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Passport changes are coming, and if you plan on traveling in the near future- especially if you’re one of the 49 million Americans whose passports will expire in the next few years- you need to know what passport changes are in store.
Although it may seem easy enough to acquire or renew a passport, the State Department says there’s about to be a massive backlog of passport applications. Additionally, passports themselves are going to change. Here’s what you should know about both the expected application delays and the passport changes coming in the years ahead.
You should renew your passport now
A decade ago, the State Department saw an “unprecedented surge” in applications when a 2007 law enacted by the 9/11 Commission established passports as necessary for all travel to and from Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. Millions of travelers acquired 10-year passports that year as a result, and now they are all about to expire. If you’re not concerned about wait times yet, it is important to understand that passport renewal already takes close to six weeks, and many destinations require foreign passports to be valid for months after your trip. Factor in unknown delays, and you might have significantly less time to renew than you thought.
REAL ID changes aren’t helping
Under a recent federal law, the REAL ID Act, will soon enforce updates to all state-level identification in the form of security features such as machine-readable data chips. People in some states that are lagging behind in technology are realizing that their licenses might soon be invalid for air travel– even on domestic trips. This could result in a rise in passport applications as well. Travelers using IDS issued by certain states-for example, Maine and Missouri could be turned away at the gate starting January 2018 if their state doesn’t adjust to the new standards in time.
Double-check children’s passports
If you’ve lost track of when your 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 are subject to more paperwork such as parental consent forms and proof of parent-child relationship.
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 such as the post office. Make sure you follow instructions carefully and meet all requirements, like the new rule against wearing glasses in your passport photo.