'Passport Information' Category

Passport rules for land, sea travel delayed

Sunday, June 24th, 2007

USA Today

Posted Thursday, June 21, 2007

WASHINGTON — A new rule starting in January will require U.S. citizens to show two documents — a government-issued ID and proof of citizenship — to re-enter the country by land or sea from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean.

But residents will not have to show passports until next summer. That’s because the Homeland Security Department on Wednesday delayed by roughly six months a new border-security requirement that citizens traveling by car, boat or cruise ship present a passport. The move follows a three-month reprieve for new rules requiring passports for airline passengers.

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Officials see no decline in passport applications

Saturday, June 23rd, 2007

Article Launched: 06/23/2007 09:14:08 PM MDT

By Louie Gilot / El Paso Times

While Americans now have a six-month respite from having to present passports at border crossings, the number of El Pasoans interested in getting passports has hardly dwindled since the announcement last week.

Saturday, at a passport fair organized by the U.S. Postal Service at the post office on Boeing Drive, about 500 people stood in line for hours to file their applications. The first person to line up arrived at 2 a.m., officials said.

“It’s like going to a rock concert. You go two days ahead of time and sleep on the floor,” said Postmaster Felix Guerra.

Those standing on line were in no mood to joke around, however. Mostly, they were tired and a little ticked off.

“We knew we were going to have to wait but we didn’t know it was going to be so long,” said Gloria Sarabia, a homemaker living on the East Side.

El Paso postal officials said they handled about 75 passport applications an hour today.

Sarabia said she waited more than three hours in line for a passport to allow her to travel to Mexico with her brother.

Passports, or a receipt for a passport application are now required to fly in and out of the United States.

Last week, Bush administration officials announced they will delay for at least six months the rule that Americans have to present passports when entering the United States at a land border crossing, such as El Paso’s international bridges. Instead, these travelers can show a birth certificate and a driver’s license. The Department of Homeland Security is also working on an alternative to a passport — called the PASS card — specifically for border residents that would cost only half the $100 filing fee for a regular passport.

Nothing will change for permanent residents who still have to show their green card when coming into the United States.

The waiting time for passports has soared from around six weeks to more than three months nationally, delaying or ruining the travel plans of thousands of Americans.

Maura Harty, assistant secretary of state for consular affairs, said that part of the problem was that in 2005 Hurricane Katrina reduced the capabilities of the agency’s New Orleans passport office. She also said the agency had not expected so many Americans to actually obey the new law.

And, she said, many people were applying for passports with no specific travel plans in mind, clogging the system for those with travel deadlines.

Jocelyn Hashimoto, a student living on the West Side, wanted to apply for a passport for her 3-month-old daughter for future international trips.

“My mother is in Japan and we want to be able to visit her,” Hashimoto said.

Hashimoto had an appointment to file her application Friday but the post office canceled it. She came to the post office twice today, pushing her stroller, hoping the line would get shorter as the day grew longer.

El Paso postal officials said that they were looking to train more clerks for passport duties. Passport applications can be filed any day of the work week at the main post office with or without prior appointment, Guerra said. The U.S. Postal Service organizes monthly passport fairs on Saturdays to help those who can’t get away from work during the week.

Saturday, hundreds of passports applicants shuffled among cubicles after postal officials moved the line inside the post office when temperatures got to be too hot.

“It was something else,” said Mike Barela, a post office employee who volunteered to work today.

Sarabia, her daughter and granddaughter, were among the office space invaders.

“We emptied their vending machines. We feel sorry for the employees coming to work Monday morning and there’s nothing left in their vending machines,” she said.

Louie Gilot may be reached at lgilot@elpasotimes.com, 546-6131.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


Information posted by Shea Peil at seasideshea@gmail.com  

Passport Requirement Postponed

Friday, June 22nd, 2007

June 22, 2007

Marc Heller — Watertown Daily Times, N.Y.

WASHINGTON — A requirement for passports or similar documents at the Canadian border will not take full effect until next summer, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Wednesday.

Mr. Chertoff made official what he had already hinted at in a recent interview with reporters: That despite his department’s vow to put the rule into effect as planned next January, the government needs extra time to design a new land crossing passport card and handle a rush of applications from would-be travelers.

In the meantime, the department announced it would continue to accept birth certificates and driver’s licenses, for instance, but would stop simply taking oral statements of citizenship next January.

The decision includes travelers entering from Mexico and the Caribbean basin.

