With international travel on an upswing among cruisers, getting a passport is on the to-do list for a lot of travelers. Lately, there have been a lot of changes and things you need to be aware of when getting ready to apply (or renew) your passport. Here, we’ve gathered six of them so the process is as smooth as possible for you.
1. The Price Could Go Up
If your passport expires soon, now is the time to renew under the current cost. Currently, the price of a passport is $135 ($110 application fee + $25 acceptance fee). With new protocols like REAL ID Act coming and new data chips rolling out, the increase will be passed on to you.
2. Surge in Passport Applications
The number of expiring passports goes back to 2007 when the federal Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative law was signed and put into effect by the 9/11 Commission, requiring valid US passports for air travel to Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda.
Over the next year, there will be a surge in passport renewals with people who got passports in 2007. This could backlog the application approval process. If you’re going to get a passport, you may want to apply sooner rather than later. According to the passport office, they see the biggest surge of applicants in March. The typical passport processing time is six weeks.
3. Protected Data Chip inside Passport
The passport will get a facelift by putting a protected data chip inside of your booklet; this will protect your passport and the chip containing your sensitive information. This will also help protect you if your passport is lost or stolen, helping eliminate identity theft.
4. Many Passport Design Changes
According to Conde Nast Traveler, Sometime in 2017, the passport number will also be laser cut as tapered, perforated holes through pages—just one of several components of the next-generation passport. You’ll also see artwork upgrades, and new security features such as a watermarks. Some designs on pages will be raised, and ink could appear to be different colors.
5. You Can No Longer Wear Glasses in Photos
Applicants must now remove their glasses for their passport photos. Why? Last year, over 200,000 passport applicants submitted poor quality photos or other non-compliant ones, which delayed their application process. This change means that those that really need their passport or visa quickly, will have a better chance at a faster process when they need it.
6. Take Your Passport Photo with an App
Passport Photo Creator – which is available for iOS devices and Android users – allows you to skip the lines and take your own passport photo. Using biometric technology, the app analyzes each photo and notifies you within seconds of whether or not your photo is compliant with U.S. Department of State passport photo regulations.
Details, pricing, and passport regulations can be found on the Department of States’ website.