You’ve booked your tickets, packed your bags, and learned a few key phrases in the language of your destination.You’re eager to board your flight and set out on your next adventure. But—is your passport up to date? If your passport is scheduled to expire in 2016, the State Department encourages citizens to renew now to avoid delays in processing your application.
According to the State Department, a surge in passport demands is expected this year. To avoid would be travelers scrambling at the last minute for renewals or new passports, they are asking for those planning international travel in 2016 to send in their applications now. State Department officials expect to issue more than 17 million new passports and renewals this year, about 1.5 million more than in 2015.
Why the flood of citizens seeking renewed or new passports? There are a few main reasons.
In 2007, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative went into effect, requiring passports for U.S. citizens returning by air from Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. As a result, millions of Americans applied for passports, creating a backlog for the State Department. Since passports expire every 10 years, passports issued in 2006 and 2007 are approaching renewal, leading to an influx of applications.
Additionally, the State Department is seeing more applications from Americans in states that have not yet complied with the Real ID Act. This act sets stricter standards for driver’s licenses and other identity cards, meaning travelers in states that haven’t yet complied will have to show a second valid form of ID, like a passport, at the airport. As of now, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Washington, and American Samoa are the only states and U.S. territories that have not complied with this act.
Finally, many countries now require passports to have at least three to six months of validity left on a U.S. passport. Be sure to check the passport requirements for the country you are planning to enter to determine if you need to have yours renewed sooner rather than later.