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Passports, TSA Pre-Check, CLEAR, Global Entry, Real ID & More

In the Sections Below, you will find a lot of information about each of these topics, learn why they are important and/or beneficial considerations. Most of these details are as published by the U.S. State Department as of 2023.

1. Passports.

When do I need to use my passport?
Whenever you enter or exit the United States, you need to show a valid passport. Additionally, if you do not have a valid REAL ID after May 7, 2025, you will need to show a passport (or other approved form of government-issued ID, including a Global Entry card) to board a domestic flight.
 Where and how do I get a passport?
The U.S. State Department is in charge of issuing passports (sometimes called passport books, to distinguish them from passport cards). The State Department’s website has an easy-to-use, interactive guide that helps you apply for a passport, whether or not you’ve had one in the past. This guide will take you through every step of the process, from entering your date of birth to taking a passport photo and printing the application. An important note: you are not allowed to wear glasses in your passport photo.
Once you follow this guide and print your passport application, you will need to bring it to a physical location that accepts passport applications, as the State Department does not accept them online. The United States Postal Service has a website where you can find the nearest passport acceptance location.
As of October 2023, applying for a first-time Passport Book costs $165, and a passport card costs $65.
 How long does it take to obtain a passport?
As mentioned, we recommend budgeting four months for passport applications and renewals, which have a standard processing time of 10-13 weeks. You can pay an extra $60 for expedited processing, which will cut that wait time to 7-9 weeks. Thus, we recommend submitting a passport application (or renewal application) sooner rather than later. You can track the status of your passport application or renewal online at the State Department website.
Note: If you check the status of your passport renewal online and it says “Not Found,” that likely means that the passport hasn’t arrived at the facility yet. Wait 14 days from the time you submitted your renewal, and then check again.
 What is a passport card, and is it right for me?
A passport card is a wallet-sized, REAL ID-compliant identification card. This card can be used as identification for any domestic flight but cannot be used for international air travel. If you’re worried that your current license or ID is not REAL ID-compliant, and you do not plan on traveling out of the country, you may consider applying for a passport card (the card costs $65, and you can apply for just a passport card without applying for a full U.S. passport book). You can find more information on passport cards at the State Department website.
 Passport validity and renewal
Whether you’ve just obtained a passport or have had one for years, it’s important to know when your passport expires and how to renew it.
 How long is my passport valid?
United States passports are valid for 10 years from the date of issue. Many foreign countries have different rules on passport validity and restricting travel access, but as a general rule, your passport should be valid up to six months after your return date from an international trip.
 When should I renew my passport?
It’s a good idea to renew your passport significantly ahead of its expiration date, to ensure that you will receive the new passport with time to spare. If your passport has expired, you can still renew it up to five years after the expiration date, otherwise you will need to apply for a new passport.
 How do I renew my passport?
As mentioned, there are two ways to renew a passport—either by mail or in person—and each has its own eligibility requirements. The State Department website explains how to renew a passport by mail, and also has a page dedicated to explaining how to renew a passport in-person. If your passport was issued in the last 15 years, is undamaged, and was issued in your current name (or you can produce verified documents validating your name change), you may be eligible to renew by mail. Otherwise, you will need to visit an in-person passport renewal location. See the sections above or visit the State Department’s website for more information on passport renewal during the COVID-19 pandemic.
 How long does it take to renew a passport?
As of October 2023, routine processing is 10-13 weeks and expedited processing (for an additional $60) is 7-9 weeks. These time frames start the day that the State Department receives your renewal application, not the day that you mail it. We advise you to renew your passport as early as possible, hence our four month recommendation above. You can track the status of your passport application or renewal online at the State Department website.
 Passport security
Your passport is the most important travel document you own. Here’s how to keep it safe, and what to do if you lose it.
 How do I keep my passport safe?
It’s essential to keep your passport safe in all phases of travel, from the airport to ground travel to sightseeing.
Before you travel, make several photocopies of the photo page your passport. Leave one with a friend or relative, and keep one in a secure compartment of your suitcase and possibly another in your carry-on. In the event your passport is lost or stolen, these copies will prove useful for receiving a new passport.
While at the airport, consider keeping your passport in a zippered, easy-to-reach pocket in your handbag or daypack. That way, you can stow this bag below the seat in front of you on the plane and have it easily accessible once you land. You also may wish to store it in a money belt which can be worn around your waist and concealed under your clothing. Regardless, do not pack it in your checked luggage.
While traveling on ground transportation (for example, on motorcoaches between tour stops), keep your passport in your day pack, rather than stowing it with your luggage underneath the coach.
During sightseeing excursions and day trips during touring days, protect your passport by leaving it locked in the safe in your hotel room. If your room doesn’t have a safe, ask the front desk of your hotel about safe deposit boxes.
 What should I do if I lose my passport?
The first thing to do if you find that your passport has been lost or stolen is to contact the State Department. There are three different ways to do this, all available on the State Department website. If you haven’t left the U.S. yet, you can apply for a replacement passport the same way you would apply for a new one.
If your passport is lost or stolen in a foreign country, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate and declare the passport missing or stolen. The embassy will be able to assist you in obtaining a replacement passport. The State Department website has a list of the documents you need to bring with you to the Embassy in order to obtain a replacement passport. And, it can be a good idea to travel with two extra passport photos in the event that you will need to get a replacement.


