The Six-Month Passport Rule

My passport expires in January.  I have had it 10 years, and it has traveled to some amazing places with me.  A couple of years ago, I washed it in the laundry (it was in the pocket of my jeans), but it survived!  When I was living in Spain, I left it on an AerLingus jet in Dublin, but it was returned to me.  It’s been with me for a long time.  I got this “new” passport in 2005, the first time I ever visited Singapore, and it’s kind of fitting that it will expire while I’m living in Singapore ten years later.

But, however, my passport apparently has already expired.  Most countries in the world will not allow a person entry through customs if their passport expires within 6 months of the entry date.  I recently had trouble on a trip to Malaysia with my passport (which expires in January) when I arrived in Kuching.  The customs agent didn’t want to let me into the country.  I had to show her my return ticket for 4 days later and got stamped in with a special 7-day stamp, instead of the usual 90-day stamp.  It caused a stir at passport control and caused us a few extra minutes waiting for approval.  I literally thought I would have to board a plane directly back to Singapore.

I don’t understand the 6-month passport rule.  What’s the point of having an expiration date on a passport if countries will not let you travel within 6 months of that date?  I understand if the passport will expire WHILE you’re in the country, then there will be problems, especially if your home country doesn’t have a consulate in the city you’re in.  But six months?!?!  Most travel visas for countries are 90 days…that’s only 3 months…why make the rule 6 months?!?  What this tells me is that my passport actually expires in 9 1/2 years, not 10, because the last 6 months of a passport’s issue are worthless.  You can’t use it for travel, so what’s the point of having an expiration at all?  Passports should be lifelong.  I know we change in appearance, so there should be renewals, but they should happen regularly, like every 5 years or so, and they should remind you when your re-enter your home country.  There should be no expiration date on a passport!  Does someone’s citizenship expire?!?  Do they cease to have to pay taxes after 10 years too (we know THAT’S not true)?!?  So why have the passport expire and, since it does, why deny someone travel because it’s 6 months from the expiration date!?!?  It’s ludicrous!

I also, recently, tried to make reservations on the ferry to Batam, Indonesia.  They wouldn’t even let me purchase a ticket online because my passport expired within 6 months.  Actually, when I tried to buy the ticket, it expired in 5 months and 30 days!  Give me a break!!  I’m only going to be stamped in for 90 days (at the most), I’m not going to get stuck there!  A 3-month rule would make more sense because that’s less than 90 days.  So, because of this moronic 6-month rule, I’m forced to take time off work (because, of course, the only hours they serve people is in the middle of the day on work days) and go down to the American consulate to renew my passport.  They say it will take 6 weeks, but I’m paying for the expedited service of 3 weeks.  My plan was to renew it in December when I’m back in the States to visit for Christmas, but the 6-month rule has reared its ugly head, and I’m stuck spending my morning in bureaucratic hell trying to renew it here.

The 6-month rule is just another ridiculous way that customs offices (in all countries) are over-cautious and ridiculous these days.  I realize that terrorism is a very real threat and that countries need to be careful when screening foreigners, but if I’m traveling to their country 6 months before the expiration of my passport, and they’re only allowing me 3 months on my tourist visa, how does that harm anyone?  It’s a ridiculous and ludicrous rule that totally negates the last 6 months of any passport.  Absolutely pathetic!!

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