US Passport Rules are Changing

What You Need to Know Before Traveling With Your Passport

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Beginning January 22, 2018, there will be new requirements when it comes to what type of ID you need when traveling by air—both domestically and outside the U.S. This is due to the REAL ID Act, implemented by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). You will now be expected to apply for a passport when flying out of certain states, so if you don't yet have one, now is the time to do so. 

Here's what else you can expect to happen in the world of American passports over the coming months and years.

 

Expect Passport Applications to Take Longer in 2017

Major changes to passports were put in place in 2007, resulting in a surge of passport applications that year. Because passports last for 10 years, this means these passports are now expiring, making 2017 a popular year for renewals. 

Due to this, passport applications and renewals are in high demand, creating a backlog and making the processing time longer than usual. In addition, passports themselves have changed. So if your passport is expiring soon, don't wait until the last minute or you risk not receiving your passport in time to travel.

Where You Need a Passport

AS of late 2017, you'll want to bring your passport for every foreign country you intend to visit, including Canada and Mexico. U.S. territories -- ​Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and North Mariana Islands -- are not foreign countries and therefore do not require you to have a passport.

You also need a U.S. passport to enter back into the United States from any foreign country, so make sure you keep it with you (or locked up) at all times while you're traveling.

From 2018, depending on which state you are departing from, you may be required to show a passport to fly domestically, due to the REAL ID Act.

All children, regardless of age, are required to have a passport to fly internationally. 

Passport Photo Rules Have Recently Changed

From November 2016, you are no longer allowed to wear eye glasses in your passport photo, unless it's for medical reasons. If that's the case, you'll need to get a note from your doctor and submit that with your passport application. In the last 12 months, the State Department has begun refusing thousands of passport applications due to the poor quality of passport photos, so do make sure that yours abide by all of the rules in order to be approved on the first try. 

Passports are Now More Secure

In July 2016, passports received a makeover, including the installation of a computer-readable chip that contains the traveler's biometric data. This new technology helps to increase security and lower the risk of fraud. Additionally, there is more advanced technology due to arrive in the coming years, according to the State Department. 

The newly designed passport has a protective coating on the outer blue cover, which acts to protect it against water damage and more. The book is then less likely to warp or bend. It also contains fewer pages that previous U.S. passports, which is disappointing for the frequent travelers among us.

 

You Can No Longer Add Pages to Your Passport

From the 1st January 2016, Americans can no longer add extra pages to their passport. Instead, you will have to apply for a new passport whenever your current one is full. Unfortunately, new passports are more expensive than adding extra pages, so this works out to be more expensive for travelers who travel frequently. 

Passport Application Requirements

To apply for a passport, you will need to have certain forms of ID, a passport photo, and the application forms filled out and printed (which you can do online or by hand). You must apply in person if any of the following is true: this is your first passport; your passport was lost or stolen; you are under the age of 16; your previous passport was issued when you were younger than 16; your previous passport is over 15 years old.

If you said no to any of the above, you may be eligible to renew by mail

Passport Renewal Requirements

You can renew your passport unless it was issued before you were 16 years old; issued more than 15 years ago; damaged, lost, or stolen; or if you changed your name since and don't have a legal document proving the legal name change. If you are eligible for a renewal you can do so by mail—make sure you have all of the forms filled out, the proper ID, and a passport photo. 

 

This article has been edited and updated by Lauren Juliff