Today’s guest post is by financial expert Saleh Stevens, with timely reminders of why it’s crucial to obtain or renew a U.S. passport now if you need one — or even if you think you don’t.
By Saleh Stevens
The Early Bird Saves Money
The initial cost of a U.S. passport is $135 for an adult applying for the first time ($110 application fee and $25 execution fee). The cost of an adult passport renewal is $110.
Alternatively, you can opt for a passport card good for land or sea crossings only to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, or Bermuda for $30, but this card is not good for any international air travel. (Cruise passengers take note: if you have to fly to or from your cruise for some unexpected reason, you will probably be denied boarding your plane.)
However, if you wait too long to apply before your upcoming trip (generally within six weeks of travel) you may be forced to pay a $60 fee for expedited processing (less than four to six weeks), and possibly a $15.89 extra charge for overnight delivery if you wait until the last minute.
The U.S. State Department says that while four to six weeks is the time for normal processing, during peak travel times it can be longer — and there are no guarantees, especially since passport applications have increased substantially in recent years.
U.S. Laws Are Stricter
Besides more interest in international travel, one big reason for the recent upsurge in passport applications is that the U.S. made having a passport or passbook card mandatory for travel to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda in 2007, regardless of the means of transport.
This resulted in millions of new applications — and since passports expire after ten years, many are now coming due for renewal. As many as 20 million applications may flood passport offices this year.
But another law — the Real ID Act — may cause even more havoc. Originally passed by Congress in 2005, the Real ID Act now has some provisions finally coming home to roost, and may result in many U.S. citizens being unable to use their state-issued drivers licenses or IDs to fly, even domestically.
As of January 22, 2018, the licenses and IDs were all supposed to be equipped with security features such as machine-readable data chips, but only about half the states have complied so far. A number of large states, including New York, Illinois, Virginia and Pennsylvania, have not (California just started issuing new licenses.) The good news is that they’ve all been given extensions until October 1, 2020; only the territory of American Samoa has so far been ruled out of compliance, with its citizens now facing no-fly restrictions.
But keep this in mind: if your drivers license or ID was issued before your state added the new technology — even if they’re in compliance with the regulations — you’ll still face being turned away from your flight as of October 2020 until you get a new one.
So that’s another excellent reason to get a passport or passport card now — both comply with Real ID.
Other Countries’ Requirements
Many countries now require six months’ validity left on your passport after you’re scheduled to complete your visit there, or you’ll be denied entry (you probably won’t even be allowed on the plane over). In other words, you have to think about renewing your passport (if you already have one) well in advance of its expiration — allowing plenty of time to get a new one and acquiring any necessary visas.
Cheaper, More Spontaneous Travel
Cruise lines and resorts often offer discounts to last-minute bookers if their cabins or rooms aren’t filled. If these involve international travel, you won’t be able to take advantage unless you have an up-to-date passport. Even getting an expedited passport may be too late to take advantage of one of these offers.
If you have family or friends living or traveling abroad, and they encounter an emergency situation such as illness, accident, or theft of their money and belongings, you may be called upon to quickly fly over to the rescue.
Yet one more reason to have a passport already on hand — so make sure you’re prepared for any contingency by getting a passport now.
Saleh Stevens has been involved in the financial industry for many years, negotiating in the fields of finance, healthcare, government, and more.