How to Ensure Easy Entry into a Foreign Country

I gleaned the thoughts of what I have written below from the Wall Street Journal, Thursday, 28 March 2019 (p. A11).

The travel security issue continues and nations increasingly are upping the requirements to enter their countries. As the United States has been tightening requirements on foreign visitors, other nations are reciprocating and increasing requirements for American visitors to their countries.

One traditional way to do this is to require visitors to request a visa. Some visa forms can be taken care of when the visitor goes to passport control at the place of entry. This is relatively easy to take care of (if you have the right amount of currency) and takes a matter of several minutes. Usually, these visa requests require the visitor to have a blank page in his/her passport.

More difficult is the requirement to send your passport in to a foreign consulate. This is more expensive for a several week process and means planning ahead.

But another issue increasingly is raising its head and if you don’t do some pre-planning, it can lead to disaster. For example, if you are accompanied by young children, with the growing problem of child trafficking, you should have an official (usually meaning with a raised seal) of child(ren)’s birth certificate(s). This is because U.S. passports for minors do not show parents’ names.

Beginning in 2021, the European Union will require American citizens to fill out a request for a “travel authorization” permit that is valid for three years. This matches the requirement imposed by the U.S. government on foreign visitors.

Various nations have different requirements based on the length of stay. The State Department website lists most of these requirements, but admits that it does not keep a list of countries with birth certificate requirements.

Your travel advisor should have the most recent correct information on the country or countries you plan to visit. This information will be sent to you in a timely manner to avoid panic and missed flights. This is why it is paramount that you carefully read all documents that you are given. Such entry warnings should be in bold print to prevent surprises.

The following are important considerations:

  • Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from the end of your travel
  • Carry extra passport pictures with white background because some countries require visas “on the spot” and need photos.
  • Carry at least $30-50 cash for crossing a border for on-the-spot visa requirements, which might just be an entry fee.
  • Register with the State Department Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). This free program provides safety updates and creates a communication link with local embassies and consulates in an emergency.
  • Carry a copy of everything in a secure location: these include picture page of your passport, itinerary, birth certificates, medical prescriptions, credit cards (including the phone number) you might need to cancel if stolen. These copies should be somewhere other than where you keep the other documents.
  • In addition, I take a picture of all of these documents and have them on my iPhone as an additional source.
  • Have an emergency contact in the U.S. who has a copy of your itinerary.

I think you can see why it is important to work with a regular travel professional who stays current on all changes and can also be a true “backup” if something goes awry.