Lonely Planet Writer

Why US travellers are being urged to renew their passports immediately

The State Department have warned that they expect a huge surge in applications and have urged travellers in need of US passport renewal to get their applications in early.

Millions are expected to apply for their US passport renewal soon.
Millions are expected to apply for their US passport renewal soon. Image by jpmatth / CC BY 2.0

In 2007, millions of people applied for passports after a change in legislation meant that passports were mandatory for all travel between the USA and Canada, the Caribbean and Mexico. Most of these were valid for ten years, which means they’re all up for renewal in 2017. In addition, many people who do not hold a US passport yet – which make up approximately 55% of the population- may be applying for one soon. A recent change in federal law means that everyone flying on domestic American flights will have to carry ID with data chips. While many State IDs have already been updated to reflect this change, some – including Missouri and Maine – have yet to update them and it’s unclear whether they will before 2017’s new rules roll around. Frequent travellers may have to apply for a passport for their domestic flights if they don’t want to be refused at the gates.

Some of the new rules for US passport renewal include not wearing glasses in your photo.
Some of the new rules for US passport renewal include not wearing glasses in your photo. Image by US State Department

Passport renewals take on average six weeks but travellers are advised that wait times could be increased in the coming months. You should also take note of the visa requirements of the country you’re looking to visit; many require that your passport is valid for up to six months after your visit, so you might need to renew sooner than you think. When getting a photo taken for your new passport, you should also familiarise yourself with the new rules. From November 2016, people who wear glasses will have to remove them for their passport photos. If you have glasses on in your existing passport, this change won’t affect you until it’s time to apply for a new one.

You can apply for a new passport and read through the new passport requirements here.