'Passport Information' Category
Border crossers get pass on 1st day of new passport
Border agents used Day One as an exercise in education, not detainment.
At the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry in Nogales, for instance, people were waved through even if they did not have the proper ID. They were handed a flier that explained the new rules.
Edith Serrano, a public-affairs supervisor for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said agents will try to help people through as long as they have some form of legitimate identification, even if that ID is not up to the new standards.
“They are U.S. citizens. They can go and come back,” Serrano said. “It might delay them a little, but we are not going to deny a U.S. citizen from coming back from Mexico.”
The new rules require U.S. citizens to carry a passport, passport card, enhanced driver’s license or other government-approved document to return to the country.
Serrano could not say when agents would stop handing out the warning fliers and start holding people for citizenship verification.
The new protocol is part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, a national-security plan established under the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.
Five of Arizona’s six border crossings reported normal or lighter traffic Monday and no problems for Americans returning from Mexico.
Port directors at Naco, Lukeville, Nogales and San Luis said traffic was normal and drivers were in or near full compliance in showing passports, passport-ID cards or proof they’ve applied for them.
A spokesman at the Douglas Port of Entry said traffic was a bit light, and with extra lanes open, wait times were down. Douglas normally gets about 6,000 vehicles a day. Spokesman Carl Robinson said more than 90 percent of those Americans returning had the proper ID with them.
Similar rates of compliance were reported across the Mexican and Canadian borders.
Enactment of the law has occurred in stages, with numerous delays because of concerns the rules might interfere with tourism and commerce.
In 2007, passports were required for air travel back from Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.
Jason Sprinkle, business manager for Rocky Point Reservations, which arranges hotel, house and condo reservations, said the need for passports is just one more reason people will avoid going to Mexico.
He said tourism in Mexico is caught in a “quadruple whammy”: the recession, drug-cartel violence, swine-flu fears and now the need for passports for drivers.
“Really, people are too afraid to go,” Sprinkle said, “and with the economy, if they don’t have the money to go, they don’t have the money to get a passport.”
Sprinkle is a member of the Border Trade Alliance, a Phoenix-based group that promotes easier travel between the U.S. and its neighbors. The group has been lobbying for increased education about the new ID requirement.
At Los Algodones, southwest of Yuma, a popular destination for Americans and Canadians seeking dental or eye care, the number of visitors has declined.
“This passport requirement is another hurdle we have to go through,” said Ron Vinluan,owner of Dayo Dental, a Phoenix company that brokers trips to dental clinics in Los Algodones, Rocky Point and Nogales. “Many people are aware of it, but some will be surprised.”
In Nogales, Mexico, the paucity of American tourists was obvious.
Vendors stood in front of their shops, trying to pass the time without customers.
Alvaro Hernandez, 34, had not had a single customer by midday at El Abuelo Curios.
“Very bad, there are no tourists,” Hernandez said. “I think tourists (are not visiting) because of the (economic) crisis. And now they are asking for the passport, and a lot of people are not coming because they do not want to pay more for a passport.”
Karla Astorga, 22, of Nogales, Ariz., crosses the border nearly every workday to take her child to a nanny in Mexico before returning to Arizona and her job as a telemarketer.
She did not have the newly necessary identification, though she did have a receipt proving that she had applied for a passport card.
At $45 for first-time applicants, it’s a more affordable alternative to the traditional passport, which costs $100. The card does not work for air travel.
Astorga said the new regulations will help with her frequent crossings.
“I think it is going to be better because you’ll just be able to show the card and go through,” Astorga said. “Before, they asked you a lot of questions.”
Astorga was able to cross in about 15 minutes. Typically, she said, it takes her 30 minutes.
Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative
|Areas that fall under the WHTI:|
ALL PERSONS traveling by air outside of the United States are required to present a passport or other valid travel document to enter or re-enter the United States.
LAND AND SEA TRAVEL
The following summarizes information available on the Department of Homeland Security’s website.
