Check Your Passports and Licenses

Airplane travel is nature’s way of making you
look like your passport photo.
— Al Gore

blue_passportMany of you remember the days when going to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean was not treated like international travel. Yes, you were crossing international boundaries, but we were all such good friends and so casual with our visits that a passport was not required to come and go.

Then came the years of increased scrutiny (to put it mildly) of border crossings. Who should be let into the US? Can you prove that you really belong here? It seems kind of surprising that it wasn’t until 2006 that the US required passports for entry – or more correctly re-entry — into the US from all foreign countries.

The State Department says the number of Americans applying for passports has increased dramatically in recent years. Next year, 2016, will see the expiration of the wave of passports issued to meet the increased documentation requirements enacted ten years ago. If you got your first passport then (after years of Caribbean cruising with only your driver’s license), your passport will be expiring soon. Check your expiration date now!

81A-00004060-001This ten year echo of that wave of new passport applications will likely produce additional ‘traffic’ in the steadily growing stream of passports to be issued. The State Department encourages people to renew early if at all possible. September to December is slow season for processing. You can save $60 per application taking standard service (4-6 weeks processing time) rather than expedited service (3 weeks). Even if you have a year left on your passport you can save stress and money by renewing sooner rather than later.

There are a few other things to keep in mind too.

  • Children’s passports are valid for only five years. Don’t assume that the kids are still OK just because you are OK.
  • Children must appear in person with parents to apply for or to renew a passport. Renewal requirements for 16 and 17 year olds differ from others
  • Adults’ passports can be renewed by mail if certain requirements are met.
  • Many countries require arriving travelers to have a minimum of six months validity remaining on their passports. They might not let you enter the country if you have less, so consider that in your renewal planning.

And what’s this about licenses? Two things.

Massachusetts drivers need to be aware of the expiration date on their licenses as the state is no longer reminding us to renew.

Affecting fewer of my readers, the driver’s licenses issued by New Hampshire, New York, Louisiana and Minnesota do not meet the soon to be heightened TSA requirements for identification. If your license is issued by one of these four states, you will need to carry an additional ID to board a domestic flight in 2016. TSA considers licenses from the other 46 states as compliant with the new requirements but those four states are on notice that more will be required in 2016. More details will be forthcoming. But rest assured that a passport is always adequate to the challenge.

Check those expiration dates!

Boundaries divide. Travel unites.

24 September 2015

About Travel Unites

A travel agent since 1994, I want people to get together for greater understanding across boundaries.
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