This week the Department of State published an interim final rule putting its previously proposed increases in passport and visa fees into effect as of July 13, 2010.

The State Department admitted that more than 98% of the comments received from individual members of the public were opposed to the fees, as were comments from the travel industry and from the Consumer Travel Alliance and other consumer and civil liberties organizations.  But the State Department brushed off those objections (failing even to acknowledge complaints that the rulemaking violated U.S. international treaty obligations on freedom of movement, as well as violating the Administrative Procedure Act) and finalized the proposed fee increases unchanged. No consideration was given to their economic impact on self-employed or freelance business travelers, despite the requirement for such an assessment under the Regulatory Flexibility Act.

Unless the interim final rule is challenged in court (perhaps by travel companies, on APA grounds), fees for new or renewal passports and “passport cards” will all increase for applications received by the Passport Office on or after July 13, 2010.

The most extreme increase will be for adding blank visa pages to a current passport, currently a free service for which a new fee of $82 will be imposed.  Check how many blank visas pages are left in your passport, and when your passport will expire. If your passport might fill up before it expires, and you won’t be needing it for travel until at least the end of the summer, apply for new pages now.

Unless you pay $60 extra for “expedited” (2-week) service, standard passport application processing time is supposedly 4-6 weeks. Adding pages sometimes takes much less time than getting a new passport. But because the fee increase is likely to prompt a surge of last-minute applications for all sorts of passport services, I wouldn’t count on getting your passport back until the end of August if you send it in (by Express Mail) today.