How do you spell travel? Well, if it’s out of the country, then it’s P-A-S-S-P-O-R-T. If you or your family don’t have passports or need to renew them in 2016, a perfect storm is brewing of many factors that may slow down the process of getting this vital travel identification. Factor this in to your travel plans and you are golden. Forget it and you may find yourself out in the cold.
Why Passport Process May Be Entering the Perfect Storm
The perfect storm is converging in the world of passports. On the one hand, the State Department is expecting a flood of renewals of 10-year passports for people who received theirs in the 2006-2007 time range. The New York Times reports that 2007 saw many more applications because of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which required Americans returning by air from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda to have passports.
Add into the mix the spike in first-time applicants from states that have not complied with the Real ID Act (Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Washington and American Samoa). Despite the deadline having been extended to January 22, 2018, the rush of applicants applying anyway from these states is adding to the volume.
The third part of this perfect storm is the fact that the technical requirement of traveling on a US passport with at least six months’ validity is being enforced in many countries, resulting in distraught travelers being denied entry. I can say that even re-entering the US from the Caribbean in October, the customs agent warned me that my passport had less than 6 months remaining. So border agents are on the lookout!
The net result: The New York Times says that State Department officials anticipate 17 million new passports and renewals this year, 1.5 million more than in 2015. The projections are that renewals will take up to 6 weeks, compared to 4 weeks last year.
Words to the Wise
Be Prepared. The famous motto of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts rings true. If you need a passport renewal or a new passport, get moving. If not, be patient and don’t submit yet and create an even bigger backlog.
I recently submitted passport renewals for myself and my son. Both were set to expire this year-mine in January and his in July. The steps to follow for 10-year passport renewal are all online. I was able to submit my passport renewal by mail, and the cost was $ 110.
I will admit, even though I saved the $ 25 processing fee, I am still a bit nervous doing this by mail because I hope I did everything on the application correctly. Incidentally, when I went to a local FedEx copy center to get my passport photos, the clerk remarked he has seen an increase in the demand for passport photos. Or you could read this post about How to Create Your Own Passport Photo for Free (or Cheap). I could have saved close to $15!
For my son, I had to set an appointment at the local post office for my son, myself, and my husband. The entire appointment took less than 15 minutes, including his passport photos. His renewal was $ 80, plus additional $ 25 handling fee and $ 15 for passport photos.
First time applicants must submit in person at a designated post office, court or other agency. The fee is $135.
Make Your Travel Plans Accordingly. If in doubt, you can always pay for expedited delivery for $ 60 and receive your passport in three weeks door to door (when applicant chooses two-way Express Delivery) or expedited at agency based on need (8 business days). Even with expedited delivery, snafus can happen, so don’t despair. What To Do When Your Expedited Passport Doesn’t Arrive in Time to the rescue! And buy travel insurance as a backup plan in case the ever-important passport hasn’t arrived in time.