There are challenges on the horizon for those who need a new passport or a renewal –many of whom may be relocating abroad.
Delays Anticipated in Obtaining New Passports
As you may recall, in the wake of 911, the Western Hemisphere Initiative went into effect, requiring anyone who would be traveling across borders — even for a short vacation to Mexico or the Caribbean — to obtain a passport in 2006 and 2007. This caused an unprecedented surge of requests at the State Department.
Now that those passports are expiring, officials are anticipating a new flood of requests and providing a warning to the public.
“We were overwhelmed then, and we are not going to be overwhelmed again,” said Michele Bond, the Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs in a New York Times article. She has been campaigning for individuals to renew now to avoid delays.
The Real ID ACT Placing Further Pressure on Passport Applications
The Real ID Act sets stricter standards for driver’s licenses and other identity cards. The Department of Homeland Security recently clarified the deadline of January 22, 2018, for states to comply.
At this time, there are five states and a territory that have not complied with the Real ID Act — Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Washington and American Samoa. There is no rush, but some residents of those states are applying for passports anyway, adding to congestion in the system. As of the 2018 deadline, residents of states that still have not complied with the Real ID ACT will have to show an alternative, approved form of government issued identification, such as a passport, to even board planes domestically.
One More Reason to Renew Now
State Department officials say another reason to renew soon is that many countries are now enforcing the requirement for at least six months’ validity remaining on a United States passport. According to the New York Times article, the Department has experienced an increase in calls from Americans who were denied entry at foreign airports and borders because their passports had less than six months to go.
Officials are expected to issue more than 17 million new passports and renewals this year, which will amount to about 1.5 million more than in 2015. Those seeking a passport for the first time must submit the application in person at a designated post office, court or other agency, and the fee is $135. Renewals, which took about four weeks last year, are expected to take about six weeks in 2016. The renewal fee is only $110.