Hold it, bub
Question: My adult son, traveling with his wife and child, was recently refused permission to board a flight from England to South Africa because he had only one blank page in his passport. How do you know which country wants more than one blank page?
Answer: You don’t. Entry requirements are as diverse as the countries that make the rules, so there is no one-size-fits-all answer.
A good place to start is with www .travel.state.gov, the State Department’s website. Click on “international travel,” then click on “international travel information” and “country specific information.” Under that category, you’ll find every destination imaginable and generally also find a listing for “entry/exit requirements.”
Among the tidbits I picked up just checking out various countries: Some require that your passport be valid for three or as much as six months beyond the date of entry; others require proof of yellow fever vaccination; and some countries -- and, yes, South Africa is one of them -- want you to have a sufficient number of blank visa pages.
Here’s what the U.S. State Department website says: “The passports of all travelers to South Africa must contain at least two blank (unstamped) visa pages each time entry is sought; these pages are in addition to the endorsement/amendment pages at the back of the passport. Otherwise, the traveler, even when in possession of a valid South African visa, may be refused entry into South Africa, fined and returned to their point of origin at the traveler’s expense.”
But the South African embassy site, www.saembassy.org, said as recently as Feb. 25 that a visitor needed “at least one unused visa page for endorsement.” After an inquiry to the consulate, the page changed, and it most recently said “at least two.”
What’s a traveler to do?
Err on the side of caution and add some pages if you’re at all uncertain. “The last thing you want to do is travel all the way there and find they’re not going to let you into the country,” said Cy Ferenchak, assistant spokesman for the Bureau of Consular Affairs.
Which raises the question of how you add pages.
You must complete form DS-4085, which you’ll find at www.state.gov /documents/organization/80120.pdf. If you don’t need the pages in a hurry, the service is free, but it will take four to six weeks. If you’re in a hurry, you might want expedited service, which will cost you $60 plus the fees for overnight delivery and should get your document back to you in about 10 business days. Or you can make an appointment with the passport agency and do this in person; call (877) 487-2778.
In his e-mail, Lubinsky asked whether the airline should have reminded his son that he needed extra pages. In a perfect world, the answer is yes. If you believe we live in a perfect world, please check with a mental health professional. And then remember that your attention to detail is your best traveling companion.
Have a travel dilemma? Write to email@example.com.