Travelers planning international trips to or from the U.S. in the coming months can reduce delays and last-minute headaches by planning now for the peak holiday travel season and observing the following tips:

Check your passport.

  • Most countries require that travelers hold a passport that will be valid for six months beyond their intended date of departure. Travelers should check their passport expiration date; if they need to apply for a new passport, they should allow several weeks for normal processing.
  • U.S. citizens are being asked to apply early for new or renewal passports due to the anticipated higher than usual influx of requests for the holidays. New passport issuance generally takes four to five weeks, and expedited service takes two to three weeks. Travelers leaving in less than two weeks can utilize a passport agency for more immediate issuance.

Check your visa.

  • Travelers requiring a visa to enter a country should apply as soon as possible, keeping in mind that visa appointments are often backlogged at popular locations and take longer during the holidays. Chinese nationals holding a 10-year visitor visa are reminded that they must enroll in the Electronic Visa Update System before traveling to the U.S.
  • U.S. citizens can check the State Department’s website for information about whether they must obtain a visa for their destination and whether visa on arrival is an option.
  • Non-U.S. citizens living in the U.S. on work visas must confirm that they can re-enter the U.S. on their existing visa. They should make sure they have enough time remaining on their visa and at least one valid entry remaining, as well as a valid underlying petition where applicable. Some foreign nationals, particularly those who have pending applications to adjust to lawful permanent resident status, may want to consider filing for advance parole, which takes a few months to process. For recent green card applicants, pending advance parole applications will be denied if they depart the U.S. prior to approval.
  • Foreign nationals traveling to the U.S. on the Visa Waiver Program must have an approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA, before boarding a carrier.

Take advantage of trusted traveler programs.

Frequent travelers to the U.S. may wish to apply for membership in a trusted traveler program, such as Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST. The programs allow members to use automated airport clearance and streamlined customs for faster entry into the U.S.

Allow extra time.

Travelers should leave early for their departures and expect longer-than-normal lines at airport security checkpoints.

In addition to the tips above, the U.S. government also provides useful guidance for hassle-free holiday travel. The State Department website includes tips for preparing for emergencies, driving overseas, bringing copies of travel documents, handling money, learning about local laws, vaccinations, health insurance and packing prescription medicine. U.S. Customs and Border Protection suggests that travelers crossing U.S. land borders use less-popular routes, keep travel documents handy, be prepared to declare all items upon returning to the U.S., and download the Border Wait Times app for current information on ports of entry at the borders with Canada and Mexico. Travelers are also reminded of the potential travel ban for certain nationalities and the infrequent use of extreme vetting in some visa interviews.

BAL is available to assist employers and individuals in need of additional information or more tailored advice.

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