Here’s one of those posts I wish someone else had written before our trip to the Middle East last spring. I had to figure this all out myself. So, you’re traveling to Israel as well as several neighboring Arab countries who don’t recognize Israel’s right to exist. Turns out, these countries have chosen to take out their ideological differences on hapless travelers by barring entry to folks who have Israeli markings in their passports.
The solution used to be that you could request that Israeli border officials stamp a visa on a piece of paper kept in your passport until you exit Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories. When we checked official web sites before our trip earlier this year which said that they still do this. But friends who live and travel in the region said they are not consistent in responding to such requests, and will sometimes not stamp your passport at all–which is OK for travel within Israel proper. But if you plan to pass back and forth between Israel and Occupied Palestine–which means passing through Israeli military checkpoints–not having a stamp can be a problem.
So, bottom line, you need two passports: one for Israel to stamp, and one for traveling to Arab countries, such as Syria or Lebanon. Syria will even look to see stamps from neighboring Arab countries like Jordan, so don’t hand them a blank passport just for them as if you dropped out of the sky with a new passport–they’ll know why–and want to see your Jordanian entry stamp, for example. Israel doesn’t seem to mind getting an unused passport, even if you’re crossing the Jordanian border and don’t have Jordanian stamps.
Try Googling “second passport” and you’ll get lots of broker services that want to charge add-on fees for facilitating and expediting the process. But for you DIY types who want to make a direct application to the State Department, instructions are hard to come by.
There is no application for a second passport, per se, but buried on page 3 of a State Department PDF, under the heading, “U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual Volume 7 – Consular Affairs,” are these relatively simple steps:
- Fill out a regular passport renewal application
- Include a signed letter saying why you need the second passport, which for some reason needs to include your promise that if you lose it you’ll report it to the nearest embassy. They give an example of such a statement.
- Include your current passport, but plaster it with post-it notes saying something like “APPLICATION FOR SECOND PASSPORT, DO NOT DESTROY, PLEASE RETURN”
- Two passport photos
- Your fee, currently $75 if you already have a passport.
- The State Dept. recommends you use a traceable delivery method such as UPS. I do not recommend FedEx.
That’s pretty much it. Give them at least four weeks to process it, though you can pay extra for expedited applications. Here’s the official U.S. passport site, which has other info and details you may need. Also, don’t panic when your second passport arrives without your original. The original is returned separately.