Getting Denied Entry Into Curacao (Don’t Make The Same Mistake I Did!)

passport problems

Photo: Kat/flickr

For those coming here from the Yahoo! Travel article that transpired from this, I ask that you read my personal post before commenting. I did not write the Yahoo! article nor was I compensated for it. Below you will find my personal account of the incident and feelings about it. No matter how often you travel, there’s always room to learn something new!

As I write this I’m sitting on the plane shaking. I’ve just experienced a traveler’s worst (non life threatening) nightmare: getting denied entry into a country. And having to fly back home on the same flight I came over on.

Yes, you read that right.

I’d been planning my trip to Curaçao for a year. My friends Hillary, Tim and I were uber excited for four days of snorkeling, hiking, paddle boarding and tons of fruity drinks with little umbrellas. Tim was meeting us from Detroit, while Hillary and I were flying from New York City. We giggled the entire flight, dreaming about poolside lounging, cute boys in bathing suits and azure warm waters lapping on our skin.

What I got was something completely different. Somehow, I managed to get through JFK International Airport using a passport that was, unknown to me, invalid. While I probably should have known what an invalid passport looks like, I feel TSA and JetBlue definitely should have. Multiple airport officials looked at the document — seeing the two hole punches that meant it was invalid — and let me board my flight abroad.

Tweet: Shouldn’t the #TSA and #airline staff know what a valid passport looks like? http://bit.ly/1SGTx6W #travel

passport problems

Our airport security apparently isn’t that competent. Photo: redjar/flickr.

Why The Passport Hole Punches?

The reason for the two hole punches was that I had recently received a new passport. There was nothing in plain English in the document that said invalid, so I had no idea (might I suggest a giant bold black stamp that says INVALID?). I’d booked the trip months before with the old passport and, since it wasn’t expired, I’d assumed it was still valid and it was the one I needed to use. I also wanted to save room in the new one for future stamps since I travel so much.

Tweet: Does anyone else think hole punches are an inefficient way to show a #passport is invalid? http://bit.ly/1SGTx6W #travel #problems

An Unwelcoming Greeting Into Curacao (To Say The Least)

Curaçao Immigration did not want to hear my sob story. I’d had happened to take a photo of the new passport with my phone and showed them trying to plead. I asked if there was some kind of fine one could pay for having a non-expired but invalid passport, but there was not.

Talk about passport problems.

What made the situation even more upsetting was that Hillary and Tim were both friends through me and had never met each other in person or really talked before. My luggage and wallet were snatched from me as the immigration officer shouted at me to “c’mon, let’s go!” I quickly rattled off my parent’s home phone number (so Hillary could let them know the situation since I wasn’t being allowed a call) and Tim’s cell (so she could find the stranger she’d now be rooming with) and trudged along through a sea of pitying eyes. I’m sure they were all wondering what I could have possibly done wrong to deserve such a thing.

In my head I went back and forth from kicking myself (why didn’t I grab the other passport just in case??) to frustration with the passport renewal (why did they use a hole punch instead of a stamp or a note that says “invalid” on it?!?) to disturbance (how was it so easy for me to get through JFK with an invalid document?!!).

The entire situation was upsetting and frustrating and I feel could have been avoided if the US Bureau of Consular Affairs didn’t assume I spoke hole punch.

Tweet: The situation was upsetting & could have been avoided if the gov’t didn’t assume I spoke “hole punch” http://bit.ly/1SGTx6W #travel #ttot

passport problems

Instead of writing the word “Invalid,” this is the key to knowing a passport doesn’t work anymore. Photo: Steven Depolo/flickr.

“Oh! You’ll also need to pay a $100 fine once you get to JFK!” shouted a Curaçao Airport employee, almost gleefully, at my already tear-strung face. FML.

A Sad Departure

Walking onto the plane was just as embarrassing as walking out of the airport through immigration. Eyes of anxious passengers eager to take off — held up due to me — and the sight of staff fluttering about trying to find space for my bag and a seat for my tan-less butt stung hard.

As the plane took off from the Caribbean island I couldn’t bear to even look down for the aerial view as I normally do, instead just focusing on trying not to cry all over the just-off-honeymoon couple snuggling up next to me, or the family of giggling children who maybe just visited their first Caribbean island behind my seat.

Usually these scenes would have made me smile, but in that moment I wanted to vomit on everyone.

The four-hour flight, not surprisingly, felt way longer than it really was. The mix of anger, defeat, nausea and anxiety over whether Hillary and Tim were getting along was not a fun combo. As it was the holidays and I don’t exactly make six figures as a travel blogger I was also dreading the impending fine and possible interrogation at JFK, not exactly known for its welcoming nature.

Questions At JFK

There was some trouble at the kiosks where you get your customs form and take your entry photo; as in, my passport would not scan. As I was trying to avoid paying a potential fine I continued to try to get the machine to work, though I already knew it wouldn’t. Then, something alarming happened: a Customs official came over to help me with my passport, handled it, opened it to the cover page, saw the hole punches, browsed the pages and then told me she couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t scanning.

