than a month after Congress finalized a law requiring travelers to
possess a valid passport when they enter the U.S. by aircraft, the
State Dept. recorded a spike in the number of people applying for
"In November 2005 we
processed over 640,000 applications," a State Dept. spokeswoman
said. "In November 2006, we processed 1.1 million. That was a 67%
Final figures are not
yet available for December, but the spokeswoman said she expected
the year-over-year increase in applications for the month to
Travelers are racing
to obtain passports because under the new law, airline passengers
will be required to have passports in order to travel from other
countries in the Western Hemisphere to the U.S., starting Jan. 23.
By June 2009, land and sea travelers will also need
News reports have
alerted consumers of the new passport rules, but so has the travel
industry. The Travel Industry Association and the Travel Business
Roundtable in December launched a Web site, www.getapassportnow.com, to provide an information
source for travelers seeking help on obtaining a
The fact that so many
more people applied for passports in November indicated travelers
"are getting the message, which is great," the State Dept.
But even without the
new passport regulations, State Dept. figures showed that the
government has steadily issued an increasing number of passports
over the past several years.
For instance, by
Sept. 30, the end of the 2006 fiscal year, it issued 12.1 million
passports, up 20% from the number of passports it issued in 2005.
The 2005 figure in turn was up from 2004, when 8.8 million
passports were issued. On average, the State Dept. has issued about
6.2 million passports a year since 2000.
About 72 million
Americans have valid passports, the State Dept. said.