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U.S. passport changes coming: What you need to know

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By Bob D’Angelo

Cox Media Group National Content Desk

For those Americans who travel abroad, now would be a good time to plan ahead and renew your passport.

But first, make sure you note the new rule for passport photos.

As of Nov. 1, 2016, glasses can no longer be worn in passport photos. According to the State Department, glasses are the main reason for poor quality photos.

On its website, the State Department said it is expecting an increase in passport applications through 2018. Officials said people can renew a passport by mail if certain criteria are met. Individuals applying for the first time or under the age of 16 must appear in person at a passport acceptance facility. That includes designated U.S. post offices, libraries and clerks of court.

Typically, passport acceptance facilities offer routine service, which takes six weeks; and expedited service, which takes three weeks and costs an additional $60.

The State Department said it experienced an “unprecedented surge” in passport applications during 2007 due to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. That law was enacted by the 9/11 Commission, making passports mandatory for all travel to and from Mexico, Canada, Bermuda and the Caribbean.

As the passports issued in 2007 are beginning to expire, renewals are expected to surge. State Department said it issued more than 15.5 million passports in fiscal year 2015.

The REAL ID Act, passed in 2005, established a set of federal security standards for state driver’s licenses that require specific information and machine-readable technology in form of a chip, according to SmarterTravel.

Travelers using IDs issued by certain states could be turned away at the gate beginning Jan. 30, 2017, if their state doesn’t adjust to the new standards in time, WTSP reported. Some states are under review and have been given a deadline extension, but all licenses must comply with the standards by 2020, WTSP reported.

So far, 23 states and the District of Columbia are under compliance. Fourteen states have had their deadlines extended to Oct. 10, 2017, and four states were granted a limited extension through June 6, 2017. Five states are not in compliance, and one state — Montana — is under review. Three states did not receive an extension.

To find out if your state has complied or been given an extension, click here.

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