So basically nobody in JFK knows the rules that hole punches mean the passport is no longer valid…but I’m supposed to?

Tweet: So basically nobody in #JFK knows the rules about valid passports, but I’m supposed to? http://bit.ly/1SGTx6W #travel @tsa

I was sent to another Customs official, who recognized the punches, which was reassuring but also nerve-wracking.

“How did you get through security and board the airline without a valid passport?”

My thoughts exactly.

This was followed by an interview with Homeland Security who, like the Customs official before him, sided with me and persuaded me to file official complaints with JetBlue and the TSA — and didn’t charge me a fine, which ended up sadly being the highlight of my trip to Curacao. JetBlue offered to fly me back to Curacao the next day but there were no flights for another four days. But they did give me a $100 travel credit.

I have since followed up with JetBlue with a formal complaint. As for the TSA, I called their headquarters (866-289-9673) and, after being transferred four times and being on the phone for 40 minutes was told that they were sorry this happened, but it’s really the airline’s fault and the issue is really with fliers being given back their invalid passports and being in possession of them from the start. Also, and I quote the man I spoke with on the phone:

“Hole punches? I’m not familiar with the hole punches.”

Tweet: Asked JFK Customs, “How did you get through #security and board the airline without a valid passport?” http://bit.ly/1SGTx6W #travel #ttot

Lessons Learned

By now you probably think I’m a big idiot (again, I admit to my fault in this, as well) or pity me. Either way, I hope you learn from my mistake and avoid having your own passport problems. When ordering a new passport, the old one becomes invalid — even if it’s not expired — immediately upon receiving the new one even (i.e. you cannot continue to use it through to its expiration date). Just because you make it through JFK’s security and your airline staff allows you to board still does mean you’re in the clear, apparently, to enter another country. Remember this. A faux pas like this ends up being stressful, costly and awkward, to say the least.

passport problems

While Hillary and Tim are out scuba diving in the Caribbean, here I am in my Brooklyn apartment trying to stay warm. Almost the same? Notice the sad suitcase in the background. Photo: Jessica Festa.

On the bright side, the Curacao trip was one I’d won in an Instagram contest, so for me personally there wasn’t too much money lost aside for about $150 in airline fees and $100 in cabs to and from the airport. And I got to gift two people I love dearly a free trip.

Maybe everything happens for a reason. Maybe if I went I would have broken my leg, or maybe my friends will fall in love and I’ll get to make the funny “Remember that time…” speech at their wedding. As of right now, though, I’m feeling pretty sour.

What’s your worst travel horror story? Please share in the comments below (if for any other reason than to make me feel like I’m not alone with having huge mishaps on the road!).

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77 Comments

  1. Ugh that is crummy! And really shows how JFK employees all seem to know different ‘ways’ to do their jobs. Being denied entry, and accidentally over staying a visa by a day (which almost happened to me in France this year the same day someone was caught exiting thru the Chunnel) are my biggest travel non-threatening nightmares. I was almost denied entry into Croatia this year (non-schegen) because Slovenia was questioning letting myou husband and I pass thru (Schegen). We only had 3 weeks left on visa but we’re not flying out of Ireland until 8 weeks later. The officer couldn’t understand that we would only be in the schegen for the 3 weeks after we left Croatia to get back to Ireland. After sitting on a motorcycle in all our safety gear in 100 plus degrees while it was sorted out I thought I would loose my mind! Finally was sorted out and we were on our way. All things considered for you it could be worse… it could, after all, being snowing here in NY!

    1. @Jessica: Agreed, it’s troubling how little our own airport staff knows about what’s valid and not. And with all these borders having their own rules and ideas — as you experienced — it can make trouble less than breezy at times. I’ve been lucky that ddespite constant travel for almost 10 years now this has been the first real major border crossing issue I had. One good thing: the “bad times” always make for good travel tales later! 😉

  2. I had a similar experience years ago. I was going to Cancun with my bff on vacation, it was our first real vacation together & we were so excited. Our travel agent handed me my tickets (no e-tickets back then) and said all we needed was a birth certificate at Mexico border customs. I think it was the 80’s. At JFK I was asked for my passport & didn’t have one & had no drivers license back then either. All I had was my work ID with no pic & birth certificate. My friend had a passport & was able to get on the flight & I’ll never forget her crestfallen face as I assured her I’d get proper photo ID & meet her there the next day. The airline gate attendant advised me to go to 42nd Street in NYC & get a photo ID from a kiosk. I did exactly that, for $10 I got a cheesy fake work ID & was able to board the flight the next day. Needless to say, my friend never forgave me & didn’t believe that the travel agent had ill-advised me. I was the one who missed a whole day of my vacation, not her.

    1. @Tara: Oh my goodness! That’s awful :/ I totally get the whole “it’s not about the money lost, but the memories.” I had actually won this trip so aside for air travel taxes I didn’t lose too much in terms of cash. And the airline kept reminding me of that. I would have gladly paid and lost hundreds of dollars to not have gone through that and have been able to spend that time with my friends.

