Frequent traveler alert: State Dept. changes passport rules

Effective Jan. 1, 2016, the U.S. Department of State will no longer add additional visa pages to U.S. passports that have become too full to accommodate additional entries.

Up until New Year's Eve, U.S. passport holders have the option to pay $82 for the insertion of a 24-page visa insert which provides extra capacity when valid passports lack adequate space for entry or exit visa stamps.

Requests for additional 24-page visa inserts will be accepted until Dec. 31, after which travelers in need of additional pages in their valid passports will be required to obtain a new passport. The current cost for renewing a passport issued less than 15 years ago is $110.

The decision to discontinue the service of adding pages was made to enhance the security of the passport and to abide by international passport standards, the department said in a news release announcing the change.

To mitigate the impact on frequent travelers, the department began issuing 52-page passports to all applicants outside the United States starting Oct. 1, 2014 for no additional cost. Applicants within the United States may choose a 28-page or 52-page book, with no additional charge for the larger book. In our recent post on the topicTheTravelPro recommended that all but the most infrequent international travelers should request a 52-page book when renewing a U.S. passport.

As of this writing, there are approximately 126 million valid U.S. passports in circulation. Unfortunately, State does not have comprehensive statistics on the number of passport holders who request additional pages because the vast majority of page-add services are completed at U.S. Embassies and Consulates overseas, each of which tracks its statistics separately, a State Department spokesperson told TheTravelPro in an email.

An interesting side note: Travelers who must replace their passports because they have run out of space may have visas in the old passports that have not yet expired. However, the validity of a visa in an expired U.S. passport is dependent upon the host country that issued the visa. Some countries allow travel with two passports (one valid and one expired with valid visas) and some require new visas, according to an unnamed State Department official.

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Photos by Carl Dombek
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