U.S. citizens need to present either (a) a passport, passport card (available in spring 2008), or WHTI-compliant document; or (b) a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, along with proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate.
On June 1, 2009, the U.S. government will implement the full requirements of the land and sea phase of WHTI. The proposed rules require most U.S. citizens entering the United States at sea or land ports of entry to have a passport, passport card, or WHTI-compliant document.
Note: The passport requirement does NOT apply to U.S. citizens traveling to or returning directly from a U.S. territory.
U.S. PASSPORT AND WHTI COMPLIANT DOCUMENTS:
- U.S. Passport: U.S. citizens may present a valid U.S. passport when traveling via air, land or sea between the U.S. and the aforementioned Western Hemisphere countries.
- The Passport Card: Passport card applications are currently being accepted in anticipation of land border travel document requirements. Based on current projections, we expect to begin production of the passport card in June, and be in full production in July. We will provide additional updates as available. Once in production, the passport card it will only be valid for land and sea travel between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean region, and Bermuda.
- WHTI-Compliant Travel Documents for U.S. citizen travel via land or sea, as of January 31, 2008:
- Trusted Traveler Cards (NEXUS, SENTRI, or FAST)
- State Issued Enhanced Driver’s License (when available)
- Enhanced Tribal Cards (when available)
- U.S. Military Identification with Military Travel Orders
- U.S. Merchant Mariner Document when traveling in conjunction with official maritime business
- Native American Tribal Photo Identification Card
- Form I-872 American Indian Card
For further information see U.S. Customs and Border protection.
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative is a result of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA), requiring all travelers to present a passport or other document that denotes identity and citizenship when entering the U.S.
The goal of the initiative is to strengthen U.S. border security while facilitating entry for U.S. citizens and legitimate foreign visitors by providing standardized documentation that enables the Department of Homeland Security to quickly and reliably identify a traveler.
- Final Rule – Air Phase (PDF)
- Final Rule – Passport Card (PDF)
- Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Land/Sea Rule (PDF)
- Final Rule – Land/Sea Phase (PDF)
Other Relevant Links
Posted by http://www.travel.state.gov
Appropriations bill snag gives laggers a year
By Brady McCombs
Arizona Daily Star
Fear not, Rocky Point beachgoers or Nogales pharmacy patrons. You’ll have plenty of time to get that passport you don’t have yet.
The U.S. government officially announced this week that U.S. and Canadian citizens coming back into the country through a land port won’t need a passport until June 1, 2009 — a year later than officials planned and 2 2/3 years after the requirement went into effect for air travelers.
The Department of Homeland Security says it was on schedule to implement the rule as early as this summer but was prevented from doing so until June 2009 by language in the fiscal year 2008 appropriations bill passed by Congress, said spokeswoman Amy Kudwa.
People traveling to Mexico by airplane have been required to carry a passport or one of a handful of other approved secure documents since January 2007.
Currently, U.S. and Canadians citizens coming back from Mexico via land or sea need to present either a passport or a combination of a government-approved photo ID and proof of citizenship. Oral declarations of citizenship have not been accepted since Jan. 31.
The delay will allow travelers more time to obtain the necessary documents and lessen the impact on ports of entry, said Department of Homeland Security officials in announcing the final rule for the land and sea portion of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, one of the 9/11 Commission recommendations.
Homeland Security officials will roll out an extensive outreach campaign to make people aware of the upcoming rule change, Kudwa said. Locally, Customs and Border Protection officials will continue meeting with travel and trade associations, educational institutions, airlines, border communities, mayors and other elected officials on both sides of the border to advise them of the new rules, said Brian Levin, Customs and Border Protection spokesman.
In Arizona, the word seems to be spreading: Nearly 90 percent of U.S. citizens crossing through Arizona ports have the documents needed, Levin said.
Those who don’t have the necessary documents but can verify their citizenship are allowed through and given a flier with information on the requirements so it doesn’t happen again, Levin said.
