Welcome to a weekly feature on the Eye of the Flyer blog. Each week this series covers in a “rookie” way either a Delta or travel related theme and attempts to break down to a basic level each topic. You can read up on all the previous posts HERE. Now on to this week’s feature.
Back in the day you could hop over to Canada or Mexico from the US with nothing more than a driver’s license or birth certificate. Life was simple then. With the passing of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), effective June 1, 2009 US citizens are required to have WHTI compliant documents, most commonly a U.S. passport, a passport card, a trusted traveler card such as NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST, or an enhanced driver’s license, to enter the US by land or sea ports. This led to an overwhelming number of applications for first time passports, as you may recall, and lengthy delays in the application process due to the backlog of applications that piled up.
As many of you know, I have had a passport since I was an infant due to the international nature of my parentage. My wife had never had a passport prior to our planning for our first trip to Sweden. While it’s a fairly common thing for those of us who enjoy extensive travel, it might be a fairly large first hurdle for those rookies among us who may be applying for their first ever passport and are completely unfamiliar with the process. There may also be a few things you weren’t aware of as a frequent traveler that you might want to take advantage of in the future.
Applications for new passports as well as renewals can be filled out online through the official government website.
All of the required documents are explained and once you have all the documents required you can take everything to your local post office to submit your application. You can check to see if your post office can accept your passport application here.
A passport renewal application is a little easier. You can fill out this application online as well, obtain current photos and submit the required documents all yourself by mail. With a renewal that meets the qualifications there is no need to submit the application through the post office, and it will just cost you an additional fee to do so.
What if your problem is that you have a few more years on your passport, but you have run out of Visa pages available for further travel? You can fill out an application online to add pages to your passport with Form DS-4085. This will give you the option of adding either 24 or 48 pages for the same fee, currently $82. If you are renewing your passport and you anticipate that you will require more than the standard 28 pages due to frequent travel abroad, you can simply check the box to have your new passport issued with 52 pages instead, for no additional fee! You may also want to consider whether it is worth it to renew your passport early with the additional pages instead of paying the fee to add pages for only the few years you have left on your passport since the renewal fee is currently $110, only $28 more than the fee to add pages. If you are renewing more than 90 days prior to expiration you simply need to include a note with your application to explain the early renewal request.
What if you have a passport that is still valid for several more years, but your name has changed? I encountered this problem when departing from Sweden once many years ago when the gate agent initially refused to allow Lisa to board since her name was different on the boarding pass (married name) from the front of her passport (maiden name). Fortunately we had mailed it in with our marriage license for the name change and had only to instruct the gate agent to look at the back page and then all was well. There is no fee for this service unless you require expedited service, and the requirements for documentation of change of name are listed here.
For me, domestically, I always use my GOES “ID” card when I fly. It is simple and then my drivers license stays where it “lives” in my wallet. From now on, whenever I fly Internationally, my passport is going to be a bit fatter with extra pages as with points coming in fast I see many more countries on my radar – René
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