Passport Demand Is On the Rise – Apply Early To Beat the Rush!

The year is 2007. Apple releases its very first iPhone, The Departed wins the Academy Award for Best Picture, and the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative goes into effect, increasing the demand for passports to an unprecedented level.

Wait, the Western what?

The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) is a law that requires U.S. citizens to show a valid passport (or other approved document) when entering the United States from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean. Previously, U.S. citizens only needed a driver’s license and birth certificate to enter the United States from these locations. WHTI’s 2007 implementation had a big impact on many people, especially those who planned trips to locations where U.S. citizens previously were not required to possess a passport to visit. Mexico and Canada are the two of the most popular international destinations for U.S. citizens, with many crossing our northern and southern borders daily. There are also the thousands of Caribbean flights and cruises that U.S. travelers take every year. Millions of U.S. citizens applied for their first passports when WHTI went into effect. U.S. passport demand jumped from 12.33 million applications in FY 2006 to18.58 million in FY 2007, and passport processing times increased from four to 12 weeks. It was a stressful time for travelers. Although the Department of State strived to get everyone their passports before their trips, it wasn’t always possible. 

Why should I care about something that happened nearly a decade ago?

We expect record-breaking high demand for passports in the next two years. Adult passports are valid for 10 years, and as we near the 10th anniversary of WHTI’s implementation, the majority of those millions of passports will soon expire. The Department of State has worked hard to reduce the impact on U.S. travelers. Since 2007, we have opened 11 new passport agencies and added two public counters at existing facilities, totaling 29 passport agencies and centers in the United States. We also have increased our passport staff by 33 percent since 2007, and continue to hire additional staff. Most importantly, we are getting the word out -- apply early!

If you think you will need a passport in the next year or so, we encourage you to apply now. Most countries require you to have at least six months of validity left on your passport to enter. Don’t wait until right before your trip. If you are not sure when your passport expires, pull it out and check the expiration date. Apply early, and spread the word!

About the Author: Mary Beth Lambert is a program analyst in the Community Relations Division of Passport Services, in the Bureau of Consular Affairs

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chelabi m.
June 28, 2016
I wish I could get a US passport..?
Jolly B.
California, USA
August 5, 2016
Hi! I was wondering if you can help me or at least point me out to the right direction. I know I have my passport at home but with the move, I can seem to locate it fast enough. Is there a way I can find out when my passport expires? Thank you.
New Jersey, USA
August 14, 2016
How do I obtain a federal driver's license? I can no longer find the website.
Stacks of passport books are seen at the New Orleans Passport Agency in New Orleans.
June 16, 2016


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