If your passport is set to expire in 2017, don’t wait—renew it now. Otherwise, you might find the process a lot more difficult. This comes from the State Department, and they mean business. Officials expect a surge in demand for passports throughout the year, and you might get lost in the shuffle if you wait to renew your current travel documents.
According to an article from The New York Times, officials at the State Department have anticipated excessive numbers of renewals for passports issued in 2006 and 2007. Why these years? Well, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative went into effect in 2007. This meant it was the first time that American travelers needed passports to visit Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Bermuda. The initiative caused millions of passport applications and a giant backlog then, and it won’t be any different now.
On top of that, there’s the Real ID Act. This ordinance sets stricter standards for driver’s licenses and other ID cards. As of January 22, 2018, if your state hasn’t complied with Real ID standards, you’ll have to show alternative identification—such as a passport.
In order to prepare for the glut of passport renewals, the State Department hired hundreds of extra employees and built new passport agencies, the Washington Post reported in 2015. That being said, the wheels of identification have never moved swiftly, as anyone who has been to the DMV can attest.
The State Department says they plan on issuing 20 million new passports and renewals this year. If you’re a first-time passport holder, you need to submit an application in person at a designated post office, court or other agency and pay a fee of $135. If you are planning to renew this year, you can renew by mail, for a fee of $110.
So if you’re concerned, renew now. Certain countries require your passport to be valid for anywhere from three to six months after your expected return date, and you don’t want to be stuck trying to get a last-minute appointment at the passport office. You can check each country’s specific travel requirements for Americans on the State Department website.