If you are an intrepid traveler and a U.S. passport holder, like mine your passport is likely [and happily] overflowing with pages. Currently the U.S. passport agency allows you to, without renewing your passport, add additional visa pages to it. This has been quite helpful for me, as visas for countries such as Algeria require two blank pages minimum to process a visa. U.S. passports are good for ten years. My current passport [from 2007] was 52 pages, and I had 24 additional pages added three times, much to the chagrin of passport control officers all over the world who think I put the pages in myself. However, this gave me a total of somewhere around 115 visa pages. If I assumed two pages per visa country and at least five new countries every year that required a visa, for ten years this was about right.
Standard U.S. passport books are currently issued with 28 pages. Of those, 17 are blank to be used for visas and country entry/exit stamps. Some countries have certain restrictions and may not allow entry if you have less than a specific number of blank visa pages in your passport, which may or may not need to be consecutive. If you travel frequently, you may request to be issued a larger passport book with 52 pages. Of those, 43 are blank to be used for visas and country entry/exit stamps.
The latest news is that beginning in 2016 pages will not be able to be added to a U.S. passport. That means that once all visa pages are used you will be forced to renew your passport [currently a cost of $135]. In concert with this, as of 2016 all new passports will include 52 pages/43 visa pages. If you want more pages put in your current passport, you must request that before the end of this year.
Does this change reflect changing travel patterns for U.S. citizens? Are they traveling more often? Or is this just a way to streamline the Passport Agency’s operations?
For more information see the U.S. State Department’s passport information site.