Get your passport now before fees go up

By Matt Butner - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Starting Tuesday, July 13, world travel will be a bit more expensive.  Passport fees are going up significantly.

For anyone 16 and older, a first-time passport is going up from $100 to $135. Renewals will jump from $75 to $110. For minors 15 and under, a $20 increase, from $85 to $105.

Extra passport pages used to be free- they will now carry a charge of $82.

Sheila Lewis stopped by Richmond's main post office as soon as she heard the news.

"This is something I've been putting off the last couple of years- no time like the present," said Lewis.

So she's filling out her passport paperwork- just ahead of the Tuesday fee increase.

Passport requirements have changed in the last few years for travel by air, land, and sea- even to places as close as Canada and Mexico.

"The Department of State initiated the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. What that does is require all out-of-U.S. Travel to have a passport," said Cathy Boule with the Post Office.

That even applies to border crossings by car. The result has been an upswing in the demand for passports. The higher fees are part of an effort to prevent fraud and enhance security with new technology and tighter restrictions.

"Those things cost a lot of money, especially if they're trying to stay ahead of the criminals," said Boule.

The fees also help pay for services to travelers who run into trouble in other countries. At the post office's passport center, staff is preparing for a crush of travelers hoping to avoid those higher fees- with only a few days left before they take effect.

"They can go to and fill out the application- and bring their patience," said Boule.

Shelia Lewis is ahead of the game.

"I had time today, so I figured I'd come in and beat the crowd," she said.

The normal wait for a passport is 4 to 6 weeks- but the coming crowds may slow that slightly.

Copyright 2010 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.