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Does Your Passport Have Enough Blank Pages for Your Next Trip?

Keri Stooksbury's image
Keri Stooksbury
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Keri Stooksbury

Editor-in-Chief

29 Published Articles 3091 Edited Articles

Countries Visited: 45U.S. States Visited: 28

With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now Editor-in-Chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...
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Nick Ellis

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Nick’s passion for points began as a hobby and became a career. He worked for over 5 years at The Points Guy and has contributed to Business Insider and CNN. He has 14 credit cards and continues to le...
& Keri Stooksbury
Keri Stooksbury's image

Keri Stooksbury

Editor-in-Chief

29 Published Articles 3091 Edited Articles

Countries Visited: 45U.S. States Visited: 28

With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now Editor-in-Chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...

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For several months I have been planning a trip-of-a-lifetime — a safari vacation in South Africa with a side trip to Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Botswana to see Victoria Falls. When researching entry requirements for each country, I came to the unfortunate realization that the majority of my family’s passports were ineligible for entry due to a lack of blank pages.

Learn how I turned this situation around and what to do if you find yourself under similar circumstances.

Always Check the U.S. Department of State’s Country Information Page

When traveling abroad and trying to figure out what I need to enter each destination, one of the first sites I check is the country information page provided by the U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs. Simply enter the country you’re traveling to under Where Are You Traveling? 

US Department of State Learn About Your Destination
Image Credit: U.S. Department of State

On that country’s page, scroll down to Quick Facts. This page should give you a topline look at the passport page requirements for your trip.

It was on this page for South Africa that I first felt panic creep in. Our trip would require 2 consecutive empty visa pages per entry to South Africa — and we would be entering South Africa twice on this trip.

South Africa International Travel Information US Embassy
South Africa Quick Facts. Image Credit: U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs

You can scroll further down on this page to learn more under Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements. While some countries may “recommend” a certain number of blank pages, the U.S. Department of State made it very clear that YOU WILL BE DENIED ENTRY to South Africa without these blank pages. Gulp.

South Africa International Travel Information US Embassy entry requirements
South Africa Entry, Exit, and Visa Requirements. Image Credit: U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs

This meant we would need 4 empty pages for South Africa and whatever else was recommended for the other countries on our trip. I took a breath and figured, no problem, these are fairly new passports, I’m sure we all have the pages. I then proceeded to check the U.S. Department of State guidance for Zimbabwe (2 blank pages recommended), Zambia (3 blank pages per entry), and Botswana (3 or more unused pages; 1 blank page per entry). If you’re keeping track, that’s 10 to 12 blank pages I will potentially need for each member of my family for this trip.

Further, the lack of blank pages for tourists traveling from/to South Africa must be a common enough problem, as the U.S. Department of State advises, “South African officials take this requirement very seriously and will turn you around if you do not have sufficient pages.”

Hot Tip: If you’re a U.S. citizen, learn more about tourist visa requirements for 100+ countries

Next Steps

After my research, I frantically grabbed all 5 of our family’s passports and started counting empty pages, excluding endorsement pages at the back of the passport. While some pages were full of stamps, others might have just had 1 … and just 1 stamp meant that that page was most certainly not empty.

With the tally completed, I determined that just my 8-year-old daughter would be eligible to go on this trip as she was the only family member to have enough blank pages. That wasn’t quite a possibility, so we explored other options.

I figured that remedying this situation would be no big deal … that we could just add a few pages to each of our passports. Then I learned that the U.S. Department of State stopped adding pages to passports in 2016, and minors under 16 aren’t even eligible for passport renewals.

With about 3 months until our planned travel, we would have to renew our adult passports and apply for new child passports.

Renewing an Adult U.S. Passport

You can renew your passport by mail or in person. You are eligible to renew your passport by mail if your passport:

  1. Is in your possession and you can submit it with your application
  2. Is undamaged (normal wear and tear is OK)
  3. Was issued when you were 16 years old or older
  4. Was issued in the last 15 years
  5. Was issued in your current name (or if you are able to document your name change)

If you are eligible to renew your passport by mail, you will need to submit:

If you are not eligible to renew via mail, you’ll have to apply in person at a passport acceptance facility with your completed Form DS-11: Application for a U.S. Passport, supporting documents, photo, and fees.

If you’re a frequent international traveler, whether you’re a first-time passport applicant or are renewing your passport, make sure to select Large Book (Non-Standard). This option offers 52 pages (with 44 pages for passport stamps) compared to only 28 pages for the Regular Book (20 pages for passport stamps) … all at no additional cost.

ds82 passport application
If you are a frequent international traveler, always get the Large Book as there’s no cost difference! Image Credit: U.S. Department of State

Applying for a Child U.S. Passport

Children under the age of 16 are ineligible to have their passports renewed, so you have to apply in person as though this passport is their first. Unlike adults whose passports are valid for 10 years, these passports are only valid for 5 years.

There is a lot more paperwork involved with a minor’s application. You must:

  • Submit Form DS-11: Application for a U.S. Passport
  • Provide evidence of the minor’s U.S. citizenship (such as a birth certificate or passport), with a photocopy
  • Show the parental relationship (such as a birth certificate)
  • Present ID for both parents, with a photocopy of each (front and back)
  • Show parental consent (both parents/guardians must present; if not, additional stipulations apply)
  • Provide a photo
  • Pay the application fee via check or money order

Hot Tip: If you are applying for a child that is 16 or 17 years old, make sure to review the appropriate application for your circumstances.

U.S. Passport Processing Times

Whether you’re renewing or getting a first-time passport, the processing times are the same. The U.S. Department of State advises that it is seeing record-high demand for passports that is expected to remain high into summer 2023.

Estimated processing times as of March 24, 2023, are:

  • Routine: 10 to 13 weeks
  • Expedited: 7 to 9 weeks
  • Expedited at Agency: Must have international travel within 14 calendar days (call 877-487-2778 to make an appointment)

To expedite your application, you can pay additional fees for expedited service and 1- to 2-day delivery.

Final Thoughts

Within a few weeks of submitting renewal applications for 2 adults and applying in person with our children for their applications, we received our new passports and now have plenty of blank pages for our 4-country trip to Africa.

When traveling internationally, always check the U.S. Department of State’s country information page for entry requirements to ensure that you have enough blank pages for visas and entry/exit stamps along your journey. It’s also a good idea to get the Large Book passport when renewing or applying to score double the available pages, as running out of blank pages can be costly (over $500 total for my family of 5).

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I add blank pages to my passport?

You can no longer add blank pages to your U.S. passport, but you can renew your passport and request a Large Book with additional pages.

How many blank pages are needed for a passport?

Check the country information page provided by the U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs for country-by-country guidance on blank pages required for entry.

How many pages are better for a passport?

If you’re a frequent international traveler, whether you’re a first-time U.S. passport applicant or are renewing your passport, make sure to select Large Book (Non-Standard). This option offers 52 pages (with 44 pages for passport stamps) compared to only 28 pages for the Regular Book (20 pages for passport stamps) … all at no additional cost.

Do you need all pages of a passport?

If you run out of blank pages for stamps or visas, your only option is to renew your U.S. passport. Otherwise, you may be denied entry at your departure or on arrival at your destination.

Keri Stooksbury's image

About Keri Stooksbury

With years of experience in corporate marketing and with a nonprofit, Keri is now Editor-in-Chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and reviewing thousands of UP articles in the process.

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