The Significance of a Passport in the U.S. in 2017
As a result of the 9/11 attacks, a piece of travel legislation was enacted that made American Passports a necessity when traveling to and from Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean in 2007. As a result, millions of U.S. travelers obtained their 10-year passport credentials. And as of this year, all those passports are about to expire, which may result in a log-jam of passport renewals in 2017. Here are some tidbits you should keep in mind regarding passports, especially if you have to renew your passport like I do. In addition, additional legislation is being launched that may require needing a passport even for domestic travel too.
Passport Book vs. Passport Card
You may be wondering about your passport expiration date right now. If you are thinking about taking a vacation outside of the United States, keep in mind that it can take up to 6-weeks, not county any unforeseen delays, to get your passport renewed. You may also wonder, if you can save a few pennies and just get that passport card instead. It’s smaller and will fit into your purse or carry-on bag better. Let’s compare the two, because it all depends on HOW you will travel that will determine whether you need one, the other or maybe even both.
Both the passport book and the passport card expire after 10 years for those 16 years of age or older. However, you must pay close attention to your kids passports as they expire after 5 years (more about this later.) The passport card is small like a credit card but looks more like a driver’s license. The initial cost to purchase one is $55 and the cost to renew is $30. However, it will only allow you to cross by land in Mexico or Canada or into a seaport in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Bermuda. You will not be able to use a passport card for air travel outside of the United States.
A passport book has a lot of pages for visas, and arrival/departure stamps. This is the passport credential that covers all bases. The initial cost of a passport book is $135 and is $110 to renew. It is what the U.S. government requires that allows you to travel to a foreign country and return to the United States. Keep in mind there are some countries that require a visa in addition to a passport book. Your travel professional can assist you with identifying the countries that require visas.
As you can see a passport book is advantageous if you are flying to countries outside of the United States. However, if you are booking a lot of Cruises or traveling by land into Canada or Mexico, then perhaps a passport card is all you need. Meanwhile, you can save money if you prefer to have a passport book and card. You can purchase them together for $165 with a renewal fee of $140.
New Security Features
Believe it or not, passports now include technology to assist with security and reduce fraud. This means that new passports will include a chip that provides all your personal information to a computer. As a result, your former 52-page passport book will be lighter and is reduced to 28 pages, unless you opt for more.
Children’s Passports – Better Double Check
As we mentioned earlier, passport books and cards for children under the age of 16 expire after 5 years. Keep in mind that some countries expect your passport to not expire for at least 6 months after your return date back to the United States. Mexico is definitely one of those countries that has this requirement. One last tidbit, and this is a pain, is that there is more paperwork associated with your children’s passport credentials, like consent forms and parent-child relationships, than those for adults. So check your children’s passport information often and early. So, when you are thinking of booking a trip outside of the United States and bringing your children with you, remember to double check your children’s passport book and card expiration dates.
How to Renew Your Passport
For those ages 16 and older a passport can be renewed online through the State Department. Or it can be renewed in person at a local agency like your local post office or Department of Motor Vehicles. However, make sure you follow instructions carefully. For example, as of November 1, 2016 you can no longer wear glasses in your passport photo. If you do, it could delay the process. If you do have a photo with your glasses on, simply obtain another photo and resubmit to the Department of State.
Using the photo requirements will keep your passport from being rejected or delayed. More than 200,000 passport applications in 2015 were rejected because of bad photos. Here are some passport photo tips:
- Photos should be against a neutral backdrop
- Over or underexposed photos are rejected
- Photos should have been taken within the past six months
- The image MUST BE the right size, neither too large or too small
- Photos must be of high resolution
For more specific passport and photo information visit the Department of State by clicking here.
New Federal ID Travel Law – READ ID
One of the newest federal laws is the READ ID Act that will soon be enforced throughout the United Sates. This could mean that your driver’s license may not be valid form of ID, even for domestic travel, if your state’s technology is lagging behind. This is where your passport book or card will definitely come in handy.
If your State is lagging behind and has not upgraded its technology you could be turned away at the gate starting in 2018. As of December 2016, the states that may not be in compliant with this new Federal Law, are: Kentucky, Maine, Montana, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Minnesota, Missouri, and Washington. Some states have had their deadline extended but everyone must be in compliance by 2020. Frequent travelers worried that their state won’t comply in time may go ahead and renew or acquire a passport instead. For a current list of compliance, visit the Homeland Security website by clicking here.
The REAL ID, is a federal security standard for state driver’s licenses that was passed in 2005. It allows machine-readable technology to read a chip on your state driver’s license. Some states are having trouble with compliance because of not having money in the budget to switch to the new technology. And other states are out right refusing to upgrade to the new technology.
So you are aware, here are some important dates to consider regarding this new federal law for travel:
- January 22, 2018: The official date the READ ID Act will be enforced.
- October 1, 2020: This is the date by when “every air traveler will need a REAL ID-compliant license, or another acceptable form of identification, for domestic air travel.”
So as you can see, the events of 9/11 has changed the way we travel. To keep America safe, new rules for travel have been enacted for our own protection from terrorists or unsavory characters. So, whether you plan to travel outside of the United States or not, it may be a good time to consider either a passport book, passport card or both. If you have any further questions about passports books, passport cards, visas, or READ ID, please contact me! At Violet Clover Travel Group at 1-216-236-8450.