Entry requirements for Schengen countries

Planning a trip to Europe? Quick, check the expiration date on your passport! If it expires in 6 months or less from your arrival date, you’d better apply for a passport renewal now.

I know what you’re probably thinking: Why six months? I’ll be long gone by then! I don’t want to pay to renew my passport when there’s still half a year left before it expires!

Unfortunately, if you don’t have enough extra time on your passport, you might not make it to Europe at all. You see, back in 2013, all of the countries in the Schengen Borders Agreement began turning back visitors if their passports expired within 3 months of the date they planned to leave the Schengen area and go home.

Entry Requirements for Schengen Countries: What is the Schengen Agreement, Anyway?

In a nutshell, the Schengen Agreement is an agreement between certain European countries that allows citizens and visitors to pass from country to country without having to worry about passport stamps and visas. This area includes many of the top European destinations, and many smaller countries as well.

Generally,  you’ll get your passport stamped once when you first enter a Schengen country, and then again when you leave the Schengen Area.

The following map shows countries and their Schengen Status:

schengen_map_en

How Much Time Do I Need on My Passport?

If you’re visiting any of these countries, play it safe and ensure you have at least 6 months left on your passport. Yes, technically the requirement is only 3 months…but consider the following:

According to the Department of State:

Some Schengen countries assume all travelers will stay the full three months allowed for visa-free visitors, meaning you may not be admitted unless your passport is valid for at least six months, regardless of the duration of your stay.  This requirement may also apply if you are transiting a Schengen airport for several hours en route to a non-Schengen destination.

If your passport expires too soon, you might not be allowed on your plane. Or, even worse, you could be turned back when you arrive in Europe. Does that sound like a chance you’re willing to take? Yeah, we didn’t think so.

Note to travelers: Italy and France have recently begun requiring 6 months passport validity for all US citizens! Some Internet sources may still say three months- check with the Department of State for the most updated information. 

How to Renew Your Passport

Need to renew your passport? You may be able to renew it by mail. To see if you’re eligible and what you’ll need to do so, see How to Renew Your Passport.

Not eligible to renew by mail? See How to Apply for a New Passport

Be sure to allow at least 6 weeks for regular processing and 3 weeks for expedited processing through the post office.  Check current passport processing times before you apply; it can take even longer if the Department of State is busy.

If you need your passport renewal more quickly, you can make an appointment at one of the nation’s 26 Regional Passport Agency offices.  Not able to make it to a passport office? Not willing to wait in line? An expediting company like RushMyPassport can help. We’ll hand-carry your passport renewal application to the Department of State for processing in as little as one business day.

Need a last-minute passport renewal? Don’t panic…start our simple order process to get your passport renewal on time the easy way!