by Barb Cline

Now is the Time to Apply for a New Passport or Renew

Yes, the COVID-19 global pandemic has undoubtedly turned the world of international travel upside down in 2020. However, U.S. State Department officials say now is a good time for Americans to renew an expired passport or apply for a new one. Currently, it takes about 10-12 weeks to process a passport, from the time of application to delivery in the mail—that’s up from the 6-8 weeks it typically took pre-COVID. The centers where passport processors work have been opening gradually, and applications are being handled in the order they arrive.

It’s never too early to start your worldly travel preparation. To begin the passport process, here are some tips. For those who don’t already have a passport, find your birth certificate and driver’s license or state-issued identification. For those who already have a passport, check the expiration date on your passport. If family members, friends, or companions will be traveling with you, check their passport status as well.

If it turns out any of your passports expire in 2021, apply for a renewal now. Passports are good for ten years (except children; see below), and you will save money and stress by not waiting until the last minute. It costs $110 to renew a passport when you use the routine service. However, if you need to use the expedited service, you will pay an additional $60 per application.

Important Passport Considerations

You can renew your passport by mail without going in-person to a processing center if you can answer YES to these five questions:

You have your passport in your possession to include with your application?

It is undamaged other than normal wear and tear?

Was it issued when you were age 16 or older?

Was it issued within the last 15 years?

Was it issued in your current name, or you can document any name change?

In our local area, you can process passports in person at the Thurmont, Woodsboro, or Smithsburg United States Post Office locations.

Parents may not realize, or they may forget, that their child’s passport (for those under age 16) is valid for only five years, unlike the ten years for adult passports.

Keep in mind that many countries require your U.S. passport to be valid at least six months past your dates of travel. If it is less than that, you could be denied boarding your outbound flight or even turned around at customs. How tragic would that be!

Some countries have also instituted blank-page minimums for entry (such as two-four pages), so you need to make sure your passport has adequate blank pages for the entry or exit stamps.

Starting in 2016, it is no longer possible to pay for the insertion of additional visa pages into your current U.S. passport. Now, if you fill up all your pages, you will need to get a whole new passport—even if it’s well in advance of the expiration date. Several years ago, they began issuing passports with just 28 pages as the standard, down from the prior 52 pages. Luckily, it’s free to request a 52-page passport; just check the “Large Book” box on the application form

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