Renew Your Passports Now, Because 2008 Could Be Worse

Despite all the much-publicized delays with passport applications this year, the government has announced that they’ll still be unprepared for the onslaught of applications come 2008, so if you know you’ll need a new/renewed passport you should apply now during the slow season. In January, the land and sea portion of the new passport law goes into effect, requiring everyone who travels to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean to show proof of citizenship.

The passport requirement for air travel was implemented last January, although the rules were loosened at the end of summer due to gross incompetence—er, “unusually high application volume”—so that you could travel with a receipt for your new passport. That expired at the end of September, and there’s no word whether the Department of Homeland Security will make any similar exceptions next year for sea and land travel.

A passport isn’t required for U.S. territories, so if you really want to travel and don’t have a passport, try planning your next vacation in American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, Swains Island, or the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“Second Wave of Passport Anxiety Likely” [Fodor’s]

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Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative [Department of Homeland Security]
(Photo: Getty)

Comments

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  1. loreshdw says:

    I suggest getting a passport even if you are traveling to a territory. If your plane is diverted due to weather, you will really be in a pickle.

  2. medic78 says:

    I just renewed this month, and it was lightning fast. From the time I mailed the app, to the time I received the new passport was 10 days. My fiance got hers in 9 days.

    Neither of us paid for any expedited service.

    I guess now really is the time to get them.

  3. Jeff_McAwesome says:

    I’m sooooo glad I got my passport in 2005.

  4. greatgoogly says:

    How soon can you apply for a renewal? Mine expires in May of 2009. My wife is from Germany and her mother is not in the best of health, I want to minimize my time without my passport in case we have to fly back to Germany.

  5. scoosdad says:

    @greatgoogly: From the State Department’s passport renewal FAQ:

    “When should I renew my passport?

    If possible, you should renew your passport approximately nine (9) months before it expires. Some countries require that your passport be valid at least six (6) months beyond the dates of your trip.”

    So it sounds as if there’s no statutory limitation on how early you can renew.

  6. madmari says:

    Two weeks ago I renewed passports for my two daughters (kid’s passports are issued for 5 years only) and the new passports came in Friday. I was shocked – incredibly fast.

  7. inelegy says:

    Actually, despite what the article says, US citizens have needed a passport to get into (and back from) American Samoa for at least the past ten years.

    I’ve gone out thirteen times since 1998 and a passport is a must.

  8. RandomHookup says:

    @loreshdw:

    I just suggest everyone go ahead and get a passport. Join the community of the world!

  9. I’m happy to hear reports of people getting their passports so quickly—maybe the bottleneck is over (for now).

  10. @inelegy: “Actually, despite what the article says, US citizens have needed a passport to get into (and back from) American Samoa for at least the past ten years.”

    I am surprised to hear that. According to the DHS’s own website, “U.S. Citizens traveling to and returning directly from a U.S. territory are not considered to have left the U.S. territory and do not need to present a passport.” They then list American Samoa as one of the territories.

    Do you think airlines overlook this for the sake of added security? If so, they might be making an unnecessary request.

    Otherwise, oh noes, the DHS is mistaken about something.

  11. kidwei says:

    My wife just got her passport renewed. Took her less than 3 weeks, and we didn’t pay for the expedited service. Pleasant surprise, since they told her it’d take 3 months. So seems like now is a good time to renew.

  12. inelegy says:

    Chris,

    I don’t know what the deal is, all I know is personal experience. American Samoa will not clear you through their immigration at the airport.

    Once, in 1994 I visited the islands without a passport. The airline took about 30 minutes to decide whether or not I could be issued a boarding pass. Upon arrival, immigration hauled me into an office for about an hour of questioning and paper shuffling before passing me through and advising I get a passport for future visits.

    Since then I’ve seen passengers turned away at HNL and LAX for not having a passport. Perhaps it’s a Hawaiian Airlines (the carrier serving the territory from the US) decision based on the seeming randomness of the officials in Pago Pago.

  13. LVP says:

    The best time to get a passport is when you have no travel plans. This past July I sent out the paper work to renew my passport, I received my passport in September.

  14. UpsetPanda says:

    Is there a rule to whether you can renew even if your passport isn’t going to expire in the next few years? I know one user commented his will expire in 2009 but if my passport doesn’t expire until after that, I think I would consider renewing it for the sake of renewing it and not having to worry about it later.

  15. phobic says:

    I’ve already renewed my passport so I’ll be ready when the DHS decides we need them for travel between states. I’ll probably renew early so I’ll be prepared for the passports required after the DHS imposes a nightly curfew. It’s all for our own protection of course. Is George Orwell at 500rpm in his grave yet?

  16. rbcat says:

    @Chris Walters: Inelegy is correct; American Samoa operates its own immigration authority and requires a passport from all non-Samoans (there is also a country named the “Independent Republic of Samoa,” which is apparently exempt) to enter. A *visa* is not required, but a passport is.

    Residents of American Samoa are also not U.S. citizens; they are U.S. nationals who have “right of abode” in the United States. (American Samoa is one of the few places where one can get a U.S. passport without being a citizen) Because of this status, American Samoa gets to set its own immigration laws (unlike, say, Guam, which is governed by the Immigration and Nationality Act), in addition to having its own constitution and separate government.

  17. JiminyChristmas says:

    From what I observed this past year, if you are getting a passport for the first time or renewing an expired passport expect to wait longer than if you are renewing a current passport.

    I sent in my paperwork in April 2007, and it was 11 weeks before I had my passport.

    Also, if you totally want to be on the ball get your photo taken at the passport acceptance office or ask them where they recommend. I got a set of passport photos taken at Walgreens and was told at the acceptance office that “They might not meet specifications, but you can try and send them in if you want.” They weren’t pulling my leg either, they had a little template that shows how big your head is supposed to be within the frame. I had them redo it rather than sending my application into State Department oblivion.

  18. huadpe says:

    My experience was exceptionally fast, and can prove to be a trick for renewing a soon to expire passport (and having a fun international vacation.) I am an American going to school in Canada, and last March my passport was about to expire. So I went to the US consulate and filled out the paperwork, after 3 hours in line, and 5 min talking to the consular official, I had completed what was needed. The next day my passport was issued (Authority reads US Department of State, as opposed to one of the domestic passport centers). One week after I applied, my passport was ready to be picked up (they won’t mail them internationally), with no expedition fee or any fees beyond the normal renewal fee.

  19. Chou says:

    @greatgoogly: you can renew anytime you like as long as you submit your valid passport. The State Dept will just cancel your passport and send you a new one.

  20. Frane says:

    LVP is correct. The best time to apply for a passport, that be for the first time or renwal is the FALL since it is the “slow season” for the passport office.@LVP: