US & World

Need to renew your passport? Don't procrastinate

Almost a decade after tighter U.S. passport rules kicked in, federal officials are expecting a crush of renewal applications.
Almost a decade after tighter U.S. passport rules kicked in, federal officials are expecting a crush of renewal applications.
Photo by clappstar via Flickr Creative Commons

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If your passport is set to expire soon, it might be a good idea to renew it sooner rather than later. That's because the U.S. State Department is expecting a crush of passport applications soon that could lead to backlogs and force some would-be travelers to stay home if they wait too long.

Here’s why: In 2007, new federal rules kicked in that required U.S. citizens traveling by air to Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Bermuda to have their passports in order to re-enter the country. The following year, passports were required for those returning via land and sea. These travelers were given the option to use a less expensive passport card, which can be used only to come back to the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda at land border crossings or at sea ports of entry.

Until the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative took effect, passport and passport cards weren't required for American citizens re-entering the U.S. from visits to Mexico and Canada, for example. The change led to a huge jump in passport applications as travelers hurried to comply. More than 12 million people received U.S. passports in fiscal year 2006, according to the State Department, and a record 18 million passports were issued in fiscal year 2007.

Since many of these 10-year passports are expiring soon, a similarly enormous demand for renewals is expected, according to an emailed statement from the State Department:

We expect that 17.4 million passport applications will be received in Fiscal Year 2016, and 20.9 million in Fiscal Year 2017, and 20.5 million in Fiscal Year 2018. 

With so many applications in the works, federal officials are warning people who wish to renew passports not to procrastinate. A good chunk of the demand will likely come from California. The State Department says California has more passport holders — a whopping 2 million — than any other state.

The good news is passport renewal can be done through the mail. If you have a regular U.S. passport set to expire soon, it will cost you $110 to renew.

Check out the State Department's website for more passport information.