Practical matters: passports

Last week I started the passport renewal process. The good news: If you’re a US citizen you only have to do this every ten years. The bad: 2018 is the year of delays and higher fees.

First, the delays. If you’ve been putting off renewing or applying for a passport, get on it now. For a variety of reasons 2018 is a peak year for renewals, and the State Department has been warning that processing times will be longer than normal. If you see a trip on your horizon, don’t wait and suffer undue stress or pay fees for expedited service. And, if you’re thinking, “I’ve still got a few months before mine expires,” remember that to enter another country your passport must be valid for at least three months after the date you plan to leave the country. You don’t want to learn that at the tail end of a long, overnight flight.

Second, US passports now cost $10 more for first-time applicants. That’s not a lot of money in the scheme of things, but ten bucks is ten bucks. This means you’ll pay $110 for a passport or $140 for a passport and passport card. I sprung for the passport card because it’s REAL ID compliant; I can use it for domestic air travel, and put off updating my driver’s license to the REAL ID version. Truth be told, I’d probably spend twice the fee to avoid visiting my local driver’s license office.

To learn more about applying for or renewing a passport visit the State Department’s web site. It’s a genuinely helpful site that simplifies navigating a sometimes-confusing process. And it can point you to local events and offices where first-time applicants can start the process.