  3. Well I guess you know now. I’m old so I already had to renew a few. There should have been a letter with your old passport that said why they were returning it and that it was invalid.

    Keep having fun.

      1. Something else you might already know some countries will also consider your passport invalid if it expires within 6 months. Be sure to keep an eye on that as well.

        1. @Tom: Luckily I now have a new one for the next 10 years. Now I have to work on getting a new ID for flying domestic, as of January New Yorkers can no longer use a driver license even if it’s valid.

  4. Man that sounds horrible! I’m sorry you had to go through all of that—having to fly home and THEN having to talk to people from Homeland Security for something that wasn’t your fault at all?

    I think the biggest mishap for me was when I forgot my passport just as I was about to board for the 1-hour bus to the airport. At the airport, I had to go through security 3 times haha and then lost my boarding pass because of it. Almost got this woman fired because she recognized me from before when I did have my boarding pass. And then arrived at the gate just as they were boarding!

    1. @Michelle: Ahhh you still made the flight?! Traveling can be hectic for sure. It’s easy to make mistakes with all the planning and things you need to remember. I had a friend once forget her passport at home and had to have her roommate rush to the airport like crazy to get it to her. She made her flight! ha

  5. Usually the people in the Customs area who are directing individuals are NOT CBP officials. They are airport employees who may not know anything other than you are supposed to do something with those kiosks (indeed the kiosks typically are not owned or operated by the CBP, instead they are owned and operated by the airport). I doubt the first person who tried to help you scan the passport was a CBP employee, as they go through a fairly rigorous training program. The CBP is funded by Congress, and even though international travel has expanded something to the tune of 20% in the past 5 years, they actually have had their budget reduced by 9% in the past 5 years. They are therefore resource starved.

    The U.S. travel system was built to capture arrivals really well, and only in the past decade has added some capacity to capture exit data. Since Congress didn’t really fund creating an exit system, shortcuts had to be made and the onus is currently put on the airlines to pre-screen travelers. They are fined whenever an international traveler is bounced.

    This is really therefore a failure of the airline, and not CBP or the TSA. I know you’d like to think of their statements as blame shifting — however the laws are written in a way that this is really the airline’s problem. If you don’t like it, then tell Congress to enact a proper exit system where your credentials are checked. Of course if we did that, then we’d look a lot more like Cuba, North Korea, and other countries that require a visa in order to leave. The better thing would be to tell Congress to provide more funding to the CBP operations in airports.

    1. @Grant: Thank you for this thoughtful comment. Very interesting about the funding and such. I was getting all kinds of different answers from Customs and Homeland Security about TSA vs airlines being at fault (and of course, myself to a degree, as well). I would LOVE to see a system where they put an invalid stamp or rip the cover off invalid passports to make it super clear.

      1. The old passport is returned to the traveler because sometimes valid visas for other countries remain in the old passport. Travelers entering the United States come with 2-3 passports in some cases for that very reason. Once a passport is altered in any way (including clipping the corner or punching holes through it) it becomes invalid.

        You definitely cannot renew your passport and continue to travel on the old one. That would be like renewing your driver’s license and continuing to drive using the old one.

        1. @BA: Makes sense with giving the passport back. That wasn’t my complaint; it was a TSA Headquarters’ rep saying he thought the real problem was travelers being given back their old passports. And yea, I get the point about the renewing your driver’s license thing BUT the difference is you renew your license when it becomes expired…my passport still had more than 3 months left on it.

          1. Fair point about the driver’s license. That wasn’t the best analogy.

            I brought it up though because my wife and I had to renew ours before it expired when we moved (because of the address change). Then a couple of months later we were required to renew it again because it was issued with some design flaw or something of that nature (the letter from the DMV did not really explain in detail). In both cases the licenses were not expired.

            As far as TSA HQ commenting on the problem being with the return of the old passport: they are probably not as familiar with the policy due to unexpired visas that remain in old passports. The US Department of State issues some non-immigrant visas with validity periods of up to 10 years. I imagine some other countries do the same. Visas can be expensive, so it wouldn’t be right to keep the old passport.

            TSA really isn’t where I would go for answers on your issue with traveling with an expired passport. The airline is really more responsible than anyone (including you) in this case. They can be fined $10,000 per person per incident for transporting inadmissible travelers to the US. I imagine other countries have similar penalties. I have a feeling that is a big part of why they took care of you.

            Going back to the point that TSA allowed you through security to travel to another country. I’m not as concerned that you made it through with an expired passport. I give TSA as much flack as anyone else, but I would be more concerned if you made it through with dangerous contraband. That is a big part of why they are there (in addition to a screening for terrorists). And since you didn’t blow anything up and didn’t have anything confiscated; I would call their mission a success.

          2. @BA: Very insightful. Agree that the issue lies more with the airline. I’m just perplexed — especially with all the comments here telling me “How could I possibly have not known about the hole punch?!” — that the TSA, airline and Customs upon my return to the US (and the TSA Headquarters rep I spoke with on the phone) were unfamiliar with the hole punch. The Customs woman in JFK on my return even flat out said “What are these holes?” I do accept my part, but I also do not work in an airport and feel these staff should have also flagged this.

