Tips & Tricks: Check (now) the requirements to renew your passport/visa

Each week The Prepared Expat shares a tip or trick to help you survive and thrive as an expat. This week’s is born out of my experience and something I wish I knew to do sooner.

This week’s tip is short and sweet: Check now the requirements to renew your passport and visa. Do this ASAP, even if your renewal date is far in the future, so you can plan to meet the requirements and not be surprised by them.

Check visa renewal requirements

This may seem basic for experienced expats, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people wait until the last minute to find our their renewal requirements…and then be surprised that they can’t meet them. Sometimes your host country gives an extension, but experienced expats all have a story of at least one person who had to leave because they couldn’t meet the renewal requirements.

In case you didn’t realize it: your host country has no obligation to let you stay and or tell you when the requirements for a visa have changed. That’s wholly on you–so make sure you know in advance what the requirements are; and they change all the time, so just because you met them previously doesn’t mean you can meet them this year!

So check in advance and plan to meet the requirements; every country is different, but 3-6 months before your visa expires is a good time to be checking in to make sure you’re up to date on the current requirements. It’s always easier to plan than to scramble at the last minute.

Check passport renewal requirements, especially kids

Your home country, likewise, may have changed the passport renewal requirements, so check to make sure you can meet them–especially if you have kids on their first passport, as children passport renewals often have extra requirements than adult renewals. Part of the reason for that is because children’s faces change so quickly and thus it’s hard for your home country to identify whether the child is the same or not. After all, my son’s passport photo–taken when he was 2 weeks old–looks nothing like him today. So check what you’l be required to submit as proof that your child applying to renew a passport is the same as the one in the original passport.

For example, some countries require your kids to return to your home country to renew a passport; that’s certainly a hassle, but it’s better to know this 2 years in advance and plan for it than to discover it when your passport is about to expire. Other countries, often those with a UK connection/history, require someone in the country to guarantee the identify of the applicant, but if someone in your home country has never met your child, they may not be able to truthfully make that declaration. Again, plan in advance.

Depending on the embassy, US citizens are usually required to present profile, passport-like photos that show the facial development of the child since their lass passport. I’m sure you have lots of pictures of your kids, but I spent a not-insignificant amount of time finding profile photos over the required time period. But planning in advance to have those photos is as easy as taking a photo on purpose every 6 months, dating it, and saving it so you’re ready.

Thus, today’s tip: check in advance the requirements for renewing your and/or your family’s passport(s) and visa(s). Keep in mind that the embassy in your host country may have different requirements for passport renewal than an embassy in a different country. I set a recurring reminder in my task manager to check visa/passport

For US citizens like me, here’s a quick tip to save you loads of time. Set your phone or task manager to remind you every 6 months to take a “passport-like” photo of your kids. Snap it, date it, and save it in a place you’ll remember (I keep them in a passport renewal folder on my computer). When renewal time comes, your photos will all be assembled in one spot so you’re ready to go.

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