Travel in the United States may soon require a passport. Travel outside of the United States might soon require a visa, even when going to Europe.
The question is: Should I update my passport? The answer is yes, or it’s no.
There are conflicting factors regarding the need to update passports in 2016.
Most passports are valid for 10 years, and the process is different for expired passports versus renewal requests. But with increased fear of terrorism and immigration being such a controversial subject, nations around the world are changing requirements for foreign visitors and passports are being closely monitored.
This year is also different because many Americans got their passports or renewed them in 2007, when the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative mandated that American citizens reentering the United States from Bermuda, the Caribbean, Canada and Mexico had to have a passport with them. The federal government handled a record number of applicants and renewals that year, and since all of those passports are coming due, another backlog could occur.
Keep in mind that many non-American countries demand a minimum of six months left on a passport before expiration.
However, the U.S. government has created a new passport regulation, known as the REAL ID Act, which will require alternate forms of acceptable identification other than a driver’s license for all domestic flights starting on Jan. 22, 2018.
“We saw an uptick right after the official (REAL ID) announcement,” said Brenda Sprague, deputy assistant sectary for Passport Services at the Bureau of Consular Affairs, in an interview with U.S. News and World Report. Sprague said there were 14.5 million passport renewal requests in 2015 and they are expected 17 million requests in 2016.
So it’s a really good idea to make sure your passport is updated, and it’s a good idea to get started on that process right now, because it can take up to six weeks to get the process completed.
Starting in July of this year, American passports are going to include a machine-readable chip in order to reduce fraud and increase national security. Also, passports will include fewer pages.
But most countries are not going to be able to read the chip, at least for a while.
Oh, and then there is the possibility of paperless passports. Australia is working on an electronic system that will allow passengers to save their “passports’’’ on the wireless communication system known as the cloud. Already in place in Australia is something called a SmartGate, which allows travelers to hold their passport in front of them as they pass through a monitoring system, so that the booklet does not need to be checked by a human.
Meanwhile, here in the United States, some airports are experimenting with a Mobile Passport app, which enables the traveler to input trip details and receive an e-receipt that can be presented at customs to allow for expedited screening.
Then, there is the matter of visas, which are special request documents needed to enter some countries depending on your home country. The European Commission is discussing currently new legislation that would require Americans and Canadians to apply for these visas in order to enter any EU country.
The reason: the EU wants those two North American countries to expand its own list of countries from which travelers can visit without applying for a visa. The ones that still require this special permission include Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Croatia and Cyprus.
Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for www.nba.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.
In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.
McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.
McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy Buffett and all things Disney.