you scan it, you can upload the scan to the cloud in secure location using a service such as iCloud, Google Drive, SecureSafe, etc., so you can retrieve it if needed.  If you make a copy, leave it with a relative or friend who can get it to you if needed.


Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. (STEP)
For US citizens, it’s a good idea to register your upcoming international trip with the US State Department.

STEP is a free service that allows U.S. citizens and nationals traveling and living abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The program is designed to provide important information about your destination and help the U.S. Embassy or Consulate contact you in case of an emergency, such as natural disasters, civil unrest, or family emergencies.

To enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, you can visit the official website ( and follow the instructions to create an account and provide details about your upcoming travel plans. It’s recommended for all U.S. citizens traveling abroad to take advantage of this service, as it enhances the ability of the U.S. government to assist them in case of emergencies.Key features of the STEP program include:

    • Receive Travel Alerts and Warnings.
      Enrolled travelers receive timely and relevant information about the destination country, including travel alerts and warnings issued by the U.S. government.  With things world-wide changing rapidly, this can be invaluable.


    • Facilitates Contact in Emergencies.
      In the event of an emergency, such as a natural disaster or civil unrest, the U.S. Embassy or Consulate can contact enrolled individuals to provide assistance or convey important information.


    • Assists Family and Friends in Contacting You.
      Family and friends can also use the STEP program to contact you in case of an emergency back at home while you’re traveling.


  • Helps Locate You in Emergencies.
    If there is a crisis in the area where you are traveling, the U.S. government can use the information provided through STEP to locate and assist you.