What is REAL ID, and how does it affect me?

REAL ID (formally The Real ID Act of 2005) is an Act of Congress aimed at making driver’s licenses and other forms of government-issued IDs more secure. All states now issue IDs that comply with this Act.

The key takeaway for travelers is that starting on May 7, 2025, you must present a REAL ID-compliant form of identification to travel on domestic flights. For most travelers, this will take the form of a REAL ID—a new license or identification card produced by your state government with enhanced security features. You can find a full list of REAL ID-compliant identification forms on the TSA website.

How do I get a REAL ID?

Every state is now issuing REAL ID-compliant identification cards. Visit the Department of Homeland Security’s easy-to-use website that provides more information about each state’s REAL ID process.

Please note: If you do not have a REAL ID-compliant identification yet, you must apply for, receive, and present the new, compliant license or ID card in order to board a domestic flight once the May 7, 2025, deadline hits. To obtain a REAL ID, contact your state’s ID-issuing facility.

Most state ID-issuing facilities will allow you to submit your identity documents online before going in person to the facility, so be sure to ask if your state allows you to do this.

How has COVID-19 affected passports and REAL ID?

All passport agencies and centers are now open for business, but many may be at different stages of their reopening plans. Visit the State Department’s dedicated webpage to see the reopening status of your nearest passport facility.
State Department passport agencies currently only offer two appointment types: Urgent Travel Services and “Life-or-Death Emergency Services.” Both appointment types are in-person. Regardless of reopening stage, the State Department will be prioritizing in-person appointments for customers who need a passport in the next three business days for “life-or-death emergencies.” Passport facilities work on an appointment-only basis for all customers.
In all stages of reopening, passport agencies are processing previously received passport applications in the order in which they were received.
You can still renew your passport by mail if you meet certain passport eligibility requirements. Visit the State Department’s website to see if you qualify for mail-in passport renewal. If you do not qualify, you must apply in person. In-person passport application appointments can no longer be made online; you must call 877-487-2778.
As of March 27, 2023, renewing a standard passport book by mail costs $130 and purchasing a new passport book costs $165. Expedited service costs an additional $60. You cannot pay online and must mail a check if renewing by mail.
We recommend applying for a passport (or passport renewal) at least four months before your planned travel date, so please make note of this and try to get your application in sooner rather than later. Routine processing for passport renewal is currently between 10-13 weeks.
As previously mentioned, the REAL ID deadline is May 7, 2025. We recommend obtaining a REAL ID sooner rather than later, as the pandemic has put a strain on the departments responsible for issuing passports and REAL IDs.

3. TSA Pre-Check

TSA PreCheck: Your Boarding Pass to Stress-Free Air Travel

Picture this: you're standing at the airport, ready for your long-awaited vacation, but the thought of long security lines and the hassle of removing shoes and laptops dampens your excitement. Enter TSA PreCheck, a trusted traveler program that can transform your airport experience from a tedious chore into a breeze. In this article, we'll delve into the world of TSA PreCheck and how it can revolutionize the way you travel.