  6. I’m sorry this happened to you, it’s a bummer! But…TSA is not customs. You CAN travel domestically on an expired passport as it is still valid “identification”, and all TSA’s role is to match the name on the ID with the name on the ticket. (Of course, advising you that the passport is expired and suggesting you may have trouble traveling internationally would have been nice, but that’s not their role.)

    (I’ve actually done it. I left my license on the copy machine at work and when I got to the airport, only had an expired passport in my backpack. “No problem!” they said!)

    This problem is with Jetblue issuing you a boarding pass. They should have advised you that your passport is not valid and cannot be used for international travel. Since valid travel documents are ultimately the responsibility of the traveler, they should have denied checking you in and worked out an arrangement for you to travel on a later flight. Once they checked you in, they assume responsibility and likely received a fine as well. (Of course, there would have likely been change fees and/or fare differences to change your ticket.)

    1. @Mike: My passport actually wasn’t expired, which is why I thought it was still good. That’s so interesting about your expired passport. TSA Headquarters told me they don’t let through expired passports. So much information being swirled around ha. In the end JetBlue did give me a free flight for a later date and a travel credit of $100. What I really lost though was the memories with friends :/ But, I did learn a valuable lesson (and got to share my embarrassing/enlightening/frustrating story with all you!).

      1. A expired passport can be used for many thing such as showing legality for working in the US vs showing ssn card and other documentation.

        A expired passport can be used in pass of a driver license to show proof of identification for tsa. The prob5is most tsa agent are trained not to think

  7. I can’t believe you’re a “professional traveler” and you were unaware of the fact that you can’t concurrently possess two passports from the same issuing agency. Beyond that, on a trip you had planned for a year, you never once wondered why your passport has 2 holes in it and if that might pose any sort of issue? Maybe enough to fire up Google and find out what the two holes are all about? It makes me wonder about the validity your “travel advice”. I also like how you blame everyone around you for letting it happen. The TSA didn’t tell me! The airline didn’t tell me! My passport didn’t clearly say! They all let me down! You let yourself down. The TSA doesn’t care that you’re leaving America. It is also not the TSA’s responsibility to make sure you have the documents needed to clear customs in whatever foreign country you’re visiting. They only care if you’re trying to get in. Do you comprehend this? Why would the TSA care if you can get into Curacao or not? They assume you’re a grown adult who knows how to get your paperwork in order to take a simple flight. Clearly, they overestimated you.

    > it’s troubling how little our own airport staff knows about what’s valid and not.

    As troubling as a “professional travel blogger” who doesn’t know what constitutes a valid passport?

    > blame passing much?

    Pot, kettle, black?

    > But they did give me a $100 travel credit. Seriously?!

    Are YOU serious? Jetblue did exactly what you paid them to do; fly you on a certain date and time to Curacao safely. They did this. You arrived in Curacao. They fulfilled their end of the bargain. Jetblue is not a passport agency or a customs liason. Or a babysitter for clueless idiots who can’t get their documentation in order. Or your parents.They do not guarantee that some country will admit you. They’re an airline. They transport passengers from one city to another. That’s all they do. Yet this isn’t enough for you. Are you insane or just really dumb?

    > By now you probably think I’m a big idiot

    If the shoe fits…

    Too bad you didn’t tell them you’re a “travel blogger who travels extensively”. They could’ve used the laugh.

    1. @Anon: Thank you for your (extremely rude) commentary. Of course you left it anonymously, as you’re obviously a troll. Regardless, in the post I do point out that I should have known, as well, and also accept my part in the situation. My point in telling this is also to show a lack of security at airports. I didn’t have two passports for a year — I travel about twice a month — but had booked the trip using this passport, which is still not expired. Moreover, my point with the TSA/ID situation isn’t about them caring if I get into another country (which is why if I hadn’t gotten the correct visas and gotten denied entry I wouldn’t have even written an article). My point, if you cared to take a moment and really read what I wrote, is that I was able to get through without a valid ID and nobody noticed. That is not okay. If I’m flying domestic beginning in January I can’t even use a non-expired driver license…but I can use an invalid passport.

      The point of this blog isn’t to show anyone that I am the perfect traveler. It’s to give advice and information based on my experiences, both good and bad, mistakes and triumphs. You’re welcome to use — or not use — this information as you please.

      Happy trails! 🙂

      1. To be fair to the TSA/ID issue, what constitutes a “valid ID” covers a lot. TSA will allow expired primary government issued IDs (like driver’s license, passport, etc.) as long as they’re within a year of the expiration date. Usually when that’s the case, they’ll inform you. The hole-punch thing really means nothing to them as far as identifying a passenger goes (which is what they’re there for). Heck, as per TSA’s own website, you can pass through security with NO ID. Granted you’ll have to go through a different process, but you’ll get through security. Now can you get on a plane? That’ll depend on Customs, your airlines, and they have their own rules. Seems like it was one of those two that allowed you to board that plane and subsequently shifted the blame to everyone’s favorite punching bag. I’m sorry to hear about such a terrible experience, really sucks to have missed out on what i imagine would have been a great trip. Lesson for everyone involved i suppose.

