Lonely Planet Writer

Americans: check your passports, renewal delays likely

Any travellers with a United States passport better check its expiration date and consider getting a renewal application in as soon as possible.

Passports required for some domestic US flights.
US Passport. Image by bryansblog / CC BY-SA 2.0

The US State Department is expecting an influx of applications as ten-year passports issued in 2006 and 2007 expire in the coming months. More applications came in those years, as the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative was introduced, which required Americans returning from Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Bermuda to have passports, reports the New York Times. The increase may mean longer wait times for anyone who needs to renew.

There is also a misconception among some that they need a passport to comply with the Real ID Act, which sets out regulations for what ID cards are acceptable forms of identification for boarding domestic flights. So far, five states – Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Washington – and American Samoa have yet to comply with the new regulations, leaving some travellers from those areas concerned that they need to get a passport soon.

However, the US State Department has recently clarified the issue, posting on its website that “right now, no individual needs to adjust travel plans, or rush out to get a new driver’s license or a passport for domestic air travel.  Until January 22, 2018, residents of all states will still be able to use a state-issued driver’s license or identification card for domestic air travel.”

Officials are expecting about 1.5 million more new passports and renewal applications this year than in 2015, reports the Times, hitting a total of 17 million.