Frequent fliers should expect more long lines--and not just at airport security--this year.
According to the U.S. State Department, 2016 and 2017 will be unusually busy years for passport renewal. That's because back in 2006 and 2007, panicked travelers began flooding their local offices with passport requests. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative was about to go into effect, and U.S. citizens now had to have a passport in order to travel to Canada or Mexico.
Michele Bond, the assistant secretary of state for consular affairs at the U.S. State Department, who handles passport renewals, told the New York Times: "We were overwhelmed then, and we are not going to be overwhelmed again." The State Department expects that they will issue 1.5 million more new passports and renewals than they did in 2015.
There's likely a good number of business travelers who will need to get a head start on their passport renewals. According to a 2014 business travel report from American Express Global Business Travel, four of the 10 most popular international destinations for business travel were located in Mexico or Canada--Toronto, Mexico City, Cancún, and Montreal.
Another good reason to get a head start on your passport renewal: some travelers mistakenly believe that they must now have a passport and a license for international air travel. That's because the Real ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005, requires stricter standards for driver's licenses to be accepted as a valid form of identity for air travel. Not all states have fully complied with all of the requirements--but the law doesn't officially go into affect until Jan. 22, 2018.
Even if you don't need to renew your passport this year, always make sure to plan ahead--frequent business travel is stressful enough, without the added hassle of worrying that your passport won't get renewed in time.