Passport changes are coming, and if you plan on traveling in the future you need to know what passport changes are in store. While it is normally easy to acquire or renew a passport if and when you plan a trip, the State Department says there’s about to be a massive backlog of passport applications. Plus, passports themselves are going to change. Here’s what you should know about both the expected passport application delays and the passport changes coming in the years ahead.
Renew your passport now
You can expect a longer wait for passport applications and renewals starting this year. There were 14.5 million passport renewal requests last year and 20 million requests are expected in 2017 and 2018. You can find detailed instructions on how to renew or apply for your passport online through the State Department. Many people are also unaware of the 6-month validity rule that many countries have adopted, including almost all countries in Europe. If you arrive in one of these countries and your passport is set to expire in the next 6 months, you may be denied entry. All the more reason to work on getting your passport renewed as soon as possible.
The Real I.D. Act
The REAL ID Act, passed in 2005 and coming into effect January of 2018, established a set of federal security standards for state driver’s licenses that require specific information and machine-readable technology. Travelers using IDs issued by certain states could be turned away at the gate beginning in 2017, if their state does not adjust to the new standards or have an extension. According to the Department of Homeland Security, after 2020, absolutely all travelers on U.S. domestic flights must comply with the REAL ID Act.
Stricter rules for application
As of November, 2016 glasses are no longer allowed in passport photos. The State Department sent away thousands of applications due to poor passport photos, so make sure that you adhere to rules and guidelines for passport photos.
Tip: Glasses are still allowed for medical conditions. Simply send along a doctor’s note with your application.
Passports are getting a makeover, inside and out
A new passport makeover was introduced in July of 2016, and perhaps the biggest change is a new chip being installed inside passports. The chip is featured on the information page, will be machine-readable, and contains key biometric data on each traveler. There are other changes as well, such as fewer passport pages. The new passport will also be sealed with a special coating which will protect the book from getting wet and keep it from bending.
New security features
Passports will now include added technology to ensure security and decrease fraud. Catching up with many other countries, U.S. passport changes mean that new passports will include a data chip that can provide all your personal info upon scanning it onto a computer. According to the State Department there will be even more advanced technological features and forensic devices coming in the future.