        1. @Jason: Yea, it’s just odd to me that you can’t fly domestic with a valid license next year but you can with an invalid passport? I’ve also been told the airlines get fined when this happens, so that tells me it is a serious matter.

  8. I’ve had to renew my passport a couple times…the first time, the old passport came back hole punched, the second time, it did not. I punched holes myself as a reminder. In talking to friends holding foreign passports, all of them tell me that their old passports were hole punched. Think of it as a check torn into 2 pieces…taping it together ain’t gonna make it valid.

    1. @Brian: I have a friend in Australia who told me their covers and ripped off and then the passport is stamped “invalid.” Seems like a smarter system to me. I personally have so many visas and staples in my passport that I didn’t really notice the hole punch on the bottom of one page.

  9. How stupid is this traveler?? And she’s supposed to be a travel “expert?” I would be highly embarrassed telling this story if I was a travel blogger. She wants the airline to get in trouble because she’s an idiot. What kind of moron would think a document with holes in the middle of it after you already have a new one would still be valid? Yes the airline should have caught it, but it’s like putting a knife or large liquid bottle in your carry on and not getting caught. Sure you got away with it, but you’re still an idiot for trying.

    1. @Dan: Thank you for your insightful comment. By calling me “stupid” and “moron” and using such thoughtful phrasing I can tell you are very educated yourself ;).

      Here’s the deal. In the post I admit to my part in all of this. What is alarming to me is how easy it was to get onto a plane to another country without a valid travel document. This should have been caught. Airlines get fined for this. I have so so so many visas and staples and medical papers in my passport that I didn’t think the hole punch looked out of place.

      “Sure you got away with it, but you’re still an idiot for trying.” — You clearly didn’t read the post in entirety. I wasn’t trying to use an invalid passport to go abroad. I didn’t know it was invalid as it WASN’T expired.

      I’m happy to debate and I’m open to disagreeing comments, but the name calling really only dumbs down the case you’re trying to make. I am a human and a traveler sharing my personal experiences and stories with the world. Sometimes these include mistakes 🙂

      Happy trails!! 🙂

  10. Another big thing is that you don’t need a passport to LEAVE a country, it’s used for entry. It’s basically just used for identification when you are leaving. JFK and JetBlue could have been nice and gave you a warning about the passport, but they’re not required to do a valid passport check when leaving the country. No infraction incurred. I can’t even believe you got a 100 dollar credit for your own mistake. Because of the headline on Yahoo, your story has become huge click bait because now more than ever national security is a huge deal and people want to know what happened. Then I read your story…and somehow became dumber. It makes you and Yahoo look moronic and not credible. Since you write a travel blog you want hits and more readers. I understand that. And it worked. I’m sure in the past 24 hours the views on your blog sky rocketed. But not all press is good press. You got people to visit your blog. You probably earned more followers, but after a day or two I would highly recommend deleting this because it would make all your other posts and expert tips much less credible.

    1. @Dan: I will 100% NOT delete it. It is up to Yahoo what they run and what they headline it, so I’m going to disregard that aspect of this comment as it doesn’t have much to do with me aside for that they repurposed my article and turned it into a news story. As stated prior, I run a blog that talks about my experiences — whether good or bad. I admit my mistake in it, but airlines get fined for allowing you onto the plane without a valid passport. So yes, they are at fault. As stated to me by TSA Headquarters there were three players at fault: JetBlue, the TSA and myself (that is what the man I spoke with told me).

    2. @Dan: Also, I’m getting the sense you think I wrote that Yahoo article. I did not write it nor was I compensated in any way for it. I have no control over what spin they want to take with it. My experiences and my experiences, and this is my blog to share them on.

  11. I am really surprised that as a frequent traveler you did not know this. I knew this when I was like 6 years old. It even says it on the form you fill out that the old passport will be invalid. I know NY state doesn’t punch holes in our drivers licence but come on…common sense should tell you not to use the old one if you have a new one. Also the two holes should have been thru the cover and id page. You didn’t post a photo of your passport so am hard press to believe that it was only on one page in the corner an only one hole.

    Also FYI even if you didn’t have a new passport you wouldn’t have gotten thru customs at Curaçao because according to you you have over 3 months left. You cannot fly international if your passport has less then 6months validity left on it. The 6 month rule applies for your enter stay so even it’s 6 months when you enter the country but drops to 5 months when you have booked your return flight you won’t be able to enter the country.

    This is something that every seasoned traveller whether it be a tourist, backpacker, business person, nomad knows all too well.

    1. @Erika: It was not through the cover and the reason I did not post a photo of it is it has numbers on it that connect to my current passport number and I’d like to avoid identity theft and other issues of that nature. I know people who said their old passports, after getting new ones, didn’t even get ANY hole punches, so please do not act like you know everything. This is NOT something that everyone knows — obviously I didn’t which is why I wrote the post — and I know this because I’ve had people message me telling me they’ve had similar issues or didn’t know this, either. Not everyone is a frequent traveler, and even frequent travelers don’t know everything, hence this post.

