The U.S. Department of State is expecting an increase in passport applications through 2018. This comes as a result of the 2007 Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) that mandated that U.S. citizens entering the U.S. by air or land from Bermuda, Canada, the Caribbean and Mexico must have a valid passport in order to gain entry. Because of the timing of WHTI, those new passports issued in 2007 (over 18 million) are expiring, causing an influx in renewal applications and a slowdown in processing times.
DO YOU CURRENTLY HAVE A PASSPORT?
First things first, check the expiration date! Based on when you got it and the timing of all of this, it could be expiring this year. It’s important to know the expiration date because many countries require travelers to have at least 6 months of remaining validity on their passport in order to gain entry.
So for instance if your traveling to St. Lucia in September and your passport expires in July, than you would not be allowed to enter the country. You should renew your passport as soon as possible and, based on processing times, even push back the travel dates to be sure you’ll have your renewed passport when you depart. Always ask your travel professional if you are unclear on the documents you will need to provide when traveling.
Passport renewals can be done by mail if you meet the criteria, which is clearly outlined by the U.S. Department of State. Renewals can also be done in person if you do not meet the criteria to renew by mail. And if your departure date is sooner than you thought, renewals can be expedited for an additional cost.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO APPLY FOR OR RENEW A PASSPORT?
The routine processing time for new passports or renewals is estimated at 4 to 6 weeks, but can be expedited to 3 weeks for an additional fee. The processing time may also vary based on demand, as stated above we are looking at an extreme influx of renewals this coming year. Peak season, which can also slow down processing times, is from January to August. Off-peak season is from September to December. If you can wait until off-peak season to apply for or renew a passport, we recommend that you do so unless your passport expires in 2018, then we recommend doing it as soon as you can.
HOW MUCH DOES A PASSPORT COST?
The cost of a new passport for an adult is $135. The cost of a renewal of an adult passport is $110. A passport for a minor (anyone under the age of 16) costs $105.
Passport cards, which are different than a passport, are less expensive but can only be used for international trips by land and sea – they are not valid for international air travel. To learn more about passport cards, visit the Department of State’s passport card page.
The Department of State’s website has even more information on passport applications and renewals. But when working on applying for a new passport or renewing an existing one, the best advice is to plan ahead and be prepared with the correct documents. No one wants to have their vacation delayed because of passport issues.