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Why You Should Renew Your Passport Right Now

Have a passport expiring in 2016 or 2017? Between new applications and regular old renewals, the U.S. State Department is expecting to process some 17 million passports this year alone. It’s officially crunch time.

A Brooklyn-based writer and editor, Chelsea's work has appeared in Matador Network, The Huffington Post, the TripAdvisor blog, and more. When not planning her next trip, you'll usually find her drinking way too much iced coffee (always iced—she’s from New England) or bingeing a Netflix original series.

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With less than six months separating us from the next calendar year, passport renewal lines are only about to get longer. This forecast comes straight from the U.S. State Department, which announced that millions of 10-year passports issued in 2006 and 2007 – after the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative made passports a requirement for travel between the U.S. and Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean – are due to expire right about…now.

While the WHTI caused an initial hiccup way back when it was introduced, today, those renewing are only half of the larger-than-usual crowd. Droves of first-time applicants are also adding to the bottleneck as a result of the REAL ID Act. Passed by Congress in 2005, the act’s purpose was to establish a minimum security standard for state IDs, but technically, states don’t have to comply. This means come January 2018, when the act goes into effect, residents whose driver’s licenses don’t meet the new requirements will be forced to present an alternate ID – like a passport – when traveling domestically.

Other passport-related, nitty-gritty details to keep in mind this year:

Depending on where you’re traveling, some foreign countries (common in Asia and South America) may not accept a passport that expires in less than six months.

Are you an avid traveler who quickly fills up passport pages? Don’t forget that the State Department has nixed 24-page inserts. Now, instead of expanding your current passport, you’ll have to renew and choose between a 28- or new 52-page document (thankfully, at no extra cost).

Luckily, if your passport was issued when you were 16 or older, is undamaged, and is less than 15 years old, you can avoid lines altogether and renew by mail. Just make sure you have plenty of time to spare before your next trip abroad, as the entire process can take up to six weeks.

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