In 2007, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative went into effect, requiring U.S. citizens to have passports for travel to and from Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. As a result, 18 million new passports were issued that year. That’s 10 million more than in 2004. And they will all expire next year. That influx could cause wait times for passport renewal to jump to ten or more weeks, up from an average of six, throughout 2017.
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In addition to avoiding the extra processing time, there are a few other good reasons to renew your passport now. An increasing number of countries now require that you have at least six months left before your passport expiration date to grant entry. If it’s less than that, you could be denied boarding or even turned around at customs.
To make things even more of a pain, some states have not yet brought their driver licenses into compliance with the Real ID Act, meaning those ID cards may not be accepted for air travel in 2018. Residents of those states may need to use passport to fly, which could also lead to increased demand next year.
Finally, as if all that wasn’t challenging enough, passports are now being issued with just 28 pages as standard, down from the 52 pages we used to get. While that’s happened, some countries have instituted a minimum blank-page regulation for entry. And you can no longer add pages to your passport; you have to get a new one.
So if your passport is due for renewal next year, even if it’s toward the end of next year, renew it now. Luckily, that process is both straightforward and affordable.
If you have the time, renewing by mail is just $110. Fill out this form online, print it, attach a to-spec photo, throw your old passport in the envelope, send it off, and you’ll have a new one within six weeks.
In a rush or not comfortable going sans passport for that long? Expediting the process adds $60. You can do it either by mail (two to three weeks) or in person at an agency (five days). Requesting a 52-page passport is free, so it’s a good idea to go ahead and do that up front, regardless of how often you think you might travel.
Never had a passport before? Get one! It’ll open up a literal world of possibilities and costs the same $110 renewal fee.