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


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.


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



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!

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180 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. 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!

    1. That is an issue I am not familiar with. I would consult your doctor and then speak with the nearest passport agency. This information you can find online with a simple Google search.

    2. A letter from the doctor will be acceptable. You can mark the application with an X by the signature section. Worst case senario is making a personal appearance at a regional passport agency so they can verify the applicant.

  7. I understand that if you have an issue with the IRS that has not been resolved, that the State Dept. can refuse to issue or renew your passport? Is this true or not and could you reference any further information about this? Thanks!

  8. I send my passport to be renewed in February and I’m going to Aruba in May. Why haven’t I gotten it back by now?

    1. Passport applications have a very high turn around time this year due to a rise in the number of applicants and renewals. You can call a passport agency to check the status and see if they can expedite the process. If you need it expedited right away email me personally at [email protected] and I can set you up with our partner that handles passport issues.

    1. That is fantastic! This is because you applied at the very beginning of the year. People that are applying now are seeing much longer wait times. Great job on getting it done early!

    1. It depends on when you plan to travel. If you want to travel this year then no you will not need to renew. If you plan to travel overseas at the end of 2018, then yes you will need to have a renewed passport by then because it falls within the 6 month expiration after your expected return date.

  9. Leslie Catwright

    For a new passport with the chip, how long will they be active for? Is a passport still good for 10 years?

    1. I am not positive as to why they decided on fewer pages. Perhaps to keep the size more manageable as most people do not use even close to all of their pages. You can request additional pages if needed.

  10. I live in Oklahoma, no passport & travel to Houston by air several times a year. Will my Oklahoma drivers license be a good form of ID to fly?

  11. Passports have had the security chip for 10 years now.
    Renewed in March, wife and I received new passports in less then 3 weeks.

  12. My passport does not expire till January 2025 but I am wearing glasses on the passport picture. does the no glasses rule apply here?:::

    1. The ruling only applies to new passport photos. Passports that have already been issued will still be accepted. When you get your passport renewed in 2025 you will need to take a photo without glasses, unless you have a special note from a specialist.

  13. My passport expired in 2013 and I have since lost it. Can I just apply for a new one. Oh, and I live in Oklahoma too.

  14. I am traveling to Spain in June of this year and had heard that there was a recommendation by an advisory board to the EU that travelers from the US be required to have Visas for all EU countries. I believe this was in response for the US not accepting Visas from citizens in certain Eastern European countries wanting to travel to the US. I think two of the countries were Bulgaria and Romania. Do you know anything about this?

    1. What the EU did was announce they were going to revoke the long standing custom whereby Americans can travel freely throughout European countries for up to 90 days without a visa. However, there has not yet been a law enforcing this policy, so as of now you will not need a visa to travel to Europe. I am visiting Spain, the UK, and the Netherlands in June and am not required to obtain a visa.

  15. Barbara Salter

    Traveling to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia middle of October. Passport expires lat May, 2018. Do I need to renew passport? What are the rules for going to Canada?

    1. Your passport will expire within 6 months of your return date so I would recommend getting it renewed now to avoid any complications. Canada used to allow a state drivers license but now require a passport when crossing the border.

  16. My passport is 5 years old and in September I will be traveling to Germany and will be there for 1 year. Am I good??

  17. my passport expires in 2020 and my DL will still be valid when I travel to Germany and Italy in Sept 2017.. am i set to go ??

  18. So if we go for a renewal we have to take off our glasses for the picture?. Then we won’t look like ourselves

    1. This only applies to new applications and renewals. Starting Nov 1, 2016 glasses can be acceptable in passport photos only if there is a valid medical reason.

  19. I’m going to The Dominican Republic in may and my passport expires in July. Is this going to be a problem? I was not aware of this new rule

    1. Yes, double check, I had a friend fly to Ecuador w/out 6 months on her passport and was turned away. She had to go to Atlanta and expedite her renewal to join her group a few days later!

  20. My husband became a citizen in May 2016 and immediately applied for his first US passport, it took about 7 weeks. He renewed his Canadian passport last month and it took 3 weeks.

  21. DLJD. No wonder, Canada has a much smaller population than the US. The number v traveling is likely to be smaller.

  22. My passport doesn’t expire until 2024. I have a Louisiana lic . I wear glasses constantly and my passport pic shows me with glasses. Do I or should I renew ?

    1. If your passport does not expire until 2024 then there is no need to renew. The new rules regarding passport photos relate to new passports being issued, so your existing passport will be perfectly fine.

  23. Hello, i already have to renew my passport, i want to go to France this year in October for their chocolate festival. Im not much into computers i always mailed my passport renewals in. You said its like a backlog of requests now. If i mail for my passport now do you think i will get it before October? Now if i have to pay extra in the mail to have it delivered to me faster im okay with it as long as it comes before October. So do you think i’ll get it before October the regular way, the rush way, or i wont get it at all before October if i mail it in like usual?

    1. Leaving in October should allow plenty of time to have your passport renewed. I would send it in now to be safe but you should have absolutely no problems getting it back before you leave.

  24. If my current passport has a picture with me wearing glasses, will I be required to get a new passport?

  25. Doris Chakeres

    My passport is due to expire in December 2017 and I’m going to Aruba June 30th. Do I need to renew my passport?

    1. For travel to Aruba you will need a valid passport for the entire duration of your trip, so if you are going in June and will be back before December then you will be fine. Some countries require that the passport be valid for 6 months after departure date, but this is not the case for Aruba.

  26. Doris Chakeres

    Who do I call to see if I need to renew my passport? I’m going to Aruba in June and mine expires in December.

  27. Sandee Pinkerton

    Hi! My passport doesn’t expire until 2022…. but if they are putting the chips in them and they’re changing, can I just go ahead and renew it now?

