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U.S. Passport Rules Have Changed – Here is What You Need to Know

Updated April 7, 2020

Passport changes have come in last year, and if you plan on traveling in the future you need to be well-versed in these changes. While it is normally easy to acquire or renew a passport, 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.

URGENT UPDATE: The original date of 2020 for the Real I.D. Act to come into effect across the U.S. has been pushed back 1 year. Read more here on the REAL ID ACT.

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Renew your passport now

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You can expect a longer wait for passport applications and renewals starting this year.  There were over 20 million passport renewal requests last year and more are expected this year.  

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.

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You will have to comply with the Real I.D. Act

The REAL ID Act, came into effect  January of 2018 and 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 if their state does not adjust to the new standards or have an extension.

Tip: According to the Department of Homeland Security, after 2020, absolutely all travelers on U.S. domestic flights must comply with the REAL ID Act.

How do I know if I am Real I.D. compliant?
How do I get a Real I.D.?

What it is, how to get it, and what you will need is all laid out in this article.

There are 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

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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.

Learn More: Get Your Passport Quick and Easy with Rush My Passport

New security features are being introduced

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.

There is a lot to know, plan, and prepare for when you’re traveling abroad. If you are planning a trip to Europe, you can easily ensure you have all the expert information to have the ultimate European experience with a Guidester – a personal travel guide built just for you!

How can Guidester help you? 
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196 thoughts on “U.S. Passport Rules Have Changed – Here is What You Need to Know”

  1. I don’t get it. Why do I need a new one if mine doesn’t expire for another year? Is Missouri one of the state’s whose issued passports won’t be honored? In other words, is my current passport NOW no good for traveling?

    1. It all depends when you travel. If your passport expires March of 2018 and you travel out of the country December of this year, then you will not able to travel. This is because your passport must be valid 6 months AFTER you return from out of the country. Also, starting Jan of 2018 Missouri licenses will no longer be accepted on domestic flights. So you will need a passport just to fly in the U.S. next year.

        1. To be safe I think it would be wise to apply now and make sure that you have it well in advance. I’m sure it won’t take nearly that long to get it but it’s always good to be prepared!

      1. I’ve been waiting for my renewed passport for 15weeks. I submitted it on 5/23. They received it on 5/27 and cashed my check on 5/29. Today is 9/11 and I’ve yet to receive it. I’ve made 3 phone calls only to get the same response “we will send a message to the State Dept.”.

      2. Hey Jack,

        I have heard that US passport will have a new look & design, and added security features in 2020. I have check a few recently returned passports of a few friends. they are still the same, i see now changes whatsoever. Does that mean the changes have not been implemented yet?

        1. Mostly the upgraded passports have to do with added security features. I believe you also get a choice as to stick with the standard size passport or go with a new larger one.

    2. If you have travel plans don’t wait.
      I paid for expedited processing and it didn’t matter.
      The department of State got my application on 5/28 and as of today 7/1 my application still shows as “precessing” with no information about when I should get my new Passport (tried calling and they have no updates) I have been checking online as well with no further information.

        1. Yes, one of the reasons for longer processing times is millions of Americans are in the 10 year renew period that applied for passports around 2010. So all those passports are coming up for renewal this year.

      1. One month prior to departure is cutting it too close. Before Covid, passport renewals were taking 4-6 weeks, but now it’s much longer so I would send your passport in for renewal earlier.

    1. Hi there! We put in an application for renewal since Feb and have yet to receive them. I suggest you get started asap. Best of Luck!

  2. Are compliant drivers licenses enough to cross the border to Canada? Also, is the second sentence of the opening paragraph correct? “…if their state does adjust…” or is it if their state does not adjust…?

    1. They used to be, but the Canadian border is now requiring passports to cross the border. If a state does not adjust to the REAL ID Act by January of 2018 then those state residents will require a passport to fly domestically.

      1. Hold up. I’ve heard nothing about Enhanced Driver’s Licenses not being valid for crossing the border. I’m assuming that’s what “compliant” is referring to here. This would have been national news in Canada.

  3. My birth certificate has my first name as Tammy. Never ever have I used that spelling. My drivers license. Marriage, divorced and taxes, school revords are all Tami. Will this cause problems?

    1. It depends when your passport expires. If your passport does not expire for 5+ years then I would say you are ok to travel in the next 2-3 years. I tend to stay on the safe side and make sure there is at least 2 years between when I want to travel and my passport expiration.

    1. I am not positive, but I believe it depends on what the warrant was issued for. If it was a federal crime and it has not been resolved, then yes you will have a problem getting a passport. If it was simply a local crime then no I do not believe that would impact a federally issued ID application.

  4. Bonnie Scheidel

    I am an American citizen but live in the UK. What is the status with my passport then? It expires in 2021? Can I get it renewed a year in advance?

  5. My husband and son both had their passport pictures taken last year in February when we got our passports and both have to wear glasses (legally blind without). Does that mean their passports are not valid?

      1. Hi. In regard to this response about the glasses, are they able to carry a letter from their optometrist stating they’re required to wear glasses in order for this to pass?
        For example, I can wear glasses and contacts but typically choose to wear contacts. I have a family member whose passport expires in 2023 and she is wearing glasses in hers. I guess she can continue to travel with that passport as long as she has a letter from her optometrist? Thank you.

        1. If the passport was issued by the Federal Government there is no need to carry the letter with her. Glasses only present a problem when you go to apply or renew for your passport. But, hers is already issues so unless there is a name change she does not need to update anything.

  6. Nice, but how about lower the cost for renewal fee, last time I paid $190.00. Per person, paid $390.00 for me and my husband, could not afford to renew another 2 for my children..for a family of 4 is $ 760.00! To much!