Wednesday’s announcement also included a cost-benefit study asserting that the document requirement would have less than a 1 percent impact on regional economies. The department said it did not specifically examine the effect on small businesses, however, and it estimated the total cost — including forgone travel and government expenses — at $3.3 billion over 10 years.

Lawmakers who have opposed the document requirement, called the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, had a mixed reaction.

Rep. John M. McHugh, R-Pierrepont Manor, called the delayed requirement “a step in the right direction” but added that he and other lawmakers will keep pushing for a delay until June 2009.

He also cast doubt on the department’s economic analysis, which was based on expected declines in cross-border traffic but did not consider “entities” such as small businesses because the requirement does not apply to them directly. The department said seven of eight case studies, including one for the Buffalo area, showed less than a 1 percent effect on jobs or economic output.

“Those entities, as they so bureaucratically describe them, are real people trying to make a living,” Mr. McHugh said.

Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrats of New York, welcomed the delay.

“The good news here is that DHS realizes that their current plan for initiating WHTI won’t work, and that it’s high time they ditch these ridiculous deadlines and instead come up with a reasonable plan for phasing-in the program that ensures both security and cross-border commerce,” Mr. Schumer said in a statement.

Mrs. Clinton added, however, that “kicking the can down the road is not a solution.”

“While national security, and in particular, security at our borders, must continue to be paramount, it is crucial that any new travel requirements be sensitive to the potentially serious impact on tourism and the regional economy,” Mrs. Clinton said.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., who has been among the most outspoken opponents in the Senate, predicted the same passport backlogs could plague the department next summer.

“WHTI in the hands of DHS is like a skydiver who jumps first and tries to pack his parachute on the way down,” Mr. Leahy said. “Today’s huge passport backlogs, prompted by the launch of DHS’s requirement for air travel passports, are just a taste of the chaos that’s likely next summer when they want to start enforcing passport checks at our land and sea borders, which account for ten times the volume for air travel.”

The department also said that it would apply the rule to travelers 16 years and older but would accept other documents for youths as old as 19 as part of educational groups, for instance, that submit lists of participants to Customs and Border Protection.

Canadian citizens visiting the United States would also be required to present passports, although frequent travelers from either country could present FAST or NEXUS cards, for instance.

The department also elaborated on its policy for boaters and cruise ships. Recreational boaters would continue to use video phones, and in some cases telephones, along the northern border to report their arrival in the United States, the DHS said.


Information posted by Shea Peil at seasideshea@gmail.com  

House votes to slow down on passport, withholds funds

Saturday, June 16th, 2007


Beth Gorham, Canadian Press

Published: Saturday, June 16, 2007

WASHINGTON (CP) – In a sharp rebuke of American security plans, the House of Representatives voted Friday to force the administration to delay the passport rule at Canada-U.S. border crossings until mid-2009.

Legislators also moved to withhold US$100 million from funds earmarked by the Homeland Security Department to implement the passport requirement until the department has investigated whether high-tech driver’s licences could work just as well.

The overwhelming 379-45 vote is a major boost for Canada, which has long advocated a delay in requiring passports at the border and using enhanced licences as alternatives.

It’s the strongest effort yet by legislators to impose a 17-month delay on the administration’s plan to implement the passport requirement at land and sea entry points in January 2008.

It’s also the first time legislators have hit Homeland Security in the budget.

And it’s a clear sign that politicians are fed up with a huge backlog in passport applications since the rule for air travellers went into effect Jan. 23, prompting frustrated Americans to flood their constituency offices with complaints.

“This is an important victory for cross-border trade and tourism,” said Len Crispino, president of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “Delays at our border are already costing our economies billions of dollars and threatening tens of thousands of jobs.”

New York Democrat Louise Slaughter, long a vocal critic of the passport plan, said legislators no longer trust President George W. Bush’s administration to get it right.

“We must never sacrifice our relationship with Canada in a misguided attempt to increase border security,” she said. “I have long said that economic security and physical security are not mutually exclusive. We can and must have both.”

The House measure is part of a massive US$37 billion Homeland Security spending bill. A similar provision is making its way through the Senate.

Any final legislation must survive a veto threat from Bush, who is not happy with other aspects of the spending bills.

Congress gave administration officials the option last year of waiting 17 months before requiring passports at land and sea crossings, instead of going ahead in January 2008 as planned.

But Homeland officials, saying they don’t need the extra time, are pressing ahead.

Now legislators want to mandate the delay – and withhold budget funds to press their case.

With Americans waiting up to three months before getting their passports, administration officials were forced last week to give flyers a break until the end of September.

Government estimates say the second phase of the passport rule requiring the document at land and sea crossings could quadruple the number of passport applications to 27 million from about six million.

