Passport requirements to travel
Did you miss me? I certainly missed the community. However, I must say, it was nice to have the majority of the summer off with the kids. Hopefully I will be back on track to publish articles at least every other week and just maybe weekly. I would prefer to post only when I have something to say or valuable information to provide. Now onto the article for the week. Keep reading the story is a good one.
I really thought that with age my life as a “Seinfeld” episode was over. I think I had disclosed this to you all before. It seems that very unusual things used to happen to me: almost being kicked off a flight back in the 90’s, seriously this was no fault of my own and thankfully the captain of the flight saw this immediately. Oh, I didn’t tell you the captain had to come out of the cockpit. Are you intrigued? Fortunately it became quickly clear to the captain that this was a case of bad “mooditis” on the part of one certain flight attendant. He had me sit back down and the flight preceded as planned with me on it. I have countless of these examples.
I am not certain what changed this era of unusual happenings. I would like to think it was my positive attitude toward life. But secretly, I know that it was my husband and his good luck. He is one of those people who truly believes it will all work out in the end. And you know what? For him, it almost always does.
I was checking in for my flight back to Qatar from Los Angeles two days ago. I had spent the week attending a Functional Medicine conference. I had really enjoyed the week learning, networking, meeting up with friends in the area but was ready to get back to the kids. And 5 hours after my return, my husband was scheduled to depart for his conference (also held only once a year): the council of tall buildings in Shanghai.
The questions were the usual from the woman at the counter. Was I going to get a visa on arrival into Qatar. “No, I live there. You know have a permanent residence’s permit.”, I said. I quickly flipped through 7 years of permits showing her my most recent one. This seemed to satisfy her.
We were almost getting to paying for an extra bag when she exclaimed. “I can’t let you fly.’ What?, I said. Your passport is going to expire in a month. “Yes and?” I pressed. It says right here: ” all those traveling to Qatar must have a passport valid for at least 6 months after arrival.
You are going to have to go tomorrow morning and get your passport renewed. I can rebook you for tomorrow but you won’t arrive until Wednesday. Wednesday that was 3 days away.
Not let me fly! But what about my kids? No parental unit at home with the kids for almost 3 days. My mind swirled. My heart was beating fast, full of anxiety.
I was kicking myself for not having my passport renewed earlier. But when you fly as much as we do, there is never a good time. And besides I had an appointment at the US embassy in Qatar to get it renewed the Thursday after my return.
“But there must be something you can do. Someone you can call?” I asked.
“No, sorry there is nothing I can do. The airline can get fined $10,000.”, she calmly said. The conversation went around and around.
Then it hit me: but I just flew back in August only 1 month ago, I blurted. And that was with less than 6 months left on my passport.
Someone must have missed that she said.
Then “Adjacent Counter Woman” piped up. “We have 60 more passengers to check in you are just going to have to leave. We don’t have time to deal with you.” I calmly ignored her.
I am not certain what changed “Friendly Counter Woman’s”mind but she finally made the call. Was it that something didn’t add up? Was it my pleas not to allow my kids to be without either parent?
She wanted to see my resident’s permit (RP) again. “Are you sure this is an RP? It says family visa.”, she said. Then she spotted it in small print at the bottom amongst all the Arabic words that clearly stated it was a resident’s permit. She reviewed the guidelines on her computer screen and then said: “You are OK to fly as you are a resident.”
But what if I hadn’t persisted. I would have had many hoops to jump through to get a passport urgently and some very upset children.
I was questioned again in Amsterdam. They just wanted to “double check” they said. The airline staff member said “officially you need 6 months of validity left on your passport”. But finally let me through when he couldn’t get through to anyone in Qatar (not a surprise as phones don’t seem to be answered) and when he learned I had just re-entered Qatar a month ago also with less than 6 months left on my passport.
I worried the whole flight. Needlessly of course as they let me through on arrival.
The official ruling is that if you are a resident of Qatar, you merely need a passport valid on arrival as found on the Qatar Airways website. If you are a visitor to Qatar you will need 6 months however.
The moral of the story is not to get caught with your pants down. Know the rules. I found this thread on Word Travel’s travel forum about how much valid time you need on your passport. Some countries require 3 months, some 6 months and some countries like the USA only require a valid passport for the duration of your stay. The U.S. Department of state recommends you renew your passport 9 months before it expires. Maybe they should call it a 9 year passport, not a 10 year. Or at least if you think of it this way, you will never have this happen to you.
Have you ever been caught off guard with renewing your passport? Any funny stories with “Adjacent Counter Women” or the like? Do tell!