The US State Department has launched a new “Apply Early” passport initiative to encourage travelers to apply for passport service well in advance of any travel. Every year, the State Department’s Passport Agencies are inundated with more and more passport applications, and the number of applications is expected to rise rapidly in the next two years. Why? The answer lies in recent history.
In 2007, the US government implemented the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which required that US citizens carry a passport for all travel outside of the country, even to countries like Canada, Mexico, and Caribbean nations which would previously allow travelers to enter without a passport. Because of this, the State Department saw an unprecedented flood of passport applications. The surge was particularly intense in late winter and spring of 2007, as travelers scrambled to get their passports in time for spring break and summer travel to Mexico and the Caribbean. Unfortunately, many travelers who waited until the last minute were not able to get their passports in time, as the overloaded Passport Agencies struggled through their backlog and processing times slowed down.
Passports issued to adults are valid for 10 years, so all of those new passports issued in 2006 and 2007 are now approaching their expiration dates. The State Department anticipates another surge of applications in 2016 and 2017 as travelers send in their passports for renewal. More than 14 million US passports were issued last year, and that number will continue to grow. Savvy travelers will heed the State Departments advice and apply early for passport service!
Another important reason to apply early is if your passport is running low on blank visa pages. The State Department plans to phase out additional pages service at the end of 2015. If your passport has several years of validity left, check to see how many blank pages marked “visas” remain. Now is the time to apply for additional pages!
The good news is that even if you aren’t able to apply early, and you find yourself needing passport service in a hurry, a registered passport expediting company can get your passport processed fast. Some companies, like RushMyPassport.com, even offer same-day processing for the most urgent requests.