If you are one of the 49 million Americans whose passports will expire in the next few years, heads up. Here’s what you need to know about expected passport application delays and passport changes coming in the years ahead. These changes, according to The State Department, will create a massive processing backlog.
Renew Your Passport Now
In 2007, the law changed and required passports for all travel to and from Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean, resulting in millions of more travelers acquiring 10 year passports, now about to expire. Those travelers will need to renew, causing applications to jump significantly. Currently, passport renewal takes about six weeks. Many countries require foreign passports to be valid for 6 months after your return. Allow for some glitch in the process and you might not have as much time to renew as you thought.
REAL ID Changes Aren’t Helping
A newer federal law, the REAL ID Act, will soon enforce updates to all state-level identification (read driver's license) in the form of security features like machine-readable data. Now people in some states, that are lagging behind in the technology, are realizing that their licenses might soon be invalid for air travel—even on domestic flights. That will mean a rise in passport applications as well. Starting in 2018, travelers using IDs issued by certain states, could be denied airport check in if their state doesn't comply to the new standard. Some states are under review and have been given a deadline extension, but all licenses must comply with the standards by 2020. Travelers concerned that their state won't comply in time, will renew or acquire a passport, adding to the backlog. Click here to see if your state has complied or been given an extension.
Expect New Security Features
Like state IDs, passports will now include added technology to ensure security and decrease fraud. Catching up with many other countries, U.S. passports changes mean that new passports will include a data chip that can provide all your personal info upon scanning it into a computer. You can also expect your new passport to be lighter—rather than the 52-page passports of the past, only 28 pages unless you opt for more.
Double Check Children’s Passports
If you've lost track of when your own passport needs renewing and you travel with children, double-check your child's passport as well. Child passports are only valid for five years, and they're subject to more paperwork, like parental consent forms and proof of a parent-child relationship. I had clients lose 3 days of their cruise and a huge expense to catch up with the ship, because their kids’ passports expired a few days short of the 6 months rule.
How to Renew Your Passport
You can apply for or renew a passport online through the State Department, or in person at an eligible local agency like the post office. Make sure you follow instructions carefully and meet all the requirements, like the new rule against wearing glasses in your passport photo. Doing so could further delay the process. Click here for forms and details. You don't have to wait for your passport to expire to renew. Don't push it to the limit. You don't want to miss that plane to your fabulous destination!!
Stay Tuned - Next newsletter will deal with more passport specifics; how to apply first time, name change, children's passports, expediting and lost or stolen passports.