      If you’d like to dispute airport regulations or TSA rules that’s fine; however, just because you know something does not mean everyone does, and saying things like “How did you not know that?” isn’t constructive, at all.

      By the way, the 6 month rule is, yes, the general rule. But it is not a hard rule for every country. I’ve traveled internationally fine with less than 6 months on a passport before.

      1. You are getting very defense. I know that everyone knows the rules but those tend to be people who have never had a passport or have not had to renew one. My comment :” How did you not know that?” is constructive seeing how you said you have been traveling for 10 yrs and have worked in tourism so yes this is something you as a travel blogger/advice giver should have known. I was not acting as if I know everything. I was given my experiences with having had to renew my passport numerous times since the age of 6 with 2 different countries. And it is the law that they are supposed to hole punch each and every passport that is being renewed. The fact the fact that people have said to you theirs didn’t have it and that yours was not visible is very troubling.

        TSA is not to blame, you and Jetblue are. The fact that you didn’t want to use stamp space on your new passport is not a valid reason for not using your new passport especially since you could have requested a double size passport free of charge.

        I think you expected more sympathy then what you have gotten and are upset that you did not. I didn’t insult you but yet you still got defense with me. You could have posted a photo and used photoshop or even the photo app on your phone to cover any info that a thief might use. If you are sensitive to valid criticism then I suggest to not publish stuff that will most likely get it and to avoid the Yahoo comment thread.

        In the end it was your job to read over the application form which does state the old one will become invalid before signing the form and mailing it out. Obviously a part of you thought something might be wrong with using the old passport otherwise why take a picture of the new just in case.

      2. Visit travel.state.gov to see what the entry requirement is for the country you’re visiting. Curacao requires that you passport “is valid at the time of entry.” They do not have a six-month rule.

  12. I do agree with you that the airline should have told you since their job is to make sure you have a valid passport and a valid visa to enter the country of your destination.

    1. @Erika: There are numerous threads that state not to show people your passport. You don’t need to believe me that there wasn’t a hole in the cover, but there wasn’t. If you scroll this thread you’ll even see someone commented they once received an old passport back that didn’t have any hole punches. Then I had someone tell me they got like 10+ hole punches. I had two. I don’t think it’s a uniform thing. This is the first passport I’ve ever handled on my own — I am 28, and before my parents handled the paperwork for it. So I personally do not think it was so obvious (clearly, since I went to another country with it). In the article I do accept my part in it; however, I’m still alarmed that TSA, the airline and Customs did not notice the invalid passport/did not know what the hole punches meant, yet people ask me “How could you not have known?”

    2. @Erika: I’m getting the sense you think I wrote that Yahoo article. I did not write it nor was I compensated in any way for it. They used some quotes from my original blog post. I would appreciate if you would read the above post and know that THAT is what I wrote about my personal experience with this situation. That is what this is blog is for. To tell people about my experiences on the road, the good, bad, the beautiful and the ugly.

  13. Not sure why they did not flag it as an invalid passport yes, that is a huge hole in TSA. However you are told that the old ones are invalid from the Passport Office upon the issuance of the new one.

  14. I’m surprised at your pass the buck attitude. Blaming the TSA and calling this a security breach is a major stretch. The TSA is not immigration. Nowhere on the TSA website does it say that the ID can’t already have expired to get through it simply says you have to have valid id.

    “Passengers 18 and over must show valid identification at the airport checkpoint in order to travel.”

    Driver’s licenses or other state photo identity cards issued by Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent)
    U.S. passport
    U.S. passport card
    DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
    U.S. military ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents, and DoD civilians)
    Permanent resident card
    Border crossing card
    DHS-designated enhanced driver’s license
    Airline or airport-issued ID (if issued under a TSA-approved security plan)
    Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID
    HSPD-12 PIV card
    Foreign government-issued passport
    Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
    Transportation worker identification credential

    1. @Jason: They should have recognized an expired passport and pointed it out to me. Also, the airline gets fined for letting passengers on to an international flight with an invalid passport. Homeland Security is one who urged me to file a complaint. This paired with the fining shows that this is an issue.

      And as I keep saying in the comments, it’s frustrating that an invalid passport can be used as ID, but not my Driver License starting next year: http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/drivers-licenses-new-york-domestic-flight-real-id

      1. From what I understand, you have to get a certain type of driver’s license. When mine was up for regular renew, I got this new version because I wanted to avoid any potential hassle.

        1. @Michele: Yea, I will probably do the same, though to be honest I usually (funny enough) travel domestic with a passport just in case. My license is up in April so I’ll probably just get the new version to be safe!

    2. @Jason: I’m getting the sense you think I wrote that Yahoo article. I did not write it nor was I compensated in any way for it. They used some quotes from my original blog post. I would appreciate if you would read the above post and know that THAT is what I wrote about my personal experience with this situation. That is what this is blog is for. To tell people about my experiences on the road, the good, bad, the beautiful and the ugly.