Contact reporter Brady McCombs at 573-4213 or email@example.com
Posted by http://www.azstarnet.com
on how to apply for a Passport Card starting February 1. If you
already have a passport, you can just send in the renewal form (and
mark the Passport Card box) at a fee of $20. The fee for fist time
applicants is: $45 (adults); $35 (children).
1. Q: Why would I want to obtain an Enhanced “3-in-1” driver license or identification card?
A: Effective January 31, 2008 the Department of Homeland Security plans to move towards implementing the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) by ending the routine practice of accepting oral declarations of citizenship from people entering the U.S. at sea and land ports of entry. U.S. citizens will need to present the following to enter or depart the United States by land or sea:
Ages 19 and older will be required to show a government issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, along with proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or naturalization certificate.
Children ages 18 and younger will be required to show proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate.
Passports and trusted traveler program cards – NEXUS, SENTRI and FAST- will continue to be accepted for cross-border travel.
If you have an Enhanced “3-in1” driver license or identification card you will not be required to show your birth certificate of naturalization certificate. The Enhanced “3-in1” driver license or identification card will serve as proof of citizenship.
2. Q: What is the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative?
A: The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) is the plan to implement a 9/11 Commission recommendation and Congressional mandate. For many years, U.S. citizens and some citizens of other countries in the Western Hemisphere including Canadians, have been exempt from the presentation of a passport or other acceptable document to enter the United States. Effective January 23, 2007- Passports, Merchant Mariner Documents (MMD) or NEXUS Air cards are acceptable documents for air travel to or from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda. Effective January 31, 2008 oral declarations would no longer be accepted from U.S., Canadian or Bermudian travelers seeking to enter the U.S. at sea and land ports of entry as sole proof of citizenship.
3. Q: When will full WHTI border crossing requirements be implemented?
A: WHTI border crossing requirements are expected in the summer of 2008, at a date to be determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, the Departments will implement the full requirements of the land and sea phase of WHTI. The implementation date will be determined based on a number of factors, including the progress of actions undertaken by the US DHS to implement the WHTI requirements and the availability of WHTI compliant documents on both sides of the border. DHS and DOS expect the date of full WHTI implementation to be in the summer of 2008. The precise implementation date will be formally announced with at least 60 days notice.
A: The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) is the plan to implement a 9/11 Commission recommendation and Congressional mandate. For many years, U.S. citizens and some citizens of other countries in the Western Hemisphere including Canadians, have been exempt from the presentation of a passport or other acceptable document to enter the United States. Effective January 23, 2007- Passports, Merchant Mariner Documents (MMD) or NEXUS Air cards are acceptable documents for air travel to or from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda. Effective January 31, 2008 oral declarations would no longer be accepted from U.S., Canadian or Bermudian travelers seeking to enter the U.S. at sea and land ports of entry as sole proof of citizenship.A: WHTI border crossing requirements are expected in the summer of 2008, at a date to be determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, the Departments will implement the full requirements of the land and sea phase of WHTI. The implementation date will be determined based on a number of factors, including the progress of actions undertaken by the US DHS to implement the WHTI requirements and the availability of WHTI compliant documents on both sides of the border. 4. Q: Is an Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license or identification card the same as the REAL ID?
A: NO, it is not.
5. Q: What is the difference between REAL ID and an Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license or identification card?
A: REAL ID is a federal plan for standardizing driver license and identification cards, to prevent terrorism, reduce fraud and improve the reliability of identification documents issued by states. Some believe that meeting the REAL ID requirements creates a national identification card. The federal government has yet to release the final rules for the REAL ID Act. Funding to implement the requirements has not yet been determined.
Governor Napolitano will add another layer of integrity to Arizona’s driver license and Identification card by creating the Enhanced “3-in1” driver license and identification card. It will do three things:
1. Function as limited use international travel document that can be used instead of a passport to travel between Canada, Mexico and the United States. This allows people who must frequently legally cross the border to carry the Enhanced 3-in-1, rather than their passport.
2. Serve as a verification of legal status. Employers can accept this card as proof that the person on the card is an American citizen and can legally work in the United States.
