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Passenger Rights

Travel Troubles Get Scrutinized

Is your passport in order, does it have enough pages, expiring at least six months out? Do you have proof of an onward ticket? And did you know you can’t enter this neighboring nation if you’ve even a minor criminal record? Ed Perkins details these and other travel quandaries.

Q: Yesterday I boarded a Qatar flight from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh and was asked to provide proof of a forwarding ticket exiting Vietnam. I was unaware of this ‘requirement’ nor was advised in advance by Qatar when purchasing my flight or the Vietnamese embassy when procuring my visa. Is this a real requirement?

A: It can be. You can occasionally get caught and be denied entry to a country—and boarding a flight to that country—because of some arcane and unexpected requirement.

Proof of an Onward Ticket

The idea is to make sure you won’t violate immigration laws by staying in the country and possibly becoming a financial liability for medical, retirement, housing, and other local benefits. Some countries waive this limitation if you have a credit card, presumably showing you can pay your way to the next stop.

Remaining Passport Validity

Even though your passport may be valid long enough to cover your intended stay, quite a few countries require that your passport have a minimum remaining validity, usually six months, occasionally three. Presumably, this to make sure that you can get out of the country again even if accident or sickness delays your planned departure.

Empty Passport Pages

A few countries require that your passport have one or two empty “visas” or “endorsements” pages on your passport to accommodate whatever elaborate stamps the country may need to put there. If you are visiting more than one country, you have to have enough pages to accommodate each nation’s requirements.

Criminal Record

Quite a few travelers headed into Canada are unaware that Canada will not let anyone into the country with a criminal record—and especially a DUI record—unless enough time has passed that they may be considered “rehabilitated” or have obtained an “approval for rehabilitation” in advance. Note that the Canadian border folk have real-time online access to U.S. law enforcement databases to check. This one can be especially tough, because an airline flying you into Canada typically does not check for criminal records, so you find you can’t get in only after you arrive at a Canadian airport. Check the Citizenship and Immigration Canada site for details.

The U.S. State Department’s Country Information page posts details about entry requirements for every country in the world. Oddly, however, the Vietnam page has nothing to say about an ongoing ticket, although postings for some other countries do note this requirement.

Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuses every day at SmarterTravel.

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By Ed Perkins

A nationally recognized reporter, writer, and consumer advocate, Ed Perkins focuses on how travelers can find the best deals and avoid scams.

He is the author of "Online Travel" (2000) and "Business Travel: When It's Your Money" (2004), the first step-by-step guide specifically written for small business and self-employed professional travelers. He was also the co-author of the annual "Best Travel Deals" series from Consumers Union.

Perkins' advice for business travelers is featured on MyBusinessTravel.com, a website devoted to helping small business and self-employed professional travelers find the best value for their travel dollars.

Perkins was founding editor of Consumer Reports Travel Letter, one of the country's most influential travel publications, from which he retired in 1998. He has also written for Business Traveller magazine (London).

Perkins' travel expertise has led to frequent television appearances, including ABC's "Good Morning America" and "This Week with David Brinkley," "The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather," CNN, and numerous local TV and radio stations.

Before editing Consumer Reports Travel Letter, Perkins spent 25 years in travel research and consulting with assignments ranging from national tourism development strategies to the design of computer-based tourism models.

Born in Evanston, Illinois, Perkins lives in Ashland, Oregon with his wife.