Having a passport is proof of citizenship abroad. Without it, we are an illegal alien and can be taken to jail or deported.
It is obvious that Americans, Canadians, Europeans, Australians, New Zealanders, Japanese and South Koreans have special status as travelers. The people from the 50 rich countries on the planet are given graces and favors the other 200 are not allowed. What we 50 rich-countries people can do is radically different than what the 200-plus poor-countries people are allowed.
To expect the letter of the law and justice to prevail is naïve. Plan for the worst and hope for the best … and have plenty of time available for problems.
Arriving late at the airport with your new Thai wife who is traveling on a USA a passport is a recipe for problems. You do not deserve passport problems in a perfect world, but you deserve what you get in an imperfect world.
Non-Negotiable Travel Rules for Passports
1. Hassle-free travel is easy by traveling only in the USA with your American passport and never internationally.
2. Contempt on our face and passports do not make good travel companions.
3. The passport is the only thing you cannot forget to pack.
4. Be the obvious holder of the passport and able to defend its culture.
It is like a tragic comedy when U.S. citizens are standing in the U.S. customs lines, ready to enter the USA after visiting abroad. There are many U.S. citizens who do not speak English, who appear as citizens of the country of my plane departure. For example, if I am flying from Peru to the USA, the U.S.-only line at customs is full of people that obviously appear Peruvian. They do not obviously appear American, and they often do not speak English, and they do not understand the customs and culture of America.
They are not going to have problems returning to the USA, but traveling to other countries can be an extreme hassle if you are not an obvious, stereotypical person from the country of passport.
When an American goes abroad and finds a wife or husband – and subsequently receives a passport for the new spouse – plan on having problems traveling with your spouse. Having a passport alone is not proof of American citizenship. Yes, it is with enough time, but you can be delayed for hours or days without supporting evidence, such as driver’s licenses or voter registration cards. It is based on a preponderance of evidence, and racial profiling is standard in the world, not rare.
5. Leave your passport in your hotel room. (Or know why you are breaking this rule!!!!)
6. Scan your passport and email to yourself. Store the digital copy in a free email account such as Yahoo.com or Gmail.com. Company accounts, paid accounts like Frontier, Comcast, Verizon and AOL.com, will cause you problems traveling abroad. They are signs the traveler is not really ready to travel.
7. NEVER, ever say, “I am American, you cannot do that to me.” Saying this will make – nay, require – the country’s law enforcement to “prove” to you that you do not have rights. They will take your passport, make you stand around for hours, or spend days learning this hard truth.
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I pretty much live in Guatemala, and visit the States now and then. Guatemalan police require that Foreigners in Guate on a 90 day visa carry proof of citizenship on your person at all times when outdoors. Carrying your Passport all time makes it that much more likely that you will lose it. Many Gringos believe that if you carry a Photocopy of your Passport. you are OK. Most of the time you will be. However, if Guate Police want to Break Chops when you just have a Photocopy on you, they can. What to do? Take your passport to a Licienciado, a Guatemalan Lawyer. Photocopy it in the Lawyers office, and have the Abogado notarize it with his seal and signature on the photocopy. This costs anywhere from 50 to 100 Quetzales, or about $7 to $13, and takes about 15 minutes. Now you are perfectly legit to travel about in Guate w/o having to carry your Passport . Take care, Andy and Viva Guatemala.
Thanks for the Guatemala clarification, anytime a person comes to the attention of police in any country, there can be problems. One reason it is difficult to drive cars, you are always the Gringo driving the car.
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