Monday, 22 May 2006
Can I still get a USA passport without an RFID chip?
Lately more and more of my friends have been asking if there's still time to get a new or renewal USA passport before they all start being issued with embedded RFID chips that can't be disabled without invalidating the passport .
Maybe, but you can no longer count on not getting a chipped passport.
I haven't yet seen any RFID regular USA passports in the wild, but the latest official word from the government is that they hope to start issuing them in "spring 2006". Even if they are behind schedule, it still could happen very soon, without further warning.
If you want a non-RFID USA passport good for the next 10 years, you should apply right away. You should pay the extra rush charge and make an appointment to apply for your passport at one of the regional passport offices -- not by mail to the national passport centers which are likely to be where the first standard RFID passports are issued. And you should present an itinerary from a travel agency or airline showing that you are leaving on an international journey the evening of your appointment, or the very next day, so they have to issue your new passport locally and don't have time to have it issued and sent to you overnight from one of the national centers in Portsmouth or Charleston.
Most passport offices will accept an itinerary on travel agency printed forms, without actual proof that tickets have been issued. Nothing legally prevents you from changing your mind and not taking that scheduled trip. You just need to be sure that if you've actually bought tickets, they are fully refundable and you can afford to wait several months to get your money back.
To maximize the chance that your passport won't fill up with visas and entry stamps before it expires, include a signed letter, prominently attached to the application, explaining that you expect to travel aborad often and requesting a 48- or 96-page passport rather than a standard 24-page one. There's no fee for the extra-thick passport, and with the transition to RFID passports you will no longer be able to get pages added to your passport later if it fills up. There's no place on the application form to indicate that you want an extra-thick passport, so make sure you call your letter requesting it to the attention of the clerk when you submit your application.
My guess is that the first RFID passport assembly line will be at one of the national passport centers, where there are multiple non-RFID backup lines in case there are problems (as is likely) with the process, and production delays aren't critical since passports issued by mail typically take at least several weeks.
The regional passport issuance agencies, where even small delays could be catastrophic for travellers getting same-day passports (yes, it's possible, and surprisingly common, mainly for family emergencies and people being send abroad on unexpected business), will likely be converted only after the manufacturing bugs have been worked out at the national passport centers.
USA embassies and consulates abroad have already discontinued issuing regular passports with 10-year validity. USA passports issued abroad are now only temporary, with a maximum validity of one year.Link | Posted by Edward on Monday, 22 May 2006, 21:02 ( 9:02 PM)