Foreigners Cannot Leave the US If Their Passports Have Less Than 6 Months Left?

The wife’s passport expires next March, less than six months from now. She had planned to be in Thailand earlier this year and take care of it then, but that didn’t happen. Now she plans to be in Thailand next January. However, we have learned not only will they not let her into the US with a passport that has less than six months on it, which we already knew, but they won’t let her leave the US with less than six months on it. !!!???!!! That’s what we’re hearing, as unbelievable as that sounds. We’re going to confirm that with the consulate on Monday, maybe an airline this weekend. But has anyone else encountered this?

A lot of Thais who live here are already citizens and just use their US passport when leaving. But this one guy who is like my wife, just a Thai citizen, is the one telling her this.

And now that Thai passports are biometric, she can’t do it by mail either. She has to appear in person at an embassy or consulate. So with Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s higher fares around the country, she’s going to have to do it this month … if this is true.

When we lived here before, there was a small Thai consulate on Oahu. Wish that were still here.

This should be the only time though, as we expect she’ll have a US passport in a little more than a year from now.

Anyway, I wanted to throw that out and see if this is true or completely off the wall. I can’t imagine not letting a foreigner leave just because the passport is short. That’s like keeping them prisoner. Is it because she has permanent residency, and her round-trip ticket means there’s a chance she’d come back with less than six months? Might it be that countries where she could change planes may not like her landing there? What?

So it sounds like the country you are going to creates the restriction, not the United States. And since your wife is a Thai citizen, Thailand is definitely NOT going to prevent your wife from going there.

Right–but if she has started an application for U.S. Citizenship, they might advise her to refrain from travel on a foreign passport with less than six months validity, merely as a word of caution, or, more specifically, before the biometrics, and to not affect the count of continuous residence:

On an Aussie passport there are MANY countries that won’t allow me entry with < 6m validity. I’m pretty sure that Border Control would pull me up at the airport to inform me of that, effectively denying me departure from Australia.

I’ve never heard of that kind of restriction by any country, and it’s simply some guy saying that’s the case, then I would think it’s likely to not be true. Let us know.

Usually the responsibility is on the airlines, because the country you are attempting to enter holds them respond.

I can’t see why the departing government would get involved.

AFAIK, yes, the airline will likely be the first to impose this rule - since if the person is turned back at their destination, the airline bears the cost of flying them back (and then can try to collect from the passenger). At your destination, you risk being turned back by customs, which is what the airline would be worried about.

However, this is usually because most “no visa needed” countries I would visit (and many where a visa is required) permit stays of up to 6 months - the concern being that the visitor if they stay the permissible amount of time would then not have a valid passport to get home. The ones that say “3 months to expiry” probably have a limit of 3 months on tourist visits.

I seriously doubt that the home country would impose any restrictions on a valid passport. Perhaps one of the concerns is that the transit countries would also impose such a restriction. If Ms. Sam is flying direct to Thailand, no problem - but what are the restrictions at, say, Hong Kong as a transit point?

But if you are allowed into the country with 6 months left on the passport, what does that country expect you to do when your visit is over 2 months later? The rules don’t say “6 months from expiry of passport plus length of stay”.

Also, never underestimate the ability of airline employees to misunderstand simple rules, just as Sam’s friend(s) appear to have done.

Before my last trip to Asia, not quite a year ago, I would have had six months left on my passport when I departed Canada, but by the time I reached the third country of my visit, two months later, I would not.
I was required to get a new passport before I left because of this.

The trip before that, we flew into Bangkok but were flying home from Singapore, we had gotten visas for Thailand as we would be staying over thirty days. As we were transiting through JFK, they stopped us from boarding and tried to force us to purchase air tickets out of Thailand, saying they wouldn’t let us in otherwise.

That’s nonsense, but they wouldn’t budge, and were saying you we could buy refundable tickets and then cash them in! What?

By now they were calling us for our flight, I was very confused and finally asked to speak with someone else. He immediately called the gate to hold the plane and sent us on our way. I could hear him scolding the other guy as we were leaving. This was a large international carrier out of JFK, and he didn’t understand how the visa worked!

Get a second opinion!

Since you don’t clear customs in transit countries, I can’t see that being an issue.

Again, though, I can’t see where America would care about people leaving the country. There’s nothing of interest to the US government if a non US citizen leaves the country with a passport with only a few months left.

Another issue is that the US doesn’t really do exit passport control which is one reason the government doesn’t know how many people have overstayed their visas.

Thanks for all the responses. One thing to point out is the wife has not yet started an application for US citizenship. She has one more year of living here to go before she will be eligible for that. So that is not a concern. She just has Permanent Residency.

It looks like there may be something to this. I called Delta Airlines this morning. The agent could not say definitively there would be no problem. Naturally no problem if it were a nonstop flight. But there are no nonstop flights between Hawaii and Thailand. In fact, there are no nonstop flights from anywhere in the US to Thailand. At one time or another, there were nonstop flights from Los Angeles and New York, but those are no longer. Depending on which airline you fly, there are one or more stops in South Korea, Japan and Taiwan. Some flights have you staying overnight, usually in Taipei (China Airlines). Not always but sometimes, and we know from experience they process you into the country like normal. That’s why I called Delta, as US airlines tend not to do this, so she likes to fly those. But even then, the Delta agent could not rule out the possibility of a problem switching planes. Now, the wife and I both know from experience that if we are just changing planes, or even reboarding the same plane after a change of crew, they only look at your passport when you’re boarding again, not as you disembark, because you’re just waiting there in the departure area. But the agent could not rule out a problem. We’ll check with the Thai consulate in LA on Monday, and I may call another airline tomorrow.

