What Are the New Passport Laws for 2018?

What Are the New Passport Laws for 2018?

The year is over halfway complete and new passport laws are in full swing. Do you know what they are? If not, you’re in the right place because we’re discussing the most recent updates that you need to know to travel with your passport.

2018 is a big year for passport laws. In January, the Real ID Act came into effect for commercial airplanes, and on top of that, the State Department has made a variety of passport changes in the last couple years.

If you haven’t looked into your passport status recently, now’s a good time to do it.

But just because the law is changing doesn’t mean you should fret. In this article, we’ll talk about some of the most important new passport laws and how to deal with them.

Real ID Act

The biggest change in passport law has to do with the Real ID Act.

Traditionally, the federal government accepted state IDs (such as drivers licenses) as valid forms of identification. Then, in 2005 in the wake of 9/11, Congress decided that this policy was too much of a security risk and passed the Real ID Act. Under this act, the federal government will only accept state IDs if they adhere to strict regulations.

Why are you just now hearing about this law that Congress passed in 2005? The air travel portion of the law just kicked in this year. That means that if your state isn’t compliant with the Real ID Act, you need a passport (or other federal ID) to fly, even domestically.

Luckily, as of July 2018, every U.S. state is either compliant or has received an extension. But you still need to understand this new law; those extensions won’t last forever.

Which States Aren’t Compliant?

Nineteen states aren’t yet compliant with the Real ID Act. These states are Washington, Alaska, Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine.

If you live in one of these states, don’t panic. They’ve all received extensions, so TSA agents will still let you board your plane — for now. Your state has until October 10, 2018, to become compliant.

And what happens if your state doesn’t comply in time?

They’ll probably file for another extension; however, the federal government may not approve the extension or they may not approve it right away. We recommend you have another ID handy starting on October 10.

If you have a valid passport, that’s the best ID to use, but TSA also accepts these other forms of ID as alternatives.

What if you’re from a US territory? Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Mariana Island, and the Virgin Islands have all received extensions. If you live in one of these territories, follow the advice we gave above.

If you live in American Samoa, your identification isn’t valid, so carry your passport.

So, what if you’re one of the 58% of Americans without a passport? Now’s the time to get one. There are some new passport laws you need to know about before you start the application process.

New Passport Laws You Need to Know About

The federal government has modified passport regulations in the past few years in an attempt to modernize the process. Here are some of the biggest changes you need to know about.

There are Now Special Passport Acceptance Fairs

These fairs are an easy, quick way to apply for a passport. Find a fair near you and make an appointment if necessary.

These fairs even provide passport photo taking services, so you won’t need to bring anything outside of valid ID.

Some areas even have permanent passport offices you can walk into at any time.

New Rules for Passport Photos

As of November 2016, you can no longer wear glasses in your passport photo unless you have a medical necessity. Proving you have a medical necessity involves submitting a doctor’s note along with your passport application.

If you wear glasses as a sight aid, we recommend you simply take them off when you get your photo taken. Save yourself the hassle.

Passport Updates via Text Message and Email

Once you apply for your passport, you’ll be able to receive updates on the process via text message or email. If this doesn’t seem like a big deal, it’s because you’ve never attempted to check the status of a passport application before. It used to be a time-consuming nightmare.

New Passports Will Have Improved Security

The State Department is even modernizing the passports themselves. New passports will come with a chip containing important information about the passport holder.

This might sound creepy and unnecessary, but the hope is that this chip will make it harder to make counterfeit passports.

New Passports Will Have Fewer Pages

New passports also have fewer pages. This wouldn’t be a big issue, but in 2016, the State Department stopped allowing you to add new pages to your passport.

This means that frequent international travelers will fill their passports up with visa stamps even quicker than before. And when they do, they’ll have to get a new passport.

New Passports Will be More Durable

And in a contradictory move, the new passports have a protective plastic coating that makes them more durable. So they may not last as long legally, but they’ll last even longer physically.

New Passports May Take a While To Process

This isn’t a rule change, but we wanted to remind you to apply for your passport early. Thanks to the Real ID Act, millions of Americans may apply for their passports this year, causing a substantial backlog.

This will also apply to passport renewal. If your passport is about to expire, be safe and start the renewal process now.

Fly With Your Passport

None of these new passport laws are game-changing, but it’s important you know about them.

The most important one to keep in mind is the Real ID Act change. We recommend you always fly with your passport just in case. Even if your state hasn’t complied, you’ll have no trouble getting on your plane.

If you have any other questions about your passport, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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