Passport Renewal—Don’t Wait!
BY KITT WALSH
With immigration in the news constantly, your mind may turn towards your own passport’s status. If so, you wouldn’t be alone. US State Department officials have announced they expect a surge in passport renewals and a backlog to build up soon.
What’s causing the flood? In 2007, something called the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative went into effect. It said that American citizens who enter the United States by air from the Caribbean, Bermuda, Canada and Mexico have to carry a passport, which before then wasn’t true. That meant there was a sudden spike in passport applications and now those 10-year passports are set to expire—all at once.
Add to that fact that, as of January 2018, much more stringent regulations go into effect about what type of ID you must show to get onto a domestic flight and the problem grows bigger. The REAL ID act starts on January 22 of next year and the most “acceptable form of alternate ID” is a passport.
Here’s what you need to know about the REAL ID act:
If you’re a resident of Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Pennsylvania, South Carolina or Washington, your driver’s license will no longer be valid to pass TSA-checkpoints, and you will instead have to use an alternate form of ID. This means you’ll have to bring a passport, military ID or permanent resident card next time you go to the airport, even if you’re just traveling within the United States.
Why exactly are these states the only ones being affected? It’s because these states don’t meet the federal government’s minimum-security standards, which requires verifying every ID applicant’s identity, putting anti-counterfeit technology into the production of the card and conducting background checks on the people issuing the driver’s licenses.
The REAL ID Act prohibits federal agencies from “accepting for certain purposes driver’s licenses and identification cards from states not meeting the Act’s minimum standards,” which makes these particular state IDs invalid for travel. (Just an FYI: As of January 30, 2017, IDs from non-compliant states will not be accepted for entry into federal facilities, nuclear power plants or military bases, either.)
And, just to further complicate the whole passport thing, there’s new entry requirements for getting in a foreign country being bandied about with some saying you mist have six months left on your passport.
All these things point to a business boom at the passport office and all the more reason to get on the stick with renewal
According to Passport Services at the Bureau for Consular Affairs, 20 million requests for passport renewals are expected in 2017 and 2018 and with a federal hiring freeze imposed by the current Administration, there are fewer passport bureau workers (they are not being replaced by retirement or attrition) to handle the workload.
Processing during normal times takes up to 6 weeks and costs $110 for adult renewals. Don’t forget you need to take into account some strict passport policies from other countries, including perhaps one to which you plan to travel. For example, 26 countries in the EU’s Schengen Area (including France and Spain) require your passport to be good for 6 more months from the time you travel.
Check the State Department’s website for those and other details like
the contact info for 8,000 passport-accepting agents across the country (including some local post offices and libraries).
You can also renew online. You’ll find the DS-82 form you need to fill out there, but you are also going to require certified proof of citizenship, proof of identity (an original birth certificate is best), a 2×2 passport photo and $110 via credit card or check.
Passports for kids are trickier. For kids 16 and under you will need the child’s social social security number, a DS3053 form (a statement of consent from the child’s parents) and you have to show up in person for both applications and renewals. Also kid’s passports are only good for 5 years.
You may not recognize your new passport when you get it. Your passport will now have a machine-readable chip (more technically advanced features will be coming soon, so sayeth the passport officials.) Instead of the 52 pages you had before, your new passport will have only 28 pages. You won’t be allowed to wear your glasses in the photo as it might defeat the facial recognition systems going into border crossings shorty. Already in Australia the government is saving passports to the cloud and travelers arriving need only walk through a “SmartGate” holding their passports up to the facial recognition kiosk, saving time and manpower. At some USA domestic airports including Miami, Seattle, San Francisco and Atlanta, you can download the Mobile Passport app which lets you enter a few trip details to generate an e-receipt that you can present at customs for expedited screening.
Technology is great and may simplify the process in the future, but right now, we are still reliant on manpower to help us renew our passports. Keeping that in mind may help act as a spur to get you to take care of that nagging task right now.