Here’s another edition from “Ask Sophie”, the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.
“Your questions are essential to spreading knowledge that empowers people around the world to push beyond boundaries and chase their dreams,” said Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration lawyer. “Whether you’re in people management, a founder, or looking for a job in Silicon Valley, I’ll be happy to answer your questions in my next column.”
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I founded a startup in Zimbabwe a few years ago. I planned to visit the United States for the first time next month to see the market and applied for a visitor visa.
I am planning to stay in the US for a few months but I just realized my passport expires in September. I understand that I must have a minimum of six months remaining on my passport in order to travel to the United States.
Is that (still) true? Should I postpone my trip?
— Hopeful in Harare
Thank you for contacting me with your questions! It is so wonderfully exciting to hear about your plans to visit the United States for the first time. Let’s dive right in.
In general, yes, visitors traveling to the United States must have a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond the date they arrive in the US. Many countries have this six month passport validity requirement.
However, in the US, certain countries are exempt from the six-month requirement and citizens of those countries are only required to have a passport valid until the date of their stay in the US. Zimbabwean citizens are exempt from the six-month rule, so as long as you leave the US before your passport expires, you’re covered! No need to postpone your trip!
Last month, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which is responsible for border security at US airports and other ports of entry, released an updated list of countries exempt from the six-month passport rule. Nearly 130 countries including Haiti, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Mexico, Pakistan, Russia, Taiwan and Ukraine are on that list. China is not exempt.
This six-month passport waiver only applies to visitors: visitors with a B-1 business visitor, a B-2 tourist visa, or visitors with ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization), the U.S. Visa Waiver program. Unfortunately, citizens of Zimbabwe are not eligible for the ESTA program, which allows citizens of 40 countries to travel to the US on business for a stay of 90 days or less without first obtaining a visa.