Q: Dear Peter, I’m planning a trip to France in the fall, but I’ve heard the U.S. passport fees are increasing this summer. Is that true? How much will they cost now? Also, I need to get a new passport right away. Thanks!
—Michael, Washington, D.C.
A: You heard correct, Michael. U.S. State Department officials did an extensive study on the cost of providing services such as issuing passports and assisting U.S. citizens abroad, and do you know what they found? They realized that they were spending more than what they were making. Also, part of the blame goes to the new e-passports with electronic chips in them. E-passports are much more secure, but they don’t come cheap, so we get a hike in passport prices.
Here’s a breakdown of the new fees that went into effect July 13:
If you apply for a passport, you’ll end up paying 35 percent more, as the cost of getting a new, adult passport will go up from $100 to $135.
If you already have a passport, the cost of renewal has increased by 47 percent, up from $75 to $110.
Adding pages to your passport book is no longer a free service and will cost an additional $82. But if you expect to travel frequently, you can request a 52-page book instead of the normal 24-page book free of charge.
Since it sounds like you need a passport right away, you might want to look into expedited passport processing. This is much faster than the two-week rush delivery from your regional passport agency. It's Easy and ZVS are two reputable companies that can get you a passport in as little as a day, albeit at a cost.
Finally, if you find yourself cruising or driving from countries or regions that don’t require a passport book, like Mexico, Canada or the Caribbean, you can save a good deal of money by applying for a $45 passport card instead ($20 for existing passport holders). However, call your cruise line ahead of time to make sure that specific ship allows the passport card. In my opinion, the card is far too limiting, and you're better off getting the traditional passport to cover all your bases.