You might not have as much free space in your passport as you think.
Some countries require you to have a certain number of blank pages in your passport before you arrive. This is usually because they have full-page visas and need to be sure there’s a place to put them; sometimes it seems to be just to make the process harder.
You can check passport requirements by country on the State Department website.
Before embarking on my latest trip, I checked all of my page requirements against my passport and determined that I had enough space for all appropriate visas and stamps.
A surly Cambodian border guard advised me otherwise.
Turns out, the last three pages of U.S. passports are for ‘endorsements,’ not visas or stamps. If you look closely, you’ll see that most of the pages have the word ‘Visas’ at the top, and the last few say ‘Endorsements’ along the side edge.
So what’s an endorsement?
As far as I can tell, that would be documentation for someone who falls into a special category or is a non-citizen being issued a U.S. passport. For example, someone from American Samoa is a U.S. national but not a U.S. citizen, which needs to be reflected on these pages.
I haven’t been able to find any additional information or clarification from the State Department.
Can you put a visa or a stamp on these pages?
This is unclear. It seems reasonable that if you didn’t need the endorsement pages for endorsements, you could then use them for visas, but again, the State Department offers no guidance.
Based on my own experience and what I can find online, many immigration officers happily stamp on these pages (I actually have stamps from Morocco on mine, which I got with no issue whatsoever). Others see this as an opportunity to extract a bribe for ‘bending the rules’ (which is what happened with Mr. Cambodia). Although probably unlikely, it is possible you could run into an immigration agent who refuses you entry to the country.
Since the pages are not labeled for visas and you have no way to prove that visas/stamps can go here, you are at the mercy of the passport agent. This is not a good place to be.
Check to see how many blank pages you need before you go and figure out if you have enough labeled pages left. If not, consider getting a new passport before you travel to avoid any hassles.
Remember that passports take 4-5 weeks to process (2-3 weeks if you pay extra to expedite), so check well in advance of your trip.
Extra Pages No Longer Available
You used to be able to stop by your closest embassy and pick up some extra pages for your passport. This would be a great solution to the problem of a nearly full (but not nearing expiration) passport, or for anyone discovering this problem while already overseas, but it’s no longer a thing.
New, Bigger Passports
The good news is that U.S. passports have been redesigned to include 52 pages (instead of 28), so your new one will last you a bit longer.
You can apply for a new passport here.