Here’s another edition of “Ask Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.
“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love 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 check out the market and applied for a visitor visa.
I’m planning to stay in the U.S. for a couple of months, but I just realized that my passport expires in September. I understand that I need to have at least six months left on my passport in order to travel to the United States.
Is that (still) true? Do I need to delay my trip?
— Hopeful in Harare
Thanks for reaching out to me with your questions! It’s 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 who are traveling to the United States are required to have passports that are valid for at least six months after the date they arrive in the U.S. Many countries have this six-month passport validity requirement.
In the U.S., however, certain countries are exempt from the six-month requirement and citizens of those countries only need to have a passport that is valid through the date of their stay in the U.S. Citizens of Zimbabwe are exempt from the six-month rule, so as long as you leave the U.S. before your passport expires, you’re covered! You don’t need to delay your trip!
Last month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which is responsible for border security at U.S. airports and other ports of entry, issued an updated list of countries exempt from the six-month passport validity 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 validity exemption only applies to visitors: Those on a B-1 business visitor, a B-2 tourist visitor visa, or those on ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization), the U.S. Visa Waiver program. Unfortunately, citizens of Zimbabwe are ineligible for the ESTA program, which enables citizens of 40 countries to travel to the U.S. for business for stays of 90 days or less without first obtaining a visa.