  15. Thanks so much for giving us the opportunity to learn from your story, especially when it means having to hear from the small percentage of internet trolls with very loud, persistent, annoying voices.

    Its a mistake anyone could make, hey. As a person who paid to have double the passport pages inserted in a new passport because I get so many stamps, I would have had the same motivations to save those precious pages.

    I’ve had all sorts of crazy awful things like this happen… sitting for hours in a Philippines immigration office, my passport nowhere to be seen and the immigration guy reading a newspaper and pointedly ignoring me. I was sent to the suspicious people line in Miami and had to wait for an hour to be questioned heavily at US immigration because I cried when having to explain that I was back in the U.S. because of a break up. My wilderness backpacking partner and I forgot all refrigerated goods (meat, cheese, pesto) for our seven day trip into the NZ wilderness. A woman and sat on my feet for hours on a heavily crowded Bolivian bus, and then her kid puked all over me.

    I think my “could-have-known-better,” kicking-myself story was jumping off a Jeepney in the Philippines and dealing with the consequences for months afterward:
    http://halftheclothes.com/2012/01/04/busted-bruised-broken/

    Would be fun to see a guest post from your friends about their side of the story! “My friend got kicked out of the country at the airport, which forced me to spend days sleeping with a stranger…”

    1. @Jema: Oh, I’ve gotten emails in the past 24 hours telling me to die, literally, over this. I can definitely tell my normal readers — who either right their own travel horrors or politely disagree — vs the internet trolls. Oy. Thank you for sharing your story. Miami can be so tough! After traveling solo through Latin America for four months they put me in a separate area and questioned me about drug smuggling. I remember calling my dad crying. And the puking story is classic Bolivia! ha. I had an older man puke on my feet in Peru. Those South American busses can be killer ha.

      And ouch to the Jeepney story! But like I say, the worst travel occurrences always make for the best stories.

      Maybe I’ll have them write a followup! ha. They actually ended up getting along really really well, which was SUCH a relief.

      Happy trails!

  16. A invalid or expired passport is still valid for showing proof of citizenship for entry i to the US. In fact a US citizen can not be denied entry to the US. They just must show the customs officer proof they hold current US citizenship.

    So you can cross from mexico into the US with only a copy of your passport or birth certificate and such.

    1. @JD: Interesting. I’m getting it can be used to show who you are, but airlines are not supposed to let you onto a plane with an invalid passport. I also didn’t show any other forms of ID (license of birth certificate) as I was not ever asked for it. Homeland Security is the one who told me to file the complaints, as they thought it was a serious issue.

  17. Was this your first cancelled passport? Anyone that has travelled extensively knows that a passport that has hole punches = cancelled/cannot use. Good yet painful lesson. Sorry you went through JFK.. shame on TSA for not training their employees (not sure how JetBlue is culpable.. did they check passports prior to entry into the plane)?

    My one passport ‘horror’ story was in Amsterdam. Yes even though my passport was full of stamps, I had never signed it,.. the customs guy in Amsterdam told me he could not let me board my plane to the UK, but I brightened up and asked “I can stay in the Netherlands?”. He just laughed and lent me a pen.

    1. @RRS: It was my first one, at least that I handled on my own (I’m 28, so had this one since I was 18). From what I’ve been told the airline is the one who is really supposed to make sure you don’t board with an invalid passport. They actually get a heft fine of (I think) around $10,000 when this occurs. And ha! Amsterdam would not be a bad place to be trapped 😉

  18. That’s a bummer. I’m still using my first ever passport so luckily haven’t had to deal with anything like this yet. Good to know for the future (as well as the 6 months validity rule). I’ll be backpacking Europe soon, so while I hope to not have anything this extreme happen I am looking forward to getting some travel stories for the journal!

  19. Frustrating, but happens to the best of us. As you said, everything happens for a reason. I guess you and your friends will just need to plan an even better next trip! 🙂

  20. I am so sorry that happened to you! Airport security, especially in NYC, can be so flawed sometimes! But you’re right, everything happens for a reason and at least now you know for next time!! ❤️❤️

  21. Jessie;
    I do think you should have checked what the holes in the passport ment before you flew. Well, live and learn. I’ve been traveling internationally for decades and would like to share a few things about passports and visas. First of all, if you travel for business and justify it to the State Department you can have two passports. I’ve had two for many years. Your primary passport has a ten year validity, your secondary passport has a two year validity. This is allowed because, in my case, my primary passport may be submitted to get a foreign visa and I may have to travel before it is returned.

    An expired passport is useful if you have valid entry visas (usually long term, multiple visas) for other countries, as long as the visas have not been hole punched. For instance, Saudi Arabia, Russia and many other countries use a whole page visa. If your passport goes in for renewal you simply fold the visa pages in and attach a note explaining that you have these visas and what page they are on. The US Passport office won’t punch those pages and you can provide both your new and expired passport at Passport Control to the country you are entering and they will honor the visa in your old passport.

