The U.S. State Department has changed the rules for passports in two ways.

First, as of January 1, 2016, it will no longer allow you to add pages to your passport if you fill up the ones you have with visas and entry stamps. Previously, you could get extra pages sent to you or have them sewn into your passport at consulates and embassies. If you're a regular visitor to the many countries that like to occupy an entire page of a passport for paperwork—Russia and China, to take two examples—then your book can fill up fast.

If you want more pages now, you have to spring for a whole new passport—a $110 expense. You'll be paying this even if your original passport was nowhere close to its expiration date.

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"The decision to discontinue this service was made to enhance the security of the passport and to abide by international passport standards," the State Department wrote in its statement.

Passports still come in two sizes: 28 pages and 52 pages. You have a choice which to order when you apply, and the cost for the two sizes is the same. Our advice is to always get the larger version, even if you don't think you'll fill all the pages, to avoid having to pony up another $110.

New passports come with new numbers. Any documents that are tied to the old passport must be re-issued to match the new passport number, so residency permits, work visas, and other applications must also be re-lodged at additional expense.

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Here's the other rule tweak that seems minor but is fuzzy enough to concern some people: If you owe $50,000 or more (including penalties and interest) to the Internal Revenue Service and are not on a repayment plan, your passport can be legally taken away from you or denied renewal. You wouldn't have to be convicted of tax evasion; the IRS need only put you on its No Passport list, even if there's just a lien against you. The measure was slipped into the giant transportation bill that passed Congress in early December.

Here's how Forbes weighed in on this new rule and potential issues with it:

"The right to travel has been recognized as fundamental, both between states and internationally. And although some restrictions have been upheld, it is not clear that this measure will pass the constitutional test if it is challenged. Speaking of challenge, it is not off-topic to mention FATCA, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act.

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FATCA penalizes foreign banks that don’t hand over American account holders. There are approximately eight million Americans living overseas, many of whom are still reeling from FATCA compliance problems."


Tags: passport, state-department, Visas

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