Changes Coming to U.S. Passports

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The new regulations will affect both current and upcoming travelers of ALL destinations.

Despite the United States having one of the two most powerful passports in the world, about 62% of U.S. citizens still don’t hold a passport. That’s 33% more than citizens of the European union! Nevertheless, passport ownership is at an all time high for the North American country.

If you’re part of the majority who have either never applied or have let their passport expire, now more than ever may be the time to change that. Currently living abroad in Costa Rica or passing through while traveling the world? There’s information here you too are going to want to hear.

Internal Travel

Residents of New York, New Hampshire, Minnesota and Louisiana may soon need a passport to travel WITHIN the United States thanks to an act that was passed 10 years ago.

The Real ID Act was passed in 2005 as a counterterrorism measure meant “to standardize the reliability and efficacy of personal identification.” Phases I, II and II of the Act was put into play last year in restricted government areas and other semi-restricted areas like nuclear power plants.[quote_box_right]You don’t have to pay first class rates in order to have a smooth flight: 5 Tips for Making Air Travel Cheaper and More Enjoyable.[/quote_box_right]

It’s the fourth phase however that may require residents of these four states to become globally-equipped. This next phase will affect federally regulated aircraft and all the millions of people who use them. For individuals from the majority of the States, there is nothing to worry. They may continue to use their driver’s license to pass through security.

Unfortunately, licenses issued in NY, NH, MN or LA do not pass the upcoming requirements. These travelers will be required to show a different form of identification, such as a passport, a permanent resident card, a U.S. military ID, or one of the Department of Homeland Security’s trusted traveler cards such a Global Entry and NEXUS

So far, there is no disclosed date for when Phase IV will be implemented, but now may be a good time to apply for or renew that passport. According to the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica, the fee for first-time passport applicants is $135; for passport renewals, $110.

No More Visa Pages

Of course, for those who have already embarked on traveling the world, The Real ID Act is nothing to fear. These travelers, however, should pay attention to the following:

As of December 31, 2015, U.S. embassies will no longer be issuing extra visa pages for filled passports. Instead, completely new 52-page passport books will be issued at no extra cost to citizens applying from outside the U.S.

According to a recent email from the Embassy in San Jose:

[quote_box_center]“This policy aims to lessen the burden that may be placed on frequent travelers who need more pages and those customers who may need to update residence permits or foreign entry/exit visas to comply with foreign country immigration practices.  The determination to eliminate the visa page insert service was made to enhance the security of the passport and to abide by international passport standards.”[/quote_box_center]

Remember: some countries require two blank pages for entry and exit, so if you’re running out of space, don’t wait any longer. Get a second book for free from a local embassy. For more information on passports and foreign visa requirements, visit travel.state.gov.

About the U.S. Embassy in San Jose, Costa Rica

The Embassy is located in Rohrmoser at the intersection of Avenida 0 and Calle 120. They are open from 8 am – 4:30 pm and can be reached at +506 2519-2590, +506 2519-2000 (for emergencies) or online via their website. Appointments are preferred.