State Department Launches “Apply Early” Passport Program
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For any international traveler, from the occasional flyer to the busiest jetsetter, the most indispensable item to have on hand is a valid passport. Luckily for US citizens, those little blue books are good for 10 years, so you only have to spend time thinking about renewing them once a decade.
However, the State Department is expecting a surge in new and renewed passport applications through 2018, and it’s launching an “Apply Early” initiative to encourage travelers to think ahead.
This is sort of like the government-ID version of a baby boom. You see, back in 2007, the State Department encountered an unprecedented surge in passport applications, issuing over 18 million that year. It attributed the rise to the implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.
Almost 10 years later, some of those passports are beginning to expire, and the State Department is already seeing increased demands not only for passport renewals, but applications for new ones, as well.
Over the past few years, the number of passports issued has been on the rise at a rate of about 500,000 more each year. In 2014, the State Department issued 14 million passports, and projects that 14.5 million will be processed in 2015; 16 million in 2016; and a whopping 20 million in 2017. So it’s time to start thinking ahead.
Renewing a passport is relatively easy (most people can do so by mail), but if you’re applying for your first passport, you must appear in person at a passport acceptance facility; these include designated post offices, court clerks’ offices or even public libraries. A first-time passport costs $135 for adults and $105 for minors, while passport renewals cost $110.
The State Department has even created a few basic but useful infographics to remind us all of processing times. Routine processing takes 4-6 weeks, while expedited service —which costs $60 — takes 3 weeks.
Some other passport-processing tips:
- Apply during off-peak months of September-November
- Passport agencies are offering weekend hours on select Saturdays during September-October
Even if your passport isn’t set to expire for a while, there are a few reasons to think ahead about renewing it, according to our friends at Allied Passport and Visa. Various countries have different passport and visa requirements for international travel. For instance, many countries require your passport to be valid at least six months past your dates of travel. So while your passport might be good for another four months, if you want to go to, say, China, you’ll be out of luck.
The Importance of Global Entry
With all those new and renewed passports being issued, we’re likely to see even more lines at airport customs and immigration points throughout the country, so it’s a better idea than ever to make sure you have some sort of expedited security clearance such as Nexus, SENTRI or Global Entry.
Though Global Entry will cost you $100 to apply, there are tons of ways to get that cost reimbursed, including by carrying one of several credit cards that offer an application credit as a benefit. Here’s a rundown of which credit cards offer Global Entry application fee reimbursement — and be sure to read our comprehensive guide to Global Entry and our tips for getting around the backlog of Global Entry appointments.
Three cards offer Global Entry reimbursement to cardholders — including additional cardholders — once every five years per card.
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- The Business Platinum® Card from American Express
- The Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz
Just charge the $100 fee to your card and it will automatically be credited back in a few days.
US Airways Dividend Miles Mastercard cardholders had their cards converted into one of the new AAdvantage Aviator cards earlier this year. The only one that includes Global Entry fee reimbursement is the AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite MasterCard, which has a $195 annual fee. The card is not available to new applicants, but you may be offered the opportunity to upgrade your Aviator Red card to this more premium version.
Citi now offers Global Entry reimbursement with two of its premium credit cards.
- Citi Prestige Card
- Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard added a Global Entry credit as a benefit this April. It’s also currently offering a higher-than-usual sign-up bonus of 75,000 miles when you spend $7,500 within three months of account opening.
Chase offers a Global Entry benefit with just one of its credit cards:
- Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card actually offers a $300 annual travel credit that you can use to pay off typical expenses like baggage fees and lounge access, but also Global Entry.
Though we have yet to see the passport glut, if you’re planning to renew yours or apply for a new one in the next few years, be sure to do so far in advance of any trip so you don’t get stuck waiting months for it to arrive.
Share your experience getting or renewing your passport in the comments below!