3. Convey the same driving privileges as the current Arizona driver license or proof of identity.
6. Q: Will everyone in Arizona be required to obtain an Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license or identification card?
A: NO. Arizona citizens may voluntarily choose to obtain the new license, but they will not be required to.
7. Q: Will illegal immigrants be able to apply for this type of license?
A: NO. Only U.S. citizens by birth or naturalization may apply for an Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license or identification card. Currently, to apply for a regular driver license or identification card, proof of authorized presence must be submitted.
8. Q: Did the Governor commit Arizona to the federal REAL ID Program?
A: NO. The governor believes that REAL ID, in its current form, is an unfunded federal mandate to the states. The governor agreed to implement REAL ID:
Only after the federal government has issued its final regulations and the state believes the regulations are reasonable: and
The federal government provides Arizona with all the needed funding to implement those regulations.
The Governor has agreed that Arizona will “take steps” toward having the Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license become compliant with REAL ID only if those two major developments occur.
9. Q: When will I be required to obtain an Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license or identification card?
A: Applying for an Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license or identification card is strictly voluntary. You will not be required to obtain one unless you choose to do so.
A: Applying for an Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license or identification card is . You will not be required to obtain one unless you choose to do so. 10. Q: Will it be more expensive than a regular driver license?
A: Yes, but the additional fee is expected to be small and an Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license or identification card will be much less expensive than a passport.
11. Q: Is the database with my personal information secure?
A: Yes, very! It is the same database MVD currently uses. It has extensive security features to keep hackers out.
12. Q: Why do Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license or identification cards contain RFID chips?
A: The RFID chip is there to help people cross the border faster. U.S. DHS will use the RFID to begin the query to determine if you are authorized to enter the U.S. while you are still waiting in line. Beginning in January of 2008, a verbal declaration will no longer be sufficient to enter the United States; you must show proof of U.S. citizenship. An Enhanced 3-in-1 license will be accepted for land and sea border crossing purpose. The U.S. DHS maintains the border crossing stations.
13. Q: I’m worried about having an RFID chip in my driver license. Won’t this allow people to steal my identity using a handheld scanner?
A: The RFID chip in the Enhanced Driver’s License will not contain any personal information; it would not aid an identity thief in any way. It will only contain a Unique Identifier (UID) that can be used to retrieve the cardholder’s information (including name and photo that was taken when the Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license or identification card was issued) from the secure AZ driver database. An identity thief would need to hack into the AZ driver database to get any information about an Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license or identification card cardholder, and if they could do that they wouldn’t need to obtain the UID from the RFID chip.
14. Q: If I have an Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license or identification card with an RFID chip in my driver license will people be able to read it and track me?
A: The RFID chip has a range of 20-30 feet maximum. To help prevent anyone from reading your UID, your Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license or identification card will be sent to you in a specially shielded “sleeve”. While in the sleeve, the RFID chip in your Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license or identification card cannot be read by any RFID reader at any distance. No one will know you are carrying an Enhanced Driver’s License. You will need to remove Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license or identification card from its sleeve when approaching the US border to speed your re-entry into the U.S.
15. Q: I don’t like the idea of the Federal government having access to all of my driver license or ID card information. Is this necessary?
A: US DHS will be able to retrieve information obtained as part of the Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license or identification card issuance process, including the cardholder’s name and photo taken when the card was issued. DHS does have not and will not be given full access to the AZ driver’s database.
16. Q: How long will an Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license or identification card be valid?
A: Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license or identification cards will be valid for five years from the issue date
17. Q: If I get an Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license or identification card and then decide I no longer want it, can I apply for a regular driver license or ID card?
18. Q: My current Driver License is valid until I turn 65, won’t my Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license or identification card have the same extended expiration?
A: No, all Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license or identification cards will expire five years after issuance.
19. Q: Will I receive a refund for the fees I already paid for an extended license if I decide to obtain an Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license or identification card?
A: No refunds will be issued; obtaining an Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license or identification card is voluntary.
20. Q: What documentation will I need to apply for an Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license or identification card?
