I considered myself a knowledgeable and seasoned traveler until March 21,2014 when I found myself in the cozy office of the German Bundespolizei for four hours.
[sws_pullquote_right]I considered myself a knowledgeable and seasoned traveler until May 21,2014 when I found myself in the cozy office of the German Bundespolizei for four hours. [/sws_pullquote_right] We had just landed and were excited to begin the Spring Break Trip of a lifetime. Aiden, super excited and independent, stood in line solo and proceeded to the customs officer to obtain his entry stamp for his passport. Allen and I were next. Allen’s passport received the familiar stamp, however, a long look at my passport resulted in no stamp and instructions to follow the officer. The pleasant gentleman inquired if I was aware of the expiration date on my passport. Of course I was, it expires April 26,2014… one month after I am to leave Germany.
Unfortunately, there was a very important piece of information that I was not aware of: the Passport Validity Rule. The officer assured me this would be a quick fix and to send Allen and Aiden to baggage claim and that I could join them soon.
Thank goodness I declined sending them alone, being that neither is fluent in the language and that we had no way to find one another if we were to get lost, I decided that they should come with me. Another life saver was the fact that I am fluent in German.
I was interrogated like a terrorist… what is my purpose in the country? Why if I was born in the country do I no longer hold a German Passport? Why did I not check my expiration date? I answered a series of questions which I had the right to decline if it were to incriminate myself or anyone traveling with me. I couldn’t believe it – each time the kind officers would give a message as to my travel purposes to their boss they would return with a long face and information regarding the next available flight back to the USA. There was no rationalizing with The Boss. In his eyes I was a dangerous criminal and must be DEPORTED!
I was a wreck in tears, I had ruined Aiden’s Spring Break, Allen had taken a week off of work for nothing and my 88 year old Grandfather was not going to get to see us. What a mess!
I was given one additional option: to seek help from the United States Embassy. A kind voice greeted me on the other line. She explained that she would do all that she could, however just last week she had to send a lady back to Chicago for the same oversight of not knowing the Validity Rule. Another hour of negotiations passed and I had just about given up. All these years of travel, all the supposed advice I give to others and here I am at the brink of DEPORTATION! By some miracle, after the Embassy sent in writing that they would guarantee my appearance for an issue of an emergency passport at their office in the next hour and a half, I was free to leave the police station at the airport.
Relieved but still scared to death I made my way to the Embassy. What if I couldn’t find it, what if traffic delayed me, all the scenarios of failure went through my head. In my mind until I had a new passport in hand I was not safe. The pleasant voice on the phone greeted me in person upon entry to the Embassy. She was relieved as well and told me how lucky I was to be granted travel to the Embassy for a new passport! She worked diligently to issue my new emergency passport and had us on our way in an hour to begin our adventure!
I urge you all to check travel requirements into the countries that you plan to visit on your upcoming travels; some countries even require your passport to be valid for six months after departure. Even if you have been there before, even if you go there every year! I relied on past history which apparently changed in July of 2013.
Born in Germany, but raised in Huntsville, Melika Nixon brings a unique perspective to travel and culture. As a nurse practitioner and single mother to seven-year-old twin boys, including one with serious medical issues, she brings an even more keen perspective to traveling with children. She frequently writes about creative, cost-effective ways to introduce children to the world through the gift of travel.