There's been a surge in U.S. passports issued in the last decade
Americans have historically had one of the lowest passport ownership rates in the world.
In the last 3 decades, however, the rise of globalization, as well as the increased competition between airlines -- flights have dropped 50% in price since the 90s! -- has created a massive shift in demand for international travel, and thus, for passports.
In 1997, around 6 million passports were issued in the U.S. Thirty years later, in 2017, that number more than tripled and 21 million more Americans got passports - the highest number in history.
Believe it or not, in 1990 only 3% of Americans held passports. And now? 42% of Americans do.
Despite the growth, the US still lags far behind a number of developed countries. In the UK, for example, a full 83% of the population has a passport!
So why are more people getting passports?
Aside from globalization, a major factor that has led more Americans to want to travel abroad is the power of the internet.
In the 1990s, sites like Expedia and Priceline launched game-changing technologies that could trawl the Web for flights and organize them by price, so affordable fares that were previously hard to find were right at the fingertips of people who had only ever dreamed of traveling abroad, but never thought they could afford to.
Another factor is national security.
In the wake of 9/11, new laws mandated that U.S. citizens have a passport to go to Canada and Mexico. The law went into effect in 2007, and required a passport in hand if you were traveling by air or sea to those destinations. Previously, you didn't need one to visit these common travel destinations, so 2005-2010 saw a large surge in passport adoption.
Driver's licenses, meanwhile, have stayed constant
As a point of comparison, 2/3 of Americans have driver's licenses, and that has stayed constant for the past two decades. In 2016, 222 million of 323 million Americans had a state-issued driver's license. When it comes to domestic travel, the driver's license has been the predominant form of TSA-approved identification.
However, in 2005 the Real ID Act was passed which required states to upgrade their driver's license security and issuing standards. This created another wave of people needing to upgrade to new federally-complaint IDs which will be enforced at airports starting in 2020. To upgrade your driver's license, you'll need another identity document, such as a passport.
Takeaways: What Does the Increase in Americans with Passports Mean for You?
First off, if you don't have a U.S. Passport and are eligible for one, now is the time to consider it. Especially with the Real ID requirements, getting a passport will only help. It's easier than ever and the State Department continues to make improvements to the passport application process. Whether you want to DIY your passport renewal or go with an expedited option, there are now many choices that make that process quick and painless.
If you have an existing passport, it's also a good time check the expiration date on it. Remember, many countries require your passport to be valid for 6 months after your return, so if your passport is expiring within a year, now is a good time to consider renewing with Uber for passports option.
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