If you are one of the 50 million US passport holders whose passports are nearing the expiry date in 2017 or 2018 or if you are about to apply for a new one, here’s what you need to know about the new changes in United States passports. Passports themselves are about to change besides a delay in the US passport application process.
The upcoming US passport changes include new security features to enhance security and curb fraud. In compliance with the REAL ID Act, new and renewed passports will have a data chip containing all your personal information, which can be accessed upon scanning onto a computer. New US passports will be lighter than the existing ones with 52 pages. New passports will have only 28 pages. Frequent international flyers can request 52 pages instead of 28 while applying for new passports or renewal of their existing passports. They may be asked to pay for extra pages once the proposed changes come into effect.
The REAL ID Act, a set of federal security principles, will be exercised to apply security features like machine-readable data in form of a chip to all state-level identification, which will invalidate driving licenses for air travel even on domestic routes in USA soon. If certain US states like Washington, Maine and Missouri don’t adhere to the new security standards before or by the arrival of 2018, travelers from those states using the same IDs would be denied entry at the gate of airports. Some states of the US, which are lagging behind in technology, have been sent a directive mandating compliance with the REAL ID Act in or on time. Frequent air travelers from those states may apply for passports with the new changes.
The REAL ID Act complaint identification will be effective by January 22, 2018. An alternate form of identification will be required in case you fail to produce a REAL ID Act based identity proof for international traveler in 2018. The same will come into effect for domestic travel by October 1, 2020.
One of the new US passport changes is no glasses or specs in passport photos. Photos of applicants wearing glasses will no longer be accepted for passports in USA. If you carry your photos featuring you in specs while applying for new passports or renewal in person, you will be sent away. Consequently, the process will be delayed further. You can submit your new photos (without specs) without paying any fee at the time of renewal.
Children’s passports in USA are issued only for five years, while adults’ US passports are for 10 years. If your child’s passport was issued along with yours in 2006 or 2007, the child’s passport has expired by now though yours is still valid. Needless to say, the application process for children’s passports entails lots of paperwork like parent-child relation proof and parental consent form in the United States. The State Department has started renewing passports with a backlog of 6 weeks.
Apart from the changes in US passports, the process of screening passports is being upgraded. The US Department of Homeland Security is all set to revolutionize the passport-screening process ensuring more efficiency and convenience for air travelers, on similar lines of Australia’s current trial of a high-tech electronic system to save passports in the cloud and a Smart-Gate System for fool-proof facial recognition.
You can experience an advanced and efficient passport screening at some US airports in Atlanta, Miami, Seattle and San Francisco. At these airports, you can download the Mobile Passport app and install on your smart phones. The app enables users to punch in some details of their itineraries in order to get e-receipts which they can present at customs.
Why You Should Hurry up to Renew Your US Passports
With a total of 17 million requests for renewal being anticipated by 2016 end, the State Department has already been facing a backlog of six weeks in the renewal process. With an anticipation of 20 million requests for passport renewal in 2017, the process may be further delayed to the utter inconvenience of international travelers. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months from the date of departure for air travel to 26 countries, including France and Spain in the Schengen area of Europe. It’s better to hurry up instead of facing delays.