The National Passport Information Center of the U.S. Department of State (DOS) has confirmed that, as of January 1, 2016, U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad will no longer issue additional passport visa pages to U.S. citizens. Primarily utilized by frequent business travelers and rotational global employees, the additional pages extend the life of a passport should it run out of visa pages.
The implementation date of this announcement aligns with the rollout of the new “Next Generation” U.S. passport which will feature significant design changes and security upgrades. During the months and weeks leading up to this deadline, U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad will slowly begin to phase out the availability of additional passport page inserts with December 31, 2015 as the final closure date of this service.
Additional visa page inserts will remain available to applicants filing by mail (Form DS-4085) from within the U.S. and Canada.
With the support of an interagency working group, the DOS cites four primary factors behind the change:
• Security Concerns – with the “Next Generation” U.S. passport being rolled out in 2016, the DOS felt as though the “the addition of visa page inserts could reduce the effectiveness of these new security features[i].”
• Use – the interagency working group found that most U.S. citizens requesting additional passport pages held the smaller, “standard” 28-page passport book rather than the larger, 52-page book available.
• Costs – producing and providing additional passport page inserts, especially given the new security features on the “Next Generation” U.S. passport cannot be justified given the availability of the 52-page passport book.
Thus, as of January 1, 2016, U.S. citizens will no longer be able to obtain additional passport page inserts for their U.S. passports through U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad. Rather, these passport holders will be required to undergo a full passport renewal should they run out of visa pages.
The National Passport Information Center strongly recommends that frequent international travelers or those who may become frequent travelers, obtain the 52-page passport initially in order to avoid any possible immigration difficulties while abroad. Applicants may choose the 52-page book option for no additional cost when applying for a new passport and U.S. citizens renewing their passports abroad will automatically be granted this larger booklet. These larger passports are still issued with the standard 10-year validity.
Although these changes may sound minor, there are many immigration considerations that must be taken into account as of January 1, 2016. Depending on the country in question, U.S. nationals residing abroad who renew their passports and hold either a business visa or a Work/Residence Permit may be required to complete certain immigration formalities in order to maintain the validity of said visa or permit. These processes may include, but are not limited to: carrying both the new and old passports together, notifying local authorities of the new passport and its details, and/or applying to have the visa/permit transferred to the newly renewed passport.
How These Changes Affect You
Sponsoring companies and U.S. citizens living abroad must pay close attention to the number of visa pages they have left in their passports. Many countries require that foreign nationals keep at least two (2) blank visa pages in their passports for visa and permit stamping, as well as entry/exit stamps. Should a U.S. citizen residing abroad urgently need even a business visa and if he/she does not have a sufficient number of passport pages available, their immigration process will be delayed while their passport is being renewed.
U.S. nationals who are frequent international travelers or who may become so are encouraged to apply for the 52-page passport booklet either as soon as they notice a lack of blank visa pages in their current passport, or upon the standard renewal of their current passport. There are no additional costs to obtain the 52-page book.
As the DOS will continue to provide additional passport page inserts to applicants filing by mail within the U.S. and Canada even after January 1, 2016, there remains some flexibility to this new procedure change. However, U.S. citizens living abroad will not have easy access to this continued service.
Should you have any questions or concerns regarding this upcoming change and how it may affect you, your family, or your employees, please reach out to Pro-Link GLOBAL’s Client Relations Team (ClientServices@pro-linkglobal.com) for specific guidance.
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[i] U.S. Department of State. Proposed Elimination of Visa Page Insert Service for U.S. Passport Book Holders. Washington, D.C.: Federal Register, 2015. Web.