The Passport Crisis Is Heating Up: What Travel Agents Need to Know
by Cheryl Rosen
The Passport Crisis Is Heating Up: What Travel Agents Need to Know

If your passport is expiring this year, you better renew it soon, the State Department said last week. About 125 million Americans hold passports today, and 40% of them—almost 50 million in all—will expire in the next three years.

It’s been 10 years since the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative first required passports for Americans traveling home from Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, or Bermuda—and the State Department anticipates a surge in demand for new ones as they all reach their expiration date a decade later.

The State Department has been trying to spread the word for the past three or four months. In September Brenda Sprague, deputy assistant secretary of Passport Services, spoke about the impending crisis at ASTA’s first Global Travel Exchange. She warned travel professionals to be sure to ask every client about the status of his or her passport.

Passport offices already are busy fielding extra requests from travelers in the states with Real ID issues, though the Department of Homeland Security recently pushed the deadline for compliance to Jan. 22, 2018.

More than 17 million Americans are expected to apply for or renew passports in 2016, up from about 14 million in 2015.

Renewing a passport costs $110 and can be done by mail, but first-time applicants must apply in person. The process takes about six weeks, but it can be expedited.

For those whose biggest concern is how they look in their passport photo, meanwhile, passport-expediting company It's Easy has a new app that lets travelers print out all the necessary passport forms—and even take and choose a selfie of themselves to attach.

Pic: Damian Bariexca

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