Renewing Your Passport
By Senator Mike Rounds
South Dakotans who plan to travel abroad this year should make certain their passport is current. Or, if it is about to expire, they should renew their passport immediately to avoid delays or backlogs.
The reason is because nearly 10 years ago, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative required every U.S. citizen to have a passport to travel to all countries—including Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. Previously, U.S citizens often only needed to verbally declare their citizenship. Because passports are valid for 10 years for most Americans, the uptick in passport applications from this 2006 requirement means approximately 47 million passports will expire this year alone. This has the potential to lead to a backlog in processing passports, as was the case when the U.S. Department of State tried to process them a decade ago. As we approach peak travel time, awareness is especially important.
If you are planning an international trip any time soon and don’t have a valid passport, you’ll want to apply or reapply as soon as you can. Additionally, 26 European countries don’t accept U.S. passports within six months of their expiration dates, so you should also check when yours expires, if you are planning any European travel.
According to the State Department, routine processing time takes approximately six weeks under normal circumstances. Renewing a passport costs $110 and can be done by mail or in-person. For those in a time crunch, expediting a passport costs an additional $60 and can be done in two to three weeks. If you are applying for a passport for the first time, you must do so in-person at a Passport Acceptance Facility. Oftentimes, these are local post offices, but they can also be county clerk of courts offices.
South Dakota has approximately 60 passport offices where applications can be submitted. You can visit www.travel.state.gov to find a facility close to your home. Passports for children under the age of 15 are only good for five years, and a legal guardian must accompany the child when renewing or applying for a passport. Keep in mind that even infants need a passport if they will be traveling abroad.
Our South Dakota offices will do their best to help you with the passport renewal process if you need it. We will try to help with expediting your passport if you believe you may be short on time. However the sooner you apply, the better. You can find contact information for each of my offices on my website, www.rounds.senate.gov/contact.
Whether you are traveling for work or going on a vacation, we hope you have an enjoyable experience. Making sure your passport is up-to-date is an easy step you can take ahead of time to cut back on travel stress. If you know you’ll be traveling internationally this year, be sure to take a look at your passport’s expiration date to see if you need to renew it now.