What is TSA PreCheck?
TSA PreCheck, or Transportation Security Administration PreCheck, is a program designed to expedite the security screening process at U.S. airports. It's the golden ticket to smoother and faster security checkpoints, making air travel a more enjoyable experience.

Here's how it works:

Application: To enroll in TSA PreCheck, you'll need to complete an online application, which includes personal information and background details. You'll also need to schedule an in-person appointment at an enrollment center.

Eligibility: TSA PreCheck is open to U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, and certain foreign nationals. It's a traveler's dream come true.

Membership: After successfully completing the application and in-person interview, you'll receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN). This KTN is valid for five years.

Enjoy the Benefits: Armed with your KTN, you can use dedicated TSA PreCheck lanes at participating airports. Say goodbye to removing your shoes, belts, light jackets, laptops, and liquids from your bag.

The Benefits of TSA PreCheck
Now, let's explore why TSA PreCheck is worth its weight in gold for travelers:

Time-Saving: The most significant advantage is the time you save. TSA PreCheck lanes are often significantly shorter, and the screening process is quicker.

Stress Reduction: No need to remove your shoes or take out your laptop; TSA PreCheck means a less stressful security experience.

Convenience: Traveling with children or elderly family members? TSA PreCheck benefits apply to everyone in your traveling party, including children under 12.

Global Entry Compatibility: If you're an international traveler, consider applying for Global Entry, a program that includes TSA PreCheck benefits and provides expedited immigration and customs clearance upon return to the U.S.

How to Get TSA PreCheck
Getting TSA PreCheck is a straightforward process:

Apply Online: Visit the official TSA PreCheck website and complete the online application. You'll need to provide personal information and pay a non-refundable fee.

Schedule an Appointment: After submitting your application, schedule an in-person appointment at a nearby enrollment center. Be sure to bring your required documents.

Background Check: At your appointment, you'll undergo a background check, fingerprinting, and an interview.

Approval: If you pass the background check, you'll receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN) via mail. Enter this number when booking your flights.

Enjoy Your Perks: Once approved, you can start enjoying the benefits of TSA PreCheck on your upcoming trips.

Final Thoughts
TSA PreCheck is a traveler's best friend, offering convenience, speed, and peace of mind at the airport. If you're a frequent flyer or just someone who values a smoother airport experience, the small investment of time and money required to obtain TSA PreCheck is well worth it. Say goodbye to long security lines and hello to stress-free travel. Bon voyage!

4. Global Entry

Global Entry: Your Key to Effortless International Travel

International travel can be both exciting and rewarding, but it often comes with its fair share of challenges, especially when dealing with customs and immigration procedures. Fortunately, there's a trusted traveler program that can make your international travel experience smoother and more efficient: Global Entry. In this article, we'll dive into the world of Global Entry and explore how it can enhance your globetrotting adventures.

What is Global Entry?
Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that provides expedited clearance for pre-approved travelers arriving in the United States. Designed to streamline the immigration process, Global Entry offers a fast track through customs and passport control, making your return to the U.S. a breeze.

Here's how it works:

Application: To become a Global Entry member, you must complete an online application and pay a non-refundable fee. This application includes a background check and requires you to attend an in-person interview.

Eligibility: Global Entry is open to U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, and citizens of certain countries with which the U.S. has agreements, such as Canada, Mexico, and the United Kingdom.

Interview: Once your application is conditionally approved, you'll need to schedule an in-person interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center, where you'll provide biometric information and complete the enrollment process.

Membership: Once approved, you receive a Trusted Traveler Number (TTN), which is valid for five years. You can then use this number when booking international flights.

Effortless Reentry: Upon returning to the United States, head to a Global Entry kiosk at participating airports. Scan your passport, provide fingerprints, and answer a few questions. You'll receive a receipt and can then proceed directly to baggage claim and exit the airport.

The Benefits of Global Entry
Global Entry offers numerous advantages to travelers:

Time-Saving: Global Entry members enjoy expedited customs and immigration clearance, often skipping long lines and reducing wait times.

Convenience: Say goodbye to filling out customs forms on the plane; Global Entry kiosks make the process quick and paperless.