“Nobody can say with the straight face that the federal government is ready for this,” said Republican Steven LaTourette of Ohio

Said Slaughter: “You can’t deny what we’ve done here. But they’ll try.”

This week, two senators urged the administration to acknowledge it needs more time before it can put in place the entire security plan passed by Congress in 2004 in response to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Democrat Patrick Leahy and Republican Ted Stevens said public statements about sticking to the looming January deadline are adding to the mountain of passport applications.

On Thursday, the Senate appropriations committee passed a measure imposing the 17-month delay. It now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

“The administration is walking blithely toward a cliff with this program, and they’re threatening to take millions of Americans with them,” said Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont.

“Their competence in being able to get this right was already in question, and when they keep insisting they’ll be ready in six months, so is their judgment.”

Legislators say Homeland Security shouldn’t get all of the $250 million it plans to spend on implementing the passport rule until they figure out if enhanced driver’s licences containing proof of citizenship could be used instead.

A pilot project to investigate that possibility is slated to start in a few months at crossings between British Columbia and Washington state.

Politicians also want full testing of so-called passcards – a planned alternative for Americans that are cheaper than passports – as well as an extensive cost-benefit analysis of the entire security plan.

New York Representative Thomas Reynolds, a Republican, has asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate why the passport backlog occurred and study the impact of the second phase.

Air travellers entering the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda have officially needed a passport since the January implementation.

But Canadian flyers without passports actually haven’t been prevented from travelling, and that flexibility will continue.

Last week, officials said they have plans for a “phased implementation” at land and sea crossings. But they wouldn’t say whether that means flexibility for a certain period of time for those without the documents.

Details are supposed to be announced later this month.

Refund of Passport Speedup Charges Due

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007
By DEVLIN BARRETT   Associated Press Writer
Frustrated travelers who paid an extra $60 to get their U.S. passports expedited — and still had to wait for them — can now get a refund from the government. 

The decision to refund the money, disclosed in a State Department document sent Tuesday to members of Congress, represents the latest effort to come to grips with a massive backlog in passport applications that has ruined or delayed summer vacation plans for thousands in the United States.

The delays were largely due to a new rule that requires U.S. citizens to have passports when flying to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda. Last week, the government announced it was suspending that rule until September, as long as travelers to those countries carried a printout receipt showing they had applied for a passport.

The passport delays were so bad that many of those who paid for faster service, at a cost of $60 plus the regular processing fees of $97 for a new passport, did not receive their passports within the expected 14 days. Some who paid extra waited for a month or more.

“It’s an outrage to pay over $150 for a passport and still have your travel plans ruined,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who had previously called for the refunds.

Schumer also chided State officials for not doing more to publicize the refunds, saying they should be “shouting this refund policy from the rooftops, not whispering it in the wind.”

The State Department document, obtained by The Associated Press, says passport applicants who paid for, but did not get, expedited service should send a written refund application to the agency’s refund office in Washington. They should provide their passport number, if available, their name, date and place of birth, the approximate date they applied for the passport, as well as a mailing address and phone number.

Homeland Security officials have warned that the passport delays will not affect their schedule of requiring passports of everyone driving across the border into Canada or Mexico beginning in January 2008 — a rule that some experts believe will lead to a fourfold increase in new demand for passports.

Refund applications should be sent to the following address: Department of State, Passport Services/PPS/Refunds, 2100 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20037-3202