    1. The new security features are being implemented for new passports. All existing passports will still be accepted until their expiry date. So you are good until 2022!

  28. I renewed my passport in 2010 so it’s not set to expire until 2020. Do I have to get a new one now?

    1. You will not need to renew your passport now. I always allow 1-2 years before extirpation date to get mine renewed so I would recommend having it renewed in 2018 or 2019.

  29. Renewed my passport in 2015, and I’m wearing glasses in the picture. Do I need to renew without glasses now, or is my current passport (expiring 2025) still good until then?

    1. No you will not need to renew your passport at this time. The new glasses rule only applies to new passports being issued, so all existing valid passports will still be accepted no problem!

    1. If your passport does not expire until 2019 then no you will have no problem. The REAL ID Act pertains to using your driver license as a means of ID for domestic flights. You are using your passport to visit a foreign country so no problem there.

  30. I live in chicago illnois my passport is expired do I need a passport to go to orlando florida from chicago illnois

  31. Hi I live in chicago illinois my passport is expired do I need a passport to go to orlando florida from chicago illinois

    1. Hi Ramen, it looks like Illinois residents have an extension until Oct 2017 to continue using their driver license for domestic flights. When do you plan to travel to Orlando?

  32. Im 12 years old im going to orlando florida August 21 2017 do I need a passport to go to orlando florida from chicago illinois in the airplane?

  33. 1. As a California resident, I was instructed to send my passport renewal documents and payment to a passport processing center in Texas. I sent my documents on July 1 or so. I received my new passport on July 17. Does that mean that the Texas processing center is not as busy as others?
    2. Why is it taking some states longer to comply with the requirements of REAL ID Act? My current state, California, is one of the states that have yet to be in compliance. Meanwhile, my native Hawaii is among those already in compliance. (YAY, Hawaii!)

    1. 1. Yes, every center has different processing times. It also makes a difference when you apply for your renewal. Many areas are experiencing much longer wait times than normal, but some are moving smoothly.
      2. The individual state legislature is in charge of complying with the REAL ID ACT. Some states are opposed to the bill and therefore have not yet passed it on the state level.

  34. My passport expires in March of 2018 and I know I should have it renewed 6 months in advance, however, I am currently waiting for my name change documents which will arrive in November of 2017. I don’t have any immediate plans to travel abroad so would it be ok if I applied for a passport renewal in November or December once I get my name changed instead of applying now, then having to change my name afterwards?

  35. Applied for a first-time passport end of July in Florida, approaching the end of November and it’s still listed as “processing”, called and they gave no alert to any issues just said it’s still “processing”, need I be concerned?

  36. I am renewing an expired passport (issued 2000) so I can travel to Europe in May 2018. I am also moving to a new home Jan 30th (new address). Is this going to be a problem having my old (current) address on the passport? I am not sure I should wait till end of Jan to get the new passport.

  37. I have a question I got my passport and I have my travel dates that I will be out of the country but if I need to change those dates let’s say move it back a month so if I was going to leave the country for 30 days from March to April but need to change it from April to may do I have to renew my passport for that or does that matter if I just push the trip back one additional month does anyone know if the dates of travel on the passport matter?

    1. Hi Daniel, thanks for your question. You really need to have the passport be valid for 6 months after you return from any foreign country. I would recommend getting your passport renewed.

  38. Donna Cleveland

    There is a new requirement that you should not wear glasses in your passport photos. Does this apply to passports that are still valid but issued before this guideline was implemented?

    1. Hi Donna, thank you for comment. No, this does not apply to passports that are already issued. You will simply be required to remove your glasses in your official photo when you renew your passport. Hope that helps!

  39. I have not used my current passport acquired in Dec 2015. My glasses show a yellow tint caused by the flash.
    Even though my passport is valid, I am concerned about my travel to Thailand.
    Will the yellow tint cause a problem!

    1. Larry, no you will be fine. These rules will apply to new passports so existing valid passports will be perfectly acceptable. But, it’s always good to bring another photo ID with you. Thank you for your comment!

  40. I wrote on page 4 of my passport by pencil and it leaves the mark on page 3. Is it considered damaged?!? My passport is still okay to use?!!

  41. My husband and I renewed our passports last year and they don’t expire till 2029 but a friend said we need to renew them again as there has been another makeover is that correct.

  42. I will be traveling – I hope – to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico 10/2/20 – 10/11/20 and my passport expires in March of 2021, before 10/11/20 + 6 months. Will my current passport be okay, or must I renew it?

    Please advise.


  43. My daughter has a flight for Italy in June. She applied March 5, 2020 for her passport. She has not received it yet. They say they are not processing passports because of Covd19. Will they refund her her fee if her flight gets canceled and she still doesnt have a passport to go?

  44. steven a woodyard

    With the six month rule in place, would it mean one will have to renew every six months?

    Steve W

    1. Passports are valid up to 10 years so you would not have to renew. The 6 six month rule applies to ensuring your passport is valid 6 months after you return from your visit. So for example if your passport expires 10/10/20 and you return from a scheduled overseas trip on 9/10/20 then you would have issues because your passport is not valid for 6 months upon return home. It’s wise to renew your passport more than 6 months before it actually expires just to be safe.

  45. I am a US citizen visiting Canada would like to stay till after Christmas but my passport is going to expire January 28 am I able to stay will I be able to get back in my country buck platt

    I am a US citizen visiting Canada would like to stay till after Christmas but my passport is going to expire January 28 am I able to stay will I be able to get back in my country

    1. Thank you for your question. As it stands today, most foreign nationals are not being admitted into Canada due to Covid. There are some exceptions but leisure travel is at present not allowed for foreign travelers into Canada. I would check this to be sure before you make your journey as you may be denied at the border.

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