In 2009, more than 6.4 million U.S. business travelers traveled outside North America, according to the U.S. Office of Travel and Tourism Industries. That represented a decline of one million travelers compared to 2008. But in 2010, international business travel finally showed positive growth again, and the growth is expected to increase through 2011.
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (effective June 1, 2009), made it mandatory for all U.S citizens to have a passport book or a passport card (or another WHITI approved ID) to travel to Mexico or Canada. As a result, over 16 million passport books and cards were issued in 2008; 13.5 million were issued in 2009, and 13.9 million in 2010.
Passport Agencies are popping up more and more often due to the increased demand for passports. By the end of 2011 we should expect a total of 22 passport agencies nationwide with at least 17 of those being open to the public. Most of the new agencies will be in places like El Paso, TX to make passport processing resources available to those who travel most between Mexico and the United States.
It currently takes 4-6 weeks to obtain a passport. The U.S. Department of State recommends that all U.S citizens with family living in other countries keep their passport current in order to prevent delays when emergency travel may be necessary. If a business trip or family vacation may take you abroad, plan ahead and get your passport now. In general, it is just good practice to have a valid passport on hand, especially as an ID for minors who travel domestically.
Another rapidly changing landscape is the requirements for domestic air travel. Just at the end of last year the TSA started enforcing strict new standards where your ID must match the booked airline ticket exactly. This new rule is just the beginning of what industry experts think to be a major shift in what is an acceptable form of identification. A valid passport will ALWAYS be an acceptable form of identification.
So, whether your plans are to travel internationally soon, or in the future, there are many reasons to make sure you have your passport!