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The UPS Store expands passport renewal services to meet skyrocketing demand

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Some 49 million U.S. passports are set to expire during the next three years.

CBS News reported that Google searches on "how to move to Canada" spiked 350 percent in four hours after the presidential Super Tuesday primaries. One thing may surprise online searchers: You'll need a valid U.S. passport before you can make that house-hunting visit.

Since passports are valid for 10 years, government officials expect a flood of renewal requests through 2018, amounting to as many as 49 million documents.

Thanks to a 2007 federal law, U.S. citizens en route to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda need a current passport. That change triggered nearly 18 million new passports in 2008 alone. Since passports are valid for 10 years, government officials expect a flood of renewal requests through 2018, amounting to as many as 49 million documents. Because of the influx, renewing a passport may take six weeks or more, officials say.

Adding to the demand: Travel to many European countries and other places around the world for business or pleasure requires a passport that has three to six months of validity before it expires. The U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs recommends not traveling anywhere abroad without at least six months of validity on your passport.

Beat the passport renewal lines

To help business and individual customers beat the rush and streamline the renewal process, The UPS Store®  is expanding its online scheduling service for passport renewals, which allows customers to go online and schedule a convenient time to have their passport photo taken at a nearby store location.

"What consumers seem to like best is the ability to save time by booking an appointment online, and avoiding the long lines and wait times they've encountered in the past," says Nicole Cox, public relations supervisor at the San Diego headquarters for The UPS Store. "Time is the new currency, and customers value the increased convenience."

Online photo scheduling is push-button easy. Simply go to www.theupstore.com, find the closest store location that offers online scheduling for passport photos, and book an available time slot. In addition to scheduling photos at participating locations, customers can print passport renewal forms and complete and mail them via USPS with shipment tracking.

Passport renewal by mail can be a seamless process, as long as you are over 16 and meet other fairly straightforward requirements, Cox says. "But if you are getting a passport for the very first time, you do have to apply in person at a licensed passport office," explains Cox.

Best bet: Check State Department renew-by-mail rules first. "With the record setting demand it's going to be a busy year for passports, but at The UPS Store we're on a mission to make the process as pain free as possible."

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