I am no longer “The Man Without a Country,” or at least I am no longer the man without a passport. My new passport arrived and I can again prove my home country.
Three weeks to the day after mailing my passport renewal application (including my previous passport) to the US Consulate in Marseille, my new passport booklet arrived along with my cancelled previous passport. That was an impressively fast turn-around considering the Christmas and New Years Day holidays were in the middle of the renewal processing. The US State Department’s web site advises that passport renewals generally take four to six weeks to process, although they proudly (and justly in my case) say they can frequently provide faster returns. I have to complement the Marseille Consulate for great service!
I was hoping to receive the upgraded, redesigned 2017 passport with its new polycarbonate page that is meant to protect the embedded and newly machine-readable information chip. I have a tendency to clumsily damage things, especially items I frequently carry. The current US passport’s RFID chip is somewhat fragile and subject to mechanical and water damage. And, of course, I just wanted to be one of the first with the “latest thing.” The new-style passports were originally scheduled to be released in July 2016, but apparently either the redesigned format isn’t ready yet or the State Department is exhausting the last of their 2007-2016 edition passport blanks. The new-style passports are now scheduled to be issued the end of 2017 or early 2018.
But staying with the current passport design allowed me to request the free expanded version with 52 pages (43 for visas) in place of the standard 28 (17 for visas.) Normally it takes an overseas news correspondent to fill an extended passport, but it’s a big world and I’m very motivated to see as much of it as I can until this passport expires in 2026.
Starting in 2016, the US joined the rest of the world with no longer issuing additional pages to its passports and the upcoming 2017 passports will be limited to 28 pages. When a passport is now full of stamps and visas, the holder has to get it replaced. Too few passport pages can rapidly become a problem with frequent travelers because many immigration officers stamp passports on random pages and with the least economical use of space. Some countries require two to six blank pages, often requiring adjacent blank pages, be available in a passport for affixing their visas. Sometimes entry stamp are required to be stamped on the page opposite the visa. (Tracy needed to request an immigration officer re-stamp her entry in her passport on the appropriate page opposite her French visa.)
I am anxious to see the redesign of the new-style 2017 passport with its all-new internal artwork that will feature “intricate engravings and inks” using microprinting, color-shifting inks, and ultraviolet watermarks meant to deter counterfeiting. Perhaps Tracy will receive one of these updated passports when she renews for 2019. (Tracy, the retired graphic artist, is a big fan of the striking Norwegian passport‘s design.)
“Remember when it was the rare American who had a passport? In 2013, 117.4 million Americans had passports; in 1989, that number was 7.3 million”
As expected, my renewed passport card was not included in the package. The card takes longer to manufacture than the traditional booklet and should arrive in a few more weeks. While the passport card is NOT valid for European travel, I wanted it as a supporting US citizenship document. I also lack a REAL ID Act “gold star” approved US drivers license because I last renewed my drivers license by mail while living overseas. The REAL ID Act’s final deadline for full enforcement is still a “moving target”with frequent extensions. A passport card is an approved REAL ID document for future domestic US air travel without having to carry my passport booklet.
So now with a valid passport in my hands, I am no longer “running barefoot” through Europe without US travel credentials. While I don’t actually carry my passport on a daily basis while living abroad, just having my passport in my possession grants me peace of mind and my ability to travel internationally again.
I also have the challenge of a brand new passport with lots of blank pages to start filling up.
Related Post: RENEWING A US PASSPORT WHILE LIVING IN FRANCE (Part I)