Government Affairs State Department's passport push yields good early results By Johanna Jainchill / January 28, 2016 Share 1 -- United States passport issuances increased significantly at the end of 2015, following the launch of a campaign urging Americans to apply early because of longer processing times. The State Department is expecting a rush of renewals due to the expiration of the 18 million passports that were issued in 2007, following the implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which required anyone traveling by air from the United States to another country to have a passport. By comparison, a total of 12.1 million passports were issued in 2006.“We expect increased passport applications through 2018, so we are continuing to get the word out to applicants to apply for or renew their passports well in advance of their travel,” said Beth Finan, a press officer with the Bureau of Consular Affairs, Department of State. "We're currently advising applicants that it will take about six weeks for routine service, up from four weeks last year."Passport application surged this past fall. In October, 1,094,592 passports were issued, a 26% increase from the previous October. In November, 1,064,241 passports were issued, an increase of 49%.The State Department said passport applications have been steadily increasing over the last few years, with 14 million issued in 2014, 15.5 million in 2015 and an expected 17.4 million in 2016.