A: Customers applying for an Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license or identification card must provide proof of identity, proof of citizenship, and proof of current address. The documents required to provide this proof may vary, but it typically includes the following: Certified copy of Birth Certificate, Social Security Card, and utility bill from current address. Additional documentation may be required on a case by case basis. Prior to implementation, a full list of acceptable documents will be published.
21. Q: What is the difference between Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license or identification card and Real ID?
A: Real ID final requirements have not yet been released, so there is no way to compare the two at this time.
22. Q: When will Arizona Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license or identification cards be available?
A: Arizona Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license or identification card cards are expected to be available September, 2008.
23. Q: Will every MVD office offer Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license or identification cards?
A: Applications will be accepted at eight MVD offices located around the state of Arizona. Tentatively identified as the MVD offices in Nogales, Douglas, Tucson Regional Center, Chandler, N. Scottsdale, West Phoenix (51st Ave), Yuma and Flagstaff.
24. Q: If I receive an Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license or identification card, will I still need a passport?
A: You will still need a passport to travel to other countries by plane.25. Q: Can I have a regular Driver License and an Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license or identification card?
A: No. You may only have a driver license or an ID card, you may not have one of each, regardless if one is regular and one is enhanced.
27. Q: Can anyone apply for an Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license or identification card?
A: You must be a U.S. Citizen, either by birth or naturalization, to apply for an Enhanced 3-in-1 driver license or identification card Card.
28. Q: Is legislation approval needed for this new card?
A: Yes. The legislature must change the law to allow the Arizona Department of Transportation, Motor Vehicle Division to issue this new type of driver license and identification card.
Information posted by www.azmc.org (Arizona-Mexico Commission)
LUKEVILLE, Ariz – U.S. Customs and Border Protection will be looking at new traffic patterns at the Lukeville Port of Entry in order to effectively and efficiently screen additional traffic during peak travel days.
Every Sunday and Monday, beginning this weekend, all recreational vehicles and vehicles towing trailers will be directed into the commercial facility, which will afford them more room, making it easier for them to drive the longer vehicles through the port of entry. Passenger vehicles will continue to use the normal lanes. Mexican officials will be separating and directing traffic into the appropriate lane prior to entering the port of entry.
“We have a dual mission of law enforcement and facilitation at the ports of entry,” said David Higgerson, Director of Field Operations, “and while we won’t sacrifice our enforcement operations, we are continually looking at ways of improving our ability to facilitate legitimate international travel.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, working with their counterparts in Mexico, decided on this pilot program to increase their ability to screen and process more vehicles and people during peak travel days and times, which typically occur between noon and 7:00 PM on Sundays and Mondays.
To ease their screening and entry into the United States, travelers are also advised to be prepared by having all documents ready before approaching an officer, answer all questions truthfully, and declare everything acquired while in Mexico. Travelers are also advised to plan their trips around the peak travel days and times.
For additional information on what to expect at a port of entry, document requirements, and prohibited or restricted items, travelers can visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website at http://www.cbp.gov/.
The Office of Field Operations is responsible for securing our borders at the ports of entry. U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers’ primary mission is anti-terrorism; they screen all people, vehicles, and goods entering the United States, while facilitating the flow of legitimate trade and travel into and out of the United States. Their mission also includes carrying out traditional border-related responsibilities, including narcotics interdiction, enforcing immigration law, protecting the nation’s food supply and agriculture industry from pests and diseases, and enforcing trade laws.
While anti-terrorism is the primary mission of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the inspection process at the ports of entry associated with this mission results in impressive numbers of enforcement actions in all categories.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control, and protection of our Nation’s borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.
Posted by www.azmc.org
Effective January 31, 2008, U.S. and Canadian citizens ages 19 and older should no longer expect that they will be able to prove identity and citizenship by relying on an oral declaration alone. Instead, travelers will be asked to present documents from one of the options below when entering the United States at land or sea ports of entry. Travelers who do not present one of the documents listed below may be delayed as U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers attempt to verify their identity and citizenship.
