If you are a frequent overseas traveler, you may want to check your U.S. passport expiration. The Department of State (DOS) is anticipating a surge in passport demand this year. The department is expecting more than 17 million applications for 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 no longer issues additional blank pages for passports. This new policy, along with 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 in some states for driver licenses and other identity cards making a passport one of the only acceptable alternative forms of I.D., are all contributing to the increase in application numbers. 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, as mentioned, many countries require a passport valid for six months for security purposes as well as for visa issuance.
If you have a U.S. passport expiring in 2016 and prefer to avoid the wait and frustration of large backlogs, renew it now! First time passport seekers must submit the application in person at a designated post office, court or other agency. 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. A note of caution: any unused or unexpired visas from foreign countries in a canceled passport will still be valid. Travelers who have renewed should attach their old passport to the new one to assure that the proper visas are presented during travel.