State Department urges people to plan ahead and get passports issued well ahead of time as wait times could begin to climb.

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For those of you whose passport is expiring in the next year or two, get ready to wait — perhaps for a long time — for a renewal.

Beginning in 2017, the wait time for renewal could jump to as much as 10 weeks, or more. Now, it takes four to six weeks.

Triggering the long delays will be an expected surge in passport renewals starting in 2017 and stretching through 2018.

An improving economy, cheaper airfares and more disposable income also may spark overseas travel and create a logjam at the passport office, the U.S. State Department predicts.

Hordes of people obtained their passports in 2007, when new rules required U.S. citizens to have passports when flying to and from any international destination. In 2009, that rule was extended to U.S. and Canadian citizens re-entering the U.S. by land and sea.

More than 18 million U.S. passports, many good for 10 years, were issued in the 2007 fiscal year — 4 million more than last year.

To avoid the crush, now is a good time to apply for both first-time passports and renewals, the U.S. State Department says. September to December is the slowest time of the year for passport applications.

The Seattle Passport Agency had an in-person-application “Passport Day” earlier this month that was very crowded. First-time applicants and those under age 16 must apply in person, but renewals can be done by mail.

See the State Department’s website for more passport-application details and to download forms: http://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en.html. And find a list of “passport acceptance facilities” where in-person passport applications are accepted at https://iafdb.travel.state.gov/ They include city, county and federal offices.

Applying early for a passport renewal also makes sense for another reason: Many countries require that a passport have at least six months of validity remaining as a condition of entry.