Passport backlog prompts a waiver

Sunday, June 10th, 2007
Americans flying to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean will not need a passport this summer to return to the United States. 
The departments of State and Homeland Security reversed the passport requirement — which went into effect in January — because of extraordinary waits for passports. The requirement will go back into effect Sept. 30.
    “The fact of the matter is that the volume and level exceeded any of the anticipated estimates that were made in advance,” said State Department spokesman Tom Casey.
    “We’ve been aware now for a few weeks that there’s been an increasing number of concerned Americans calling us and calling their congressional offices to say that they’ve been waiting for a passport, they hadn’t seen it yet, and concerned about being able to meet their own travel commitment,” he said.
    The State Department is on track to issue 17.5 million passports this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. That represents a 45 percent increase over last year. The wait for a passport spiked to 12 weeks this spring, from about four to six weeks previously.
    Travelers will need proof of identification, such as a driver’s license, and proof that they have applied for a passport to get back into the United States. Such travelers may face extra scrutiny, according to the State Department, and travelers cannot enter the United States without a receipt.
    The passport requirement was put into effect in January as part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative and was designed to prevent terrorists from entering the United States through other North American countries. The State Department said relaxing the rule poses no threat to national security.
    “We don’t believe this represents a relaxation in security or creates any kind of new problem for security at U.S. ports of entry,” Mr. Casey said, adding that agents will be able to confirm a traveler’s pending passport application by computer.
    The travel industry lobbied hard for a reprieve from the requirement, saying travel plans were being delayed or canceled because the State Department couldn’t keep up with the increase in demand for passports. Several members of Congress also said recently they have filed requests for expedited passports on constituents’ behalf.
    “Common sense prevails,” said Roger J. Dow, president and chief executive officer of the Travel Industry Association, a Washington trade group.
    “This will allow travelers to make summer plans and enter the United States while our passport officials have time to address the backlog of passport applications in an effective way. It’s an important timeout that allows the machinery of government to catch up with the new laws.”
    The passport requirement does not yet apply to travelers entering the United States by land or sea. That rule is scheduled to go into effect in January. The State Department yesterday reiterated that Congress mandated the January date and that it plans to follow through with implementation.
    AAA Mid-Atlantic said yesterday the changes will only cause more confusion.
    “We are concerned that this new rule may be misinterpreted by some citizens to mean that they no longer need anything but their driver’s license, as was the case in the past,” spokesman John B. Townsend. “That just is not the case.”
    Travelers can track their passport applications online at travel.state.gov/passport. Travelers scheduled to depart within two weeks can call the National Passport Information Center at 877/487-2778.

Passport requirments to be temporarily waived

Friday, June 8th, 2007
June 7, 2007
Feds to Suspend Border Passport Rule
By MATTHEW LEE and DEVLIN BARRETT   Associated Press Writers
The Bush administration is poised to suspend a major post-9/11 security initiative to cope with increasingly angry complaints from Americans whose summer vacations are threatened by new passport rules.  

A proposal, expected to be announced Friday, will temporarily waive a requirement that U.S. citizens have passports to fly to and from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda, provided the traveler can prove he or she has already applied for a passport, officials said Thursday.

The temporary lifting of the passport rule is aimed at clearing a massive backlog of passport applications at the State Department that has slowed processing to a crawl, they said. Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., said the suspension would last until the end of September.

The plan had run into opposition from the Homeland Security Department, which controls U.S. border points and fears the move could make it easier for terrorists or other undesirables to enter the country, the officials said.

Instead of a passport, travelers will now be able to present a State Department receipt showing their passport application is being processed, and a government-issued ID such as a driver’s license.

Homeland Security signed off on the proposal on Thursday after consultations with the State Department, the White House and members of Congress, who have been deluged with complaints from furious constituents, according to four officials at the agencies involved.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision has not yet been announced.

A Homeland Security spokesman declined to comment.

Under the plan, those without passports would receive additional security scrutiny when they travel, which could include extra questioning or bag checks, according to one official familiar with the discussions.

The suspension will give the State Department time to deal with a surge in applications that has overwhelmed its processing centers since the new rules took effect earlier this year.

The backlog has caused up to three-month delays in issuing passports and ruined or delayed the travel plans of untold thousands of Americans.

Frustrated lawmakers besieged with constituent complaints have demanded relief.

Rep. Thomas Reynolds, R-N.Y., whose district lies near the Canadian border, said White House officials have been on Capitol Hill trying to work out a compromise amid what he called a turf war between State and Homeland Security.

“White House personnel have seen the problem and they’ve been on Capitol Hill working with members,” said Reynolds. “I expect a plan to be forthcoming that … would not require a passport as long as you had an application receipt for filing for the passport.”

The State Department has hired hundreds of new passport adjudicators, put employees to work around the clock and opened a new processing facility in Arkansas but has still been unable to meet the demand.

Initial hopes that the delays could be overcome were dashed this month when more than a million requests for new passports were dumped at once on the facilities by banks contracted to clear application fee checks, a senior State Department official said.

The passport application surge is the result of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative that since January has required U.S. citizens to use passports when entering the United States from Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean by air.

The travel initiative, which next year will require either passports or yet-to-be developed wallet-sized passcards to be presented at land border crossings, is part of a broader package of immigration rules enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

It has caused deep annoyance, particularly from those who live in border states and make routine, legal crossings into Canada and Mexico for business and pleasure.

Wilson, whose state is on the Mexican border, said she had been calling on State and Homeland Security to implement a suspension for two weeks.

“I said, ‘You need to take action. This is completely screwed up’,” she said. “To say people must have a passport to travel and not give people a passport is right up there in the stupid column.”

