I am an EU national married to a US citizen with a son under 2 years old, who has dual citizenship (my home EU country + US). We all reside in Switzerland, which is not part of EEA, but is part of Schengen, and have valid residency permits (which for my spouse functions also as a Schengen visa as far as I understand).

Our son's American passport is a 'temporary' 1-year old passport. He does not have an EU passport yet.

Recently my spouse and son went to visit family in the US while I stayed home. They flew directly from Switzerland and had no issues boarding the inbound flight, even though my son passport's validity expires in less than 6 months from the return date.

During their return trip 2 weeks later, the airline's check-in desk staff refused to issue boarding passes, citing my son's passport expiry date as the reason. They suggested having a new passport issued (which due to my absence would not be possible). Eventually due to my spouse's persistence they let them on board, but I would like to know if the airline's stance was justified, as I already started having thoughts of my family being stuck in an administrative limbo until I flew to the US to have my son's passport renewed (where I can also be denied entry to make matters more interesting).

The question I have is:

  • Is it true that in this case (return flight to the country of residency) the airline could get fined ~$20k or was it just ignorance of the airline's staff, applying a blanket US -> Schengen travel rule?

If they were right, what is the legal framework for such denial of boarding (I guess it must be entry rules for Switzerland/Schengen)?

  • US citizens do not need additional passport validity to be boarded on a flight to the US; the passport only needs to be valid on the date of arrival. That explains why your son was allowed to fly to the US. I would think that passport validity rules would not apply to someone with a valid residence permit; they normally apply only to visitors. For example, the Schengen passport validity rule applies only to "intended stays...of no more than 90 days in any 180-day period." But Swiss law controls this; I don't know what it says. You should be able to renew your son's US passport in Switzerland. – phoog Apr 18 '18 at 19:28
  • It's also not necessary for you to appear in person to apply for your son's passport; see travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/…. Further to the previous comment, you don't need to apply in the US; you could also go to Bern. See usembassy.gov/switzerland. Lyon and Milan are other options that might be more convenient, depending on your location in Switzerland. – phoog Apr 18 '18 at 19:34
  • Does your son have a valid "Ausländerausweis" (Foreigner Identification Card) for switzerland? If so, they can't refuse entry. – Daan van Hoek Apr 19 '18 at 15:20
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    A U.S. citizen has the right to enter the U.S. Even the passport is expiring today the airline can't refuse the U.S. citizen from returning to the U.S. – Michael Tsang May 18 '18 at 9:41
  • VTC: OP has not returned since the initial question, which is difficult to answer absent the clarifying info requested via comments. – Giorgio Jul 23 '18 at 18:56

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