If you are citizens of the United States, you need to renew your passports as soon as possible
The US Government expects its citizens to have the most up to date passports for travel both inside and outside of the country.
During 2005, the US Congress passed the REAL ID Act. These upgraded security expectations resulted from the horror that the American people witnessed on 9/11. Congress demanded that States in the US must update security features on identification such as driving licenses and passports.
Without the most up-to-date passport, you may find that you have no permission to travel. Not only this, if your passport has less than six months validity left, many foreign countries will not let you in. Moreover, this includes most of Europe.
The Bureau of Consular Affairs has recommended that you renew your passport as soon as possible. They estimate that they will experience huge delays in processing this year.
Last year, the Bureau had to process 14.5 million passport applications. However this year, that number will spike to 20 million. The reason being that in 2007 they issued over 18 million passports following the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.
So if you wish to travel at any time this year, you must act immediately to make sure your passport aligns with all the new requirements. Furthermore, this is because it is also necessary for domestic travel in the US.
Despite most US citizens being permitted to travel domestically with their driver’s licenses, this does not apply to all states. The citizens of states that have failed to comply with the REAL ID Act will not be able to use Drivers Licenses for travel. The reason for this is because no proof of residency is required to obtain them. As an alternative, citizens of these states will need to have the most up-to-date passport.
Updated Security Features
The government is implementing many updated security features to US passports. These will include the following:
- Data Chips. These contain an electronic record of all the data on your passport, including your passport picture. Data chips remove the likelihood of thieves swapping your picture for theirs if they steal your passport and try to use it.
- No Glasses. From now on, all new passport photos will not be allowed to feature a face obstructed by glasses. So, if you are Clark Kent, everyone who now sees your passport will know you are Superman.
- Thinner passports. If you are a frequent traveler, you will likely need to renew your passport more frequently. From now on, you will not be able to apply for the 24-page visa inserts to increase the space in your passport.
- Upgraded security design. New passports will contain some security elements within the design. Polycarbonate creates a physical and tactile element in the intricate designs. Color-shifting ink will reveal different hues depending on the angle one looks at a passport page. Essentially, this makes the passports impossible to counterfeit.
- Waterproof. The polycarbonate coating also acts to make the passport waterproof. It also inhibits the passport’s ability to be bent. Consequently, your passport is less likely to become damaged.
How to renew your passport
If you and your children’s passports are set to expire within six months of your travel plans, you must act now.
To renew your passport, you can do this online or go in person to the post office, or another eligible agency. Please make sure you have the following at the time of renewal:
- Previous US passport
- Passport photo with no obstruction to your face, for example, no glasses
- Another form of government issued ID that contains your picture.
- If your passport is older than 15 years, you need to present a couple of pictures to show how your appearance has changed with age.
- Any name changes you have had will require proof via official documentations such as marriage certificates.
- You will need to bring your fee of $135.
- You will need your completed DS-11 form. It is important you leave it unsigned until you are instructed to do so by a consulate official.