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Passport Woes

Epassport_cover.jpg About eight weeks after mailing out my renewal form, I finally received my new passport. I'd been concerned because passport renewal by mail typically takes 6-8 weeks to process. The U.S. Department of State, however, recently amended the information on its website to reflect current processing times. Because of a deluge of applications, the State Department warns it might now take up to 10 weeks to receive a passport.

Not only are January through April the peak months for passport requests, requests have increased because of new regulations that went into effect on Jan. 23 of this year. People must now present a passport when reentering the U.S. by air from any part of the Western Hemisphere, including, for the first time, Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean.

An AP article from Friday referred to a notice sent by the State Department to lawmakers saying that "Applications received between October and this March have risen 44 percent over the same period in 2005-2006." The article also mentions that the department expects to process about 17 million passports this year, compared to 12 million in 2006.

I was also surprised to find out my new passport was not an electronic one. The first of the new electronic passports--which have a computer chip embedded in the back cover--were issued to tourists in August 2006. Apparently not all passport agencies around the country are equipped yet to issue e-passports, the technology for which has caused controversy because of privacy concerns.

Links: Passports Home (U.S. Department of State)
"Passport Requests Flood State Department" (Associated Press)

Photo: Cover of new U.S. tourist electronic passport. The logo at the bottom is the international symbol for an electronic passport.


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