Passport requirements vary greatly based on the nationality of the traveler and their intended travel destination. The age of the traveler may also be a factor in the type of passport issued, let alone the fact that there are different types of passports issued. So how do you know if you need a passport or not? We’ll help you to determine your passport requirements and eligibility in this post.

What is a passport?

A passport is a travel document issued by the federal government to its citizens in order to facilitate international travel. Passports are most commonly issued in book form, though many nations now offer a passport card as well. In short, your passport certifies your identity and nationality, so it is often considered a ‘vital document’.

U.S. Passports issued to adults 16 and older are valid for 10 years, while minor passports (age 15 and under) are only valid for 5 years. The time-frames are the same for Canadian passports, though adults have the option to opt for a 5 year passport validity if they choose.

What is a visa?

A visa is a stamp or sticker kept in your passport book that is issued by a foreign nation to a traveler that sets conditional travel terms. The requirements for a visa vary greatly depending on the passport you hold and the nation you plan to visit. It is highly recommended that you consult your federal government’s travel department as well as the embassy or consulate of the country you intend to travel to check up on current requirements and guidelines. Visa requirements change regularly so consult the government authority directly for up-to-date travel information.

What if my passport has run out of visa pages?

Most countries require that a passport have at least two blank visa pages at all times. For U.S. passport holders, additional visa pages can be added to your passport book as long as you have at least one year of validity remaining. Extra visa pages are added in packets of 24 blank pages.

Unfortunately, Canadian passport holders cannot add pages to their passports and must apply for a new passport instead.

Do you need a passport for a cruise?

Passport requirements have become much more strict in recent years. Previously, minors could travel with just their birth certificate as long as they were with their parents or legal guardian, or had the appropriate consent forms. Today, all travelers must have a valid passport for international travel, including cruises.

If you are embarking on a ‘closed-loop cruise’, which means it leaves and returns to the same port of entry, a passport may not be required. Still, you should have a valid passport in the event of an emergency in case alternative travel arrangements are needed—many cruise companies now require all passengers to hold a valid passport for this reason.

U.S. travelers have the option of applying for a, passport card, which is only valid for travel by land and sea.

Passport requirements for minors

All minor children must hold a valid passport. Child passports cannot be renewed and are considered as new minor passports each time until the applicant is 16 or older, when they must then apply for an adult passport.

Infants, toddlers, and children must hold their own passports as well, no matter how young. Of course, parental or guardian consent is required for any minor passport to be issued.

Passport requirements for seniors

There are no special passport requirements for seniors. Any applicant aged 16 or older must apply for an adult passport.

What if my appearance has significantly changed?

This is one of the major reasons that child passports must be updated every 5 years. If your appearance, or that of your child, has changed significantly, you may want to update your passport.

U.S. citizens can apply for a passport renewal if the passport is valid and undamaged. Canadian citizens will need to apply for a new passport.

What are the processing times for a passport?

Canadian citizens are fortunate because their passport processing times are very fast, being issued in 20 days if sent in the mail through a receiving agent or as fast as 10 days if processed through a Passport Agency.

U.S. passport applications take a minimum of 4-6 weeks, but there is the option to expedite the process to 3 week service for an additional fee.

If you live in a major city and have an emergency that requires you to travel within 5 days,, you can contact a Regional Passport Agency to request an appointment.

Alternatively, U.S. applicants can use a registered passport courier service to secure a passport in as little as 24 hours.

Why having a passport is important

Your passport is one of the most important documents you will have in your lifetime. It is, quite literally, your ticket to seeing the rest of world. Although the process may seem overwhelming at first, it’s only a little more complicated than applying for a driver’s license or state ID. So what are you waiting for? If you plan to travel internationally, get your passport application started and see what the world has to offer!

Specializing in expediting U.S. emergency passport and visa applications, Fastport Passport is a registered passport courier service with the U.S. Passport Agencies in New York, Boston, Houston and Philadelphia.

Posted by Brittany Foster

Brittany is a writer, editor, and content manager interested in law, marketing, and technology. She's been writing for LawDepot since 2014.