Change to U.S. Passports – and How it will Affect Travelers

Print

 

By Alexandra LaCombe

 

On November 20, 2015, the U.S. State Department published a regulation that, beginning January 1, 2016, it will no longer entertain requests to add pages to U.S. passports.  Instead, any U.S. citizen that needs additional space for visa and entry/exit stamps in their passport will have to apply for a brand new passport.

The discontinuance of this service, which is popular among frequent international travelers, will coincide with the January release of a new and highly securitized “Next Generation U.S. Passport.”  In anticipation of the new rule, the State Department will accept requests for additional pages until the end of the year.  It is also allowing passport applicants to apply for the 52-page passport book at no additional cost. Since October 2014, it has automatically issued the larger version of the book to all overseas passport applicants.

Beginning in January, applicants in need of additional pages must obtain the new form of U.S. passport. According to the State Department, the release of the Next Generation Passport and the elimination of added pages will decrease the incidence of fraudulent modifications and illegal use of U.S. passports.

Under current policy, holders of U.S. passports, which come in 28- and 52-page books, have the option of paying for an additional 24-page insert when their valid passport lacks adequate space for additional visas or entry or exit visa stamps.  To add additional pages, a current passport must be submitted, along with an application form and a fee, to a Passport Agency or, in case of an applicant residing abroad, to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  The current fee is $82, which is slightly less than the fee for a new passport of $110, but the issue is more than cost.

The implications of the new rule to U.S. passport holders can be quite significant.  Once the new State Department regulation takes effect, frequent travelers who fill their valid U.S. passport with stamps and visas will be required to obtain a new passport prior to the expiration of their current passport book. In some instances, those who have a valid visa that they wish to use may have to apply for a new one after they receive their new U.S. passport, because not every country will admit a traveler presenting a new passport along with an old passport containing a still-valid visa.  This can significantly complicate international travel because, while a visa issued by a foreign government remains valid, its presence in a passport that is no longer valid renders it useless to the traveler.  Given that visa issuance times vary by country, consulate, type of visa, time of the year, and a host of other factors, U.S. citizens who are frequent business travelers may suddenly find themselves unable to enter a particular country as previously planned.  It is vitally important for frequent business travelers to know the admission laws of the countries which they might be planning to enter and to plan ahead if a new visa will be required to be stamped into the new passport.

If you need assistance with this, or any other immigration issue, please contact the author, Alexandra LaCombe, at (248) 649-5404 or alacombe@fragomen.com. Alexandra  is a Member of the Legal Affairs Committee of Detroit SHRM and a partner at Fragomen Worldwide (a Resource Partner of Detroit SHRM).

Detroit SHRM encourages members to share these articles with others, inside and outside their organization, as long as its name and logo, and the author’s information, is included in the re-post of the article. November 2015.