Access to TSA PreCheck: Global Entry members are also eligible for TSA PreCheck, which means you can breeze through domestic security lines without removing your shoes, belt, or laptop.

Global Coverage: While it's a U.S. program, Global Entry benefits extend to select international airports, making your entry into other countries more efficient.

How to Get Global Entry
Obtaining Global Entry is straightforward:

Online Application: Start by completing the online application through the Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP) website.

Pay the Fee: Pay the non-refundable application fee, which covers the cost of processing your background check.

Conditional Approval: If your application is conditionally approved, you'll receive an email instructing you to schedule an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center.

In-Person Interview: Attend the interview, bring the required documents (passport, permanent resident card, and one other form of identification), and complete the biometric process.

Use Your Membership: Once approved, start using your Global Entry membership to enjoy hassle-free international travel.


Streamline Your Travel Experience with CLEAR: Your Passport to Efficiency

Traveling often involves navigating the complexities of airports, from check-in and security lines to customs and immigration. But what if there was a service that could help you breeze through these processes with ease? Enter CLEAR, your digital passport to a smoother and more efficient travel experience. In this article, we'll delve into the world of CLEAR and how it can revolutionize the way you travel.

What is CLEAR?
CLEAR is a trusted traveler program that focuses on expediting identity verification and security clearance processes at participating airports and venues. It's designed to simplify your journey, ensuring you spend less time in lines and more time enjoying your travels.

How CLEAR works:

Enrollment: To get started with CLEAR, you need to enroll in the program. This can be done at CLEAR enrollment centers, which are often conveniently located at major airports.

Identity Verification: During the enrollment process, CLEAR uses biometric technology to verify your identity. This includes capturing your fingerprint and iris scans, creating a secure and efficient way to confirm your identity at checkpoints.

Membership: Once you're enrolled, you receive a CLEAR card, or you can use your biometrics to access CLEAR lanes at participating locations.

Bypass Security Lines: At the airport, simply head to the CLEAR lane. A friendly CLEAR Ambassador will assist you with the identity verification process, allowing you to skip the regular ID check queue.

Combine with TSA PreCheck: For an even more streamlined experience, you can combine CLEAR with TSA PreCheck. This means you not only skip identity verification lines but also enjoy the perks of TSA PreCheck, like keeping your shoes on and your laptop in your bag.

The Benefits of CLEAR
Now, let's explore why CLEAR is a game-changer for travelers:

Time-Saving: The most obvious benefit of CLEAR is the time you save. No more waiting in long lines for ID checks or security screenings.

Efficiency: CLEAR uses advanced technology to verify your identity quickly and accurately, ensuring a smooth experience at checkpoints.

No Need for Physical Documents: You can leave your passport and ID card in your bag; your biometrics are all you need.

Family-Friendly: CLEAR offers a family plan, allowing you to add family members, including children, to your membership.

Nationwide Coverage: While not available at every airport, CLEAR is expanding to numerous major airports across the United States.

How to Get CLEAR
Getting started with CLEAR is easy:

Enroll in Person: Visit a CLEAR enrollment center at a participating airport. Provide your personal information and undergo biometric identity verification.

Membership Activation: Once enrolled, you can start using CLEAR immediately. Head to the CLEAR lane at a participating airport, and a CLEAR Ambassador will assist you.

Combine with TSA PreCheck: If you have TSA PreCheck, linking it to your CLEAR membership further streamlines your travel experience.

Final Thoughts
CLEAR is a fantastic tool for travelers seeking a stress-free and efficient airport experience. While there is a membership fee associated with CLEAR, many frequent flyers find it well worth the investment for the time and convenience it saves. If you value speed, efficiency, and the peace of mind that comes with a seamless airport journey, consider giving CLEAR a try. It just might become your favorite travel companion, helping you unlock a world of hassle-free adventures. Safe travels!

6. Travel Visa

Use the following link to learn more about the NEW Visa requirements for travel to Europe. This is a brand new requirement that we are still learning about, yet it takes effect January 2024. This requirement includes citizens of the USA traveling to such countries as France, Italy, Greece and many more.https://travel-europe.europa.eu/etias_en
Traveling somewhere else? We often rely on the details from this dedicated Visa service provider and recommend reviewing the requirements that they have listed.https://cibtvisas.com/