U.S. and Canadian Citizens – Single Document Option
One of the following documents should be presented to prove both identity and citizenship.
Acceptable Documents as of January 31:
U.S. or Canadian Passport
U.S. Passport Card (Available spring 2008)*
Trusted Traveler Cards (NEXUS, SENTRI, or FAST)*
State or Provincial Issued Enhanced Driver’s License (when available – this secure driver’s license will denote identity and citizenship.)*
Enhanced Tribal Cards (when available)*
U.S. Military Identification with Military Travel Orders
U.S. Merchant Mariner Document
Native American Tribal Photo Identification Card
Form I-872 American Indian Card
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) Card
* Frequent Land Border Crossers — to expedite processing into the United States, U.S. Customs and Border Protection recommends using one of the above asterisked documents.
U.S. and Canadian Citizens – Two Document Option
All U.S. and Canadian citizens who do not have one of the documents from the list above must present BOTH an identification and citizenship document from each of the columns below.
Driver’s license or identification card issued by a federal, state, provincial, county, territory, or municipal authority
U.S. or Canadian military identification card
* All identification documents must have a photo, name and date of birth.
U.S. or Canadian birth certificate issued by a federal, state, provincial, county, territory or municipal authority
U.S. Consular report of birth abroad
U.S. Certificate of Naturalization
U.S. Certificate of Citizenship
U.S. Citizen Identification Card
Canadian Citizenship Card
Canadian certificate of citizenship without photo
U.S. and Canadian Citizens – Procedures for Children Effective January 31, 2008, U.S. and Canadian citizen children ages 18 and under will be expected to present a birth certificate issued by a federal, state, provincial, county or municipal authority.
U.S. and Canadian citizen children ages 18 and under will be expected to present a birth certificate issued by a federal, state, provincial, county or municipal authority.For Travelers Other than U.S. and Canadian Citizens
All existing nonimmigrant visa and passport requirements will remain in effect and will not be altered by the changes that are implemented on January 31, 2008.
U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents
Permanent Resident Card (I-551) or other valid evidence of lawful permanent residence is required.
Permanent Resident Card (I-551) or other valid evidence of lawful permanent residence is required. Mexican Citizens
Mexican citizens, including children, must present a valid passport and a B-1/B-2 nonimmigrant visa or a Border Crossing Card.
Mexican citizens, including children, must present a valid passport and a B-1/B-2 nonimmigrant visa or a Border Crossing Card.Know Your Destination Country Document Requirements
It is strongly recommended that all travelers leaving the U.S. verify the specific documentary requirements for their destination country. This information is available through the Department of State website or by consulting with the Embassy of the country you are visiting to determine what documents are needed to meet the entry requirements of that country. ( U.S. Department of State ) These requirements could include a birth certificate, passport, or passport and visa for entry into that country.
We are implementing new procedures to better serve you and enhance the security of the United States.
Travelers who do not present one of the documents listed may be delayed as U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers attempt to verify their citizenship and identity.
Thank you for your cooperation.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection will begin the transition to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative secure document requirement over the next 18 months, with implementation as early as June 1, 2009.
Article posted by http://www.customs.gov/xp/cgov/home.xml
WASHINGTON — The State Department says it will begin accepting applications on Feb. 1 for passport cards as alternatives to passports for Americans who travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.
The wallet-sized cards will be available to U.S. citizens by this spring.
They will cost $45 for adults and $35 for children, cheaper than a regular passport, and adults who have passports will have to pay only $20. They will be accepted for land and sea crossings between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean, but not for flights.
The new passport cards are being offered as part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, or WHTI. The first phase of that went into effect last year, requiring U.S. travelers returning by plane from Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean to carry a passport. That led to a temporary surge in demand for passports, with wait times for passports increasing from four to six weeks to 12 weeks, although they have since returned to normal.
The Bush administration wants to begin requiring passports or passport cards for land and sea border crossings in mid-2008, but Congress is trying to force a delay on that requirement until summer 2009.
Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., said in a statement that the wallet-sized passport card will be a better option than a passport for many border residents.
“Also, by making the card available starting this year, I am hopeful that we will not see a repeat of the passport problems that plagued the State Department last year,” he said.
Posted by www.azstarnet.com
Anyone flying to Canada, Mexico, Central or South America, the Caribbean or Bermuda must have a passport beginning Jan. 23, 2007.
The changes are the result of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, the goal of which is to strengthen border security while still allowing travel with standardized, secure and reliable documentation, according to the U.S. State Department.
So far, the initiative only affects air travel between the United States and the above listed countries. However, travelers may use U.S. passports when traveling via sea and land, including ferry crossings.
As early as Jan. 1, 2008, U.S. citizens traveling between the United States and the same areas may be required to present a valid U.S. passport or other documents to be determined by the Department of Homeland Security when traveling by land or sea, including ferries. The dates and requirements may change as time passes and advance notice will be provided by the government.
Nebraskans can apply for passports through district court clerk’s offices.
Hall County District Court Clerk Valorie Bendixen said her office has been aware of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative for a few years and the requirements have undergone multiple changes. The office has already seen a number of people applying for passports to travel to Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Bermuda because they became aware of the new requirements through media coverage or their travel agents, she said.
“People should always know what’s expected,” she said. “My office refers people to their travel agents with questions. We try to do the best we can.”
Bendixen said she and her employees also refer people with questions to the Web site www.travel.state.gov for more information about passports.
She said the deadline for the new passport requirements has been moved several times. According to the State Department, the initial proposed deadline was Jan. 1, 2007, but it was pushed back to Jan. 23 after the airline industry voiced concern over holiday travel.
More than 70 million U.S. citizens hold valid passports and in the fiscal year 2006, more than 12 million passports were issued, according to State Department.
Bendixen said her office has been handling a lot of passport applications in the last few years. When comparing numbers from September through November of 2005 to this year, she said the number of passport requests doubled.
“We have a lot of people in this area that travel to Mexico and Canada,” she said.
Passports for people ages 16 and older are good for 10 years. For anyone under age 16, a passport is good for five years, according to www.travel.state.gov.
Bendixen said everyone applying for a passport needs a certified copy of their birth certificate and two identical photos of good quality. Several businesses in town will take passport photos. When children under age 16 are applying for a passport, both their parents and the child need to be present when applying. A certified copy of the child’s birth certificate and a form of ID, such as a driver’s license, must be shown by both parents, she said.
Not having a birth certificate and having one with inaccuracies are commonly encountered problems at the Hall County district court clerk’s office. Depending on the circumstances, there are a number of other documents that will be accepted, such as a letter from Vitals Statistics or naturalization papers. The Web site www.travel.state.gov lists frequently asked questions such as this and describes the process that must be used to obtain a passport.
The standard fee for getting a passport for people age 15 and under is $52 to the passport agency and $30 to Hall County, Bendixen said. For an adult, the fees are $67 to the passport agency and $30 to the county. In order to expedite a passport application, there are additional fees, she said.
Anyone who has had a passport, who was 16 years old or older and the passport was issued in the past 15 years, can reapply by mail, which will save a $30 fee. Forms are available from the district court clerk’s office and on the above-mentioned Web site, she said.
It takes four to six weeks to get a passport application processed and Bendixen said, due to increased demand, it is taking the full six weeks for passports to arrive. She suggests applying early in order to get passports on time and to have time to double check accuracy.
“It’s not a difficult process, but it’s a long process,” she said.
On Jan. 23, 2007, U.S. citizens traveling by air to Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Bermuda will be required to present one of the following:
— A valid U.S. passport
— An Air NEXUS card
— A U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Marine document.
As early as Jan. 1, 2008, this could apply to travel by land or sea, including ferries.
Another travel ID document, the passport card, is being developed and will be used to travel only by land or sea, including ferries, between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda. It will be similar in size to a credit card. This card is not currently available.
Further information about passports can be found at www.travel.state.gov.
Source: U.S. State Department
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