If you are a frequent overseas traveler you may want to check your US passport’s expiration date. The Department of State (DOS) is anticipating a surge in passport demand this year. The department is expecting to handle applications for more than 17 million new passports and renewals this year alone, about 1.5 million more than 2015. Due to security concerns and international passport standards, as of January 1, 2016, DOS will no longer issue additional blank pages for passports. In addition to this new US policy, the anticipated increase in applications is triggered by the fact that foreign countries are enforcing higher security measures which require at least six months’ validity for all passports, as well as stricter standards for driver licenses and other identity cards in some states, making a passport one of the only acceptable alternative forms of official identification. DOS officials hope to avoid delays and are urging Americans with passports expiring any time in 2016 to renew as soon as possible. Passports are valid for 10 years, though in practice they can be less useful in the final year because many countries require that passports be valid for six months for security purposes as well as for visa issuance.
If you have a US passport expiring in 2016 and prefer to avoid the wait and frustration of large backlogs, renew it now! Renewals take about six weeks and can be submitted by mail or in person. Expedited handling is available but may be suspended if DOS becomes overwhelmed. Be reminded that DOS will return an applicant’s old passport with the newly issued passport. Although the old passport will be canceled, any unused or unexpired visas from foreign countries in the old book will still be valid. Travelers should attach the old passport to the new one to assure that the proper visas are presented during travel.