Travel Lessons: The Schengen Agreement and Renewing Your US Passport FAST

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Flying over Bergen, Norway, just days after renewing a passport.

Five days before my trip to Norway I received an email—my airline was offering a courtesy, giving me a checklist of items to do before I left. Make sure your bag is under a certain weight. Check. Make sure to pre-order your meal. Check. Make sure your passport is valid for at least 90 days. Not check.

Panic set in. I knew my passport was up for renewal in April, but figured I would be fine for a January trip and could renew afterwards. At closer research, I realized that if my passport was under this 90-day requirement from the day I was expected to return to the US, I would not be allowed to enter Norway. My passport would expired in 87 days…..

Lesson one in this travel blip was learning about the Schengen Agreement. Passed in 1997, this law relates to 26 countries including most of Europe, requiring US citizens to follow this 90-day policy. The idea is that typically for these countries, you can enter without a visa for 90 days as long as your passport is valid. However, if, for example, you went to one of these countries and decided to not go home and your passport expired, it could get a bit messy for you, your country, and the country you are visiting. Current countries under this agreement include:

Austria

Belgium

Czech Republic

Denmark

Estonia

Finland

France

Germany

Greece

Hungary

Iceland

Italy

Latvia

Liechtenstein

Lithuania

Luxembourg

Malta

Netherlands

Norway

Poland

Portugal

Slovakia

Slovenia

Spain

Sweden

Switzerland

Travel Tip: Whenever traveling to a foreign country, be sure to check requirements for entry. Other countries require at least six months of validity on passports in order to enter.

Lesson two was how quickly you can actually expedite the renewal process of your passport, as long as you fit the requirements. For me, I was lucky living in Boston, as there is a Passport Agency right in the city downtown. (You can read the full list of agencies here, with links to contact information). Once you locate your agency, secure an appointment for a day as soon as possible, depending on when you are traveling. In some other posts, I read that you could show up in person without an appointment, but most likely you will wait long hours and still get turned away. However, securing an appointment is easy online or by phone.

I should also note that when you Google passport expedite process online, there are some third party sites that offer guaranteed passports in 24 hours. Don’t fall for it, these services cost you hundreds of dollars more only to go through the same process at the Passport Agency. By going in person on your own, you save money and cut out he middle man.

You will need the following documents prepared ahead of your appointment. By making sure this is taken care of, it will let you get through the process much faster. You will need:

  • Proof of Travel within two weeks (or four weeks for visas). This can be a receipt for your flight, flight confirmation information, etc.
  • A new passport photo
  • Either a completed DS-11 application (for new passports) or the DS-82 application (for renewals)
  • Payment for the passport ($135 for new passports, $110 for renewals, plus an extra $60 expedite fee). Agencies will accept credit card or check.
  • Your old passport (if you lost your passport, you must provide your birth certificate)

The process is pretty straightforward after this—show up for your appointment, answer the questions, sign the papers, pay the fees, and they will give you a pick-up date. For me, I had my new passport within 24 hours.

My advice for any travelers is to always check these requirements. I know I never would have figured this out if it wasn’t for that strategic email. Instead, I would have driven all the way to the airport just to be turned away. Do your research, and if you find yourself in this situation, DON’T PANIC. You’ll be back on track for your trip before you know it.

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Luckily, everything pulled through to get to this viewpoint.

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