Another thing is the wife was thinking it would take only two days, because that’s how long it takes in Thailand. But looking at the consulate’s website today, it says it takes 4-6 weeks. They collect the biometric data, then send it to Bangkok, then the passport is sent back. (Who knows, with biometrics now, maybe it takes longer in Thailand now too.) But the consulate will mail the passport if we give them an envelope, so that’s good. She won’t have to wait weeks on the mainland or fly back there again.

Another thing is the Thai authorities often take a “mobile consulate” on the road, appearing in various areas with high concentrations of Thai nationals, and Honolulu may be included. The wife has a Thai friend in San Jose, and she says she was able to renew her passport with them when the mobile consulate appeared in San Francisco. Said it took three weeks to get her passport back. The wife plans to ask the consulate on Monday whether any mobile consulates are scheduled for Hawaii anytime soon. I would not bet much money on that though.

So its looohot up to San Jose to visit her friend. Make a little holiday out of it.

More on this as I learn of it.

No, the six-month rule seems universal regardless. Under certain conditions, one can get a three-month tourist visa to Thailand, and that is the max issued. But they still insist on six months on the passport.

There are no exit controls in the US, nor are there in Canada. Not like Australia or the UK (or others), where you must present your passport and pass through a control point, before proceeding to your departure gate.

I’ll be honest, Sam, I’m not sure if I’m understanding you correctly: are you saying that the US government will not let your wife leave the US with less than six months on her passport; or are you saying that the US government (or Delta Airlines) will not let her back in with less than six months on her passport?

I’ve gone to the US with less than six months before my passport expires, but that was due to a US-Canada agreement, where my Canadian passport is valid up to its expiry, as long as I come back to Canada before its expiry. But that was up to US immigration, not any sort of Canadian exit control. As a Canadian citizen, I always have the right to leave Canada, and the right of return to Canada.

At any rate, I’ve never gone through passport control when leaving either Canada or the US.

Update: We just found a page on the consulate’s website warning Thais that if they want to fly back to Thailand on a passport with less than six months left, the airline may refuse them.

Looks like Mrs. Siam Sam is about to pay her first visit to Los Angeles since 1997.

Border Control? The morons who shunt you into a closed lane and leave you there? The assholes who get together to have a conversation behind the lines and ignore the customers? The ones who close their lane and move sharply off to another lane? The people who speak VERY LOudly to people who don’t understand English, and when that doesn’t work, use SHOUTING instead?

No, Australian border control won’t pull you up at the airport. Unless you try to take a photograph. Taking photographs invades their right to privacy.

Airlines won’t let you board if they notice. That’s because the airline is on the hook for the cost of the flight back if you are refused entry. Border control isn’t on the hook for anything except correct timesheets.: that’s why they don’t want you to take photographs.

Another update: I think we’ve found an out. Also on the consulate’s website, they offer, for just this sort of situation, a “temporary passport.” Good for one year, the wife just has to fill out a down-loadable form, including the reason for traveling back to Thailand, and have it notarized, then send it to them along with her regular passport and flight details. So she has to have her flight booked already. She will not have to go to Los Angeles, and it takes just three business days to process and mail back. The fee is $10.

She’s still going to call them on Monday to discuss, but I think this will solve the problem.

At first, it was not clear to us who would not let her leave, although I was doubtful it was the government. And I was right, as it is the airlines. See my two or three posts immediately before this one.

Looks like the sticking point is transit countries, there being no more nonstop flights between the US and Thailand these days. And pointing out to them that you’ll just be waiting in the airport may not move them.

Just to reiterate, the 6 month rule is very common. That’s because you’re typically allowed to stay in a country on a tourist visa for six months and they don’t want your passport to expire while you’re there making you stuck. So passports must be valid during the entirety of your legal visa. It’s a pain, but makes sense.

And also to add, even countries like Thailand, which do not offer six-month tourist visas, usually still have the six-month rule on the passport. It just seems to have become an international standard.

Still seems a bit much though to be worried about what may happen when you stop briefly in an airport to await the next leg of your journey to your home country. But frustrations such as these I found to be legion when I lived in Thailand, there really is a seemingly endless stream of little legal obstacles and annoyances when you actually live somewhere and not just visit. The wife is finding that out now for herself, not just living it vicariously through me, heh. Although it is much smoother for her living in the US as a foreigner than it was for me living in Thailand. She does not have to report to Immigration every 90 days, or have her visa scrutinized for renewal once a year, or be tightly restricted as to the type of work she is allowed to do, to give just a few of many examples. Don’t get me wrong, I loved living in Thailand, but the legal headaches that kept popping up cause many a foreigner to tear his hair out. Here in the US, not all that bad overall.

That’s interesting, every country I’ve visited was either “you can stay for as long as you need” or “you can stay for up to 89 days without a visa and we don’t give tourist visas to Spaniards”.

I’ve had a lot of issues traveling from the US due to either he company I worked for or the airline not understanding the rules. The only time I got that kind of PITA anywhere else was in Denmark from a guy who didn’t want to believe all those words were my name (not gonna change relatives just cos of you, mister).

You have definitely never visited Thailand if that’s the case. Although I believe some countries in Southeast Asia are like that for certain nationalities. IIRC, I’ve been stamped in for an automatic 90 days in Singapore and maybe Malaysia. The wife still got only 30 days in Singapore though, being a Thai national.

Only Europe and the Americas, so yeah, Thailand isn’t anywhere near the list. Closest to Thailand I’ve been was interviewing for a gig in S’pore.