The US Department of State passport services is predicting a strong increase in passport applications in 2016 and an even stronger surge in 2017.
One of the reasons for the increase in passport applications is due to the number of passports that will be expiring in the next two years. It is also thought that the strong dollar to euro ratio will encourage foreign travel. Peak time for the passport offices is January to August. During this peak time processing can take longer because of the abundance of passport applications. It is highly recommended that advance planning would allow your passport to be processed at an off peak time. It is also highly recommend starting the passport applications renewal process when there is one year of validity remaining on your current passport. Passport services is working towards an online passport applications renewal capability which they expect to have in place in the latter part of 2016.
There is also another major change with passports that begins on January 1, 2016. Page inserts for passports will no longer be available. For frequent travelers outside the US, you may request a passport with 52 pages. Another option is to obtain a second passport which will be valid for 4 years rather than the usual 10 years. To obtain a second passport you must show a reasonable need, i.e a letter from your company stating the requirement for recurring foreign travel. A second passport would be very helpful in situations where your passport is sent to a consulate due to visa requirements and during that processing time you must also travel abroad.
Many travelers wait till the last minute to renew or obtain their passports and then find themselves in a bind. We urge you to allow yourself plenty of time so that there is plenty of time for the state department to properly process all the passport applications.
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program , STEP, is highly recommended and can be accessed at www.step.state.gov. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.