US passports fees are about to pop way up
By Forrest Brown, CNN
(CNN) -- It seems few things are escaping the scourge of inflation these days -- and that will soon include US passports.
On December 27, the fee for a US passport book will shoot up by $20 for all customers, the US State Department has announced.
Why the price hike?
In a tweet, the State Department said, "The increased fee is necessary to ensure we continue to produce one of the most secure travel and identity documents in the world."
How much will this cost you in total?
There are several personal factors that go into the cost calculation -- including the type of passport you want, whether you're renewing or getting your first one, and how fast you need it.
One example: For an adult renewing a US passport book by mail, the current fee is $110. Adding in the extra 20 bucks starting next week, and you're looking at $130, or an 18.2% increase.
For comparison, consumer price inflation rose by 6.8% without seasonal adjustments over the 12 months ended November.
Mail vs. online
Even in late 2021, mail is still the standard way to get a passport.
But last week, President Joe Biden signed an executive order instructing government agencies to come up with systems that provide more efficient customer service.
For current US passport holders, that would eventually allow them to renew their books entirely online.
The order gave US agencies 180 days to report the status of their efforts to the President.
Where will this passport take you?
Before the pandemic, the United States was close to the top of the "best passport" list, providing access to 184 destinations in 2019.
Then in the summer of 2020, when the pandemic was still relatively new and borders were closed in many places, that US passport allowed you in to a very limited number of places. Mexico and Turkey were two of the bigger travel names on a small list of options.
Since then, that list has grown -- and sometimes contracted -- responding to ebbs and flows of the pandemic.
There are still popular places US citizens can't visit for leisure travel: Japan, for instance. But overall, US passport holders -- especially those who are fully vaccinated -- have a much wider selection of foreign destinations now than a year and half ago, even with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus causing worldwide concern.
Argentina and Canada opened up to American passport holders in more recent months. Much of the Americas and Europe are open. There are a good number of choices in Africa. Asia and the Australia/Pacific region have the fewest options, still.
See a list of places where US travelers can currently go here. And check out the travel warnings for Covid-19 risk from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here.
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