    You have been able to add pages to your US passport when it starts getting full. My primary passport now has 130 pages in it. I just had a third set of 26 pages added to my original 52 page passport. Page addition will stop effective January 1, 2016. What many people do not know is that the US issues two sizes of passports. One with 26 pages and the other with 52 pages. When renewing or applying for a passport request the 52 page.

    Make sure you have enough blank pages to travel. Some countries require that you have two pages facing each other some places require more, some less. I don’t try to travel unless I have at least five blank pages in my passport.

    I’m at 49 countries and counting, happy trails!

    1. @Steve: Thanks for all this insight. I added pages to my old one; however, with the new one I ordered the 52 page passport from the get-go since I’d heard about them stopping the page addition. I was actually surprised they didn’t charge me extra to get the larger one!

      And congrats on the country count. I need to sit down one day and count mine. I think I’m at around 40? My friend actually got me a scratch map so it gives a nice visual of where I’ve been (though it makes going to physically small countries like Israel where I was recently a bit frustrating, because you only get a tiny scratch ha!).

      Enjoy your travels! 🙂

  22. Dear missi, now you know what visitors experience when visiting yr country. Hours waiting and even when visa is in good order radomlee yr taken apart for a further interview

    And there you are on a foreign airport and then by a mistake of yrself (!) yr stuck. And start to blame it on others and even worse trying to bribe an officer in another country (‘I offered to pay a kind of fine”) wauw

    What do you think if a foreign person will mention this at us border???

    So stop blaming yr mistake on other people and start to organize yr traveling …….

    1. @Albert: I really can’t sympathize with the issues foreigners face at the US border. The fact is, if you watched the news you’d see just why our borders are so strict, from ISIS issues to people trying to stay here and never leave. I also don’t make the rules (though I am glad our borders are strict, to be honest).

      I’m not complaining about the Curacao Customs officials. I’m complaining that nobody at JFK, from the TSA to JetBlue to Customs, noticed I had an invalid passport, yet I’m supposed to. Also, I did not try to “bribe” a Customs official or try to slip him any cash. I very loudly and in front of everyone asked if there was a way to pay a fine for the mistake. I’m sorry you cannot get into the US easily, but again, if you watch the news you’ll see there are valid reasons for this.

  23. Hi am from Curacao i can understand the frustration.
    But one thing i don’t agree at all with you.
    And that is An Unwelcoming Greeting into Curacao (To Say The Least). really?
    I don’t find it fair for you to say that. The customs here acted according to the international law
    for traveling.
    The mistake sits where you got your new passport they had to tell you and not only punch the holes but also put the stamp of void on your passport where your pic and info are.
    How can you travel with that one why did you ask for a new one then?
    Second you got lucky cause they let you go back they could have arrest you when you said
    You offered to pay some kind of fine for the mistake. In our law they could have took it as bribery that is jail time here.
    And the biggest mistake was from the customs of your country and the ones that work at jet blue. What it tells me of the US airport and Us airport is that they don’t have a clue of the laws to travel and international laws.
    Once again am sorry for what happened to you but it is so unfair of you to say that you had An Unwelcoming Greeting here in Curacao
    What our customs did was only follow the international law procedure

    1. @Alexander: I totally agree that it was the fault of myself and the TSA/airlines at JFK; however, the above is an account of what happened to me from my perspective. It was unwelcoming — and maybe that’s warranted — but I had a woman snatch my wallet out of my hand and grab my passport and another man laugh at me as I tried to scramble to give my friend all the trip information she’d need. You have to remember that the point of my blog article is to tell people exactly what happened to me so they knoow 1) how to plan better 2) what consequences can be if you don’t and 3) potential flaws with the passport system.

  24. Hi Jessie,

    Sorry to hear about getting denied entry into my beautiful island of Curaçao due to invalid passport. Hopefully in the future you can plan another trip to visit our country entering with a big smile and leaving with an even bigger smile on your face and heart.

    https://youtu.be/7mzEZep_e1k

    Your always welcome at Curaçao

  25. Take it as a lesson learned. Don’t rely on others to do the planning and due diligence you should have done for your trip.
    Curacao did exactly as they were supposed to as you did not have a valid passport. Your comment about offering to pay a fine would appear to them as bribery.
    In light of the terrorists in the world today do you really want countries to allow people in based on a story of “I forgot the real passport”
    Take responsibility for yourself.
    I would be more concerned with TSA allowing you on the flight in the first place. No really making anyone feel secure , is it.

    1. @Peter: I totally agree that it was the fault of myself and the TSA/airlines at JFK; however, the above is an account of what happened to me from my perspective. It was unwelcoming — and maybe that’s warranted — but I had a woman snatch my wallet out of my hand and grab my passport and another man laugh at me as I tried to scramble to give my friend all the trip information she’d need.

      1. Drop me a line when you do. I’m a tour guide and Hostel owner (Poppy Hostel Curacao). I’m your go to guy for Curacao Budget Travel. I’d love to show you round!

  26. That was too sad! Hope your passport problem get resolved asap and you can enjoy the scenes of Curacao. You can apply for Expedited Passport Service.

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