Wilson said her office took more than 500 calls in May alone from constituents struggling to get passports and the problem has spread from border states to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kansas and Colorado.

Between March and May of this year, the department issued more than 4.5 million passports, a 60 percent increase over the same period in 2006, but millions more applications are waiting to be processed, according to consular affairs officials.

The demand is such that the State Department has warned applicants to allow as long as 12 weeks for their passports to be issued and up to three weeks for expedited processing at an extra fee. Previously, the maximum wait was six weeks and two weeks, respectively.

In the meantime, would-be foreign travelers stew and fret.

Angela Pezzimenti, a recent college graduate from Allegany, N.Y., barely got her passport in time to make a trip to Europe last month.

“It was nerve-racking,” said the 21-year-old, who finally received her passport three days before the trip. “I was really afraid that it wasn’t going to come in time. We had everything planned, our tickets were bought, and I was pretty worried.”

Wendy Berry of Franklin, W.Va., applied in March for a passport for her 18-year-old son, Jonathan. But the day he was to leave to visit his sister in Peru, his passport hadn’t come.

“There are two things I wish they would do,” she said of the government. “The only really responsible party is the Passport Office. I wish they would be held accountable. And I wish they would staff more people. The whole system is ready to collapse.”

Passport News

Monday, March 12th, 2007

Passport update, Jan 1 2007 As of Jan 1, 2007, the U.S. has stepped up its entry requirements for U.S. citizens coming from Latin American and Caribbean countries, including Mexico – if you are traveling by air.Land-based entry – i.e. driving – is a different matter, and the U.S. State department has said it is not mandating passports for land entry from Mexico until Jan 1, 2008. Other non-passport solutions may also be implemented before this deadline, like a special passport-like card just for Mexican border entry.Right now the vast, vast majority of people drive to Rocky Point. With a rise in small-craft air travel and the coming international airport construction, however, flying to Puerto Peñasco is becoming more and more of a reality for the future. Thus you might want to consider getting a passport if you will be going to Rocky Point a lot after Jan 1, 2008.From: http://www.travel.state.gov/travel/cbpmc/cbpmc_2223.html Beginning January 23, 2007, ALL persons, including U.S. citizens, traveling by air between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda will be required to present a valid passport, Air NEXUS card, or U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Document, or an Alien Registration Card, Form I-551, if applicable. As early as January 1, 2008, ALL persons, including U.S. citizens, traveling between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda by land or sea (including ferries), may be required to present a valid passport or other documents as determined by the Department of Homeland Security. While recent legislative changes permit a later deadline, the Departments of State and Homeland Security are working to meet all requirements as soon as possible. Ample advance notice will be provided to enable the public to obtain passports or passport cards for land/sea entries. So, just to recap – if you are a U.S. Citizen going to Rocky Point – unless you are flying, you do not need a passport to do so until Jan 1 2008 – but you will need other forms of ID: a birth certificate, or a voter’s registration card, social security card, etc. So, just to recap – if you are a U.S. Citizen going to Rocky Point – unless you are flying, you do not need a passport to do so until Jan 1 – but you will need other forms of ID: a birth certificate, or a voter’s registration card, social security card, etc. On and after Jan 1 2008, you will need a passport, or one of the other passport-like ID’s they are proposing but have not yet implemented, such as the ‘Passport cards‘ specifically for travel to Mexico and the Caribbean. We have yet to see how these passport alternatives will pan out.So, just to recap – if you are a U.S. Citizen going to Rocky Point – unless you are flying, you do not need a passport to do so until Jan 1 – but you will need other forms of ID: a birth certificate, or a voter’s registration card, social security card, etc. On and after , you will need a passport, or one of the other passport-like ID’s they are proposing but have not yet implemented, such as the ” specifically for travel to Mexico and the Caribbean. We have yet to see how these passport alternatives will pan out.See also:travel.state.gov’s ‘New Requirements for Travelers’
See also:travel.state.gov’s ‘Tips For Travelers To Mexico’
See also:NYT: The Clock Is Ticking for Winter Travelers
So, just to recap – if you are a U.S. Citizen going to Rocky Point – unless you are flying, you do not need a passport to do so until Jan 1 – but you will need other forms of ID: a birth certificate, or a voter’s registration card, social security card, etc. On and after , you will need a passport, or one of the other passport-like ID’s they are proposing but have not yet implemented, such as the ” specifically for travel to Mexico and the Caribbean. We have yet to see how these passport alternatives will pan out.See also:See also:See also: