What is Changing?
This is hardly the first time that rules for passport use have changed. Additional requirements for passports have been coming in waves since 2007, when the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative took effect – requiring all American citizens entering the U.S. by air from Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, and Bermuda to have a valid passport. When it was first enacted, the change triggered a serious backlog in passport applications and renewals, which affected millions of Americans. And that same scenario could easily happen again.
On January 22, 2018, the REAL ID Act will go into effect, imposing far more stringent ID requirements for flying. At that time, travelers may need to be able to show an alternate form of identification even for domestic flights, making it likely that more folks than ever before will be carrying a passport for air travel. If your state has not complied with the REAL ID Act requirements for State Enhanced Driver’s Licenses (EDLs) by that date, you will be required to show an alternate form of ID – such as a valid U.S. Passport.
Why Renew Now?
Getting your passport issued or renewed now instead of later provides you with the chance to avoid any delays or complicated processes that may have to be initiated when the new deadline hits. It’s also a good idea to keep in mind that the holidays and summer months represent an especially busy time for passport renewal – one that may also cause delays. Getting your passport renewed early is the best way to ensure that you are ready for a calm, stress-free trip, no matter when or where you plan to travel.
There are also specific entry requirements by a number of international countries that require you to have your passport renewed more than six months before it is set to expire. These countries have what is known as a six months validity rule for visitors. This requires you to have a minimum of six months remaining on your passport before its expiration date when you first enter their country, just in case your stay there is extended. You can check individual countries to see if your passport meets their requirements at Travel.State.Gov.
What’s the Process?
Actually, applying for a new passport or renewing your existing passport is simple. The process can be started by completing an easy online form. An expedited passport, involving additional fees, can usually be processed within 3 weeks, while routine passports take closer to 6 weeks to arrive.
You can get your passport even faster if you apply in person at a Department of State Passport Agency. You’ll need to schedule an appointment in advance and come prepared with all necessary documents, including proof of immediate international travel. You’ll also have to pay an added fee for expedition of processing.
New American Citizens
If you have recently gained your U.S. citizenship, with or without the help of Neelam Bhardwaj PLLC, this is the perfect time for you to go ahead and get your first U.S. passport. Avoid the lines, and be prepared for wherever your future travels may take you – whether to your original home country or to exciting new destinations. Happy traveling!