A surge in passport applications, due to restrictions on international travel put in place ten years ago, may cause delays for travelers looking to receive new travel documents.
According to the State Department, passport applications will take an extra two weeks to be processed due to an unprecedented increase in total application filing.
The State Department expects to receive 17.4 million passport applications in fiscal year 2016, 20.9 million in fiscal year 2017, and 20.5 million in fiscal year 2018.
To put things in perspective, the State Department received 18.6 million passport applications in fiscal year 2007 and 16.1 million passport applications in fiscal year 2008 during the last passport surge period.
The last surge in applications was due mainly to the implementation of the Western Hemisphere Initiative in 2007, which required U.S. travelers returning from Mexico, Canada, Bermuda and the Caribbean to present a passport.
These ten-year passports are set to expire in the next 18 months.
Third-party passport renewal services are looking at the surge as an opportunity to make the application process less painful for consumers. In particular, the unwritten rule that airlines require passport validity six months after travel is causing travelers to pursue expedited passport renewals.
“There always was an underlying rule that wasn’t enforced until recently,” said David Alwadish, founder of passport and visa expediting service ItsEasy. “Most airlines won’t let you onboard an international flight if you dont have more than six months left on your passport; they dont want to think about any potential security complications.”
The State Department clued passport service providers like Alwadish into the expected surge ahead of time. Alwadish used the warning to develop a mobile app streamlining the informational and photo gathering aspects of the passport application process.
“People don’t want to deal with the forms and nuances,” said Alwadish. He also said consumers will pay extra for companies to review the application documents and ensure the State Department will accept them before submission.