In the last two decades, the number of United States passport holders has skyrocketed.
In 2017, more than 21 million U.S. residents received a passport, a new one-year record. As a result, more than 136 million people, or 42% of the U.S. population, now hold a valid passport.
The increase has been significant, especially given that just 4% of the American population owned a passport as recently as 1990.
The steep climb in number of U.S. passport holders is due in part to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, instituted in 2007, which requires U.S citizens to carry passports for travel to Canada, Mexico, South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda as a measure to heighten national security after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In the initiative’s first year, the number of issued U.S. passports jumped more than 33% from 2006.
Too, travel and vacation trends have increased over the past decade, as more than 35 million Americans traveled internationally in 2016, up from the 31 million who traveled abroad in 2007, according to federal data.
And most recently, U.S. passports have found their purpose in the hands of domestic flyers as the REAL ID Act of 2005 nears full fruition. REAL IDs, which are federally compliant driver’s licenses and ID cards, will be the only acceptable state-issued credentials to fly domestically starting in 2020. However, U.S. passports are considered REAL ID compliant and can be used to board planes traveling within the United States. Additionally, a passport serves as acceptable proof of citizenship, which REAL ID applicants must now present to receive the new secure identification.
As a whole, there are several reasons why a greater number Americans have recently applied for U.S. passports. As national security tightens and the American urge to explore grows, the need for passports may continue to develop.