State Department Eases Passport Requirements
Due to a backlog of passport applications, the U.S. State Department modified its requirement that began earlier this year that U.S. citizens present passports when flying or taking a cruise to Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Bermuda and returning to the U.S.
What is required, though, is proof that a traveler has applied for his or her passport. Through September 30, 2007, air passengers to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda will be required to show a government issued photo identification and U.S. State Department official proof of application for a passport.
Adults who have applied for, but not yet received, a passport should present government-issued photo identification and an official proof of application from the U.S. Department of State. Children under the age of 16 traveling with their parents or legal guardian will be permitted to travel with the child’s proof of application. Travelers who have not applied for a passport should not expect to be accommodated under this initiative. U.S. citizens with pending passport applications can obtain proof of application at: www.travel.state.gov. A list of Frequently Asked Questions and their answers is available at the same internet site.
The Auto Club recommends that passport applicants visit the State Department web site at www.state.gov where they will receive instructions about how to track their passport application and print out a form which will contain a unique “locator number.” This printout must be used to depart and return to the United States.
“For people who might have been apprehensive about planning trips to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda due to passport delays, this is encouraging news,” said Leslie Gardea, Auto Club manager of travel products. “Now, they just have to get their passport application submitted and show proof from the State Department that the application is being processed.”
As of January 2008, all American cruise and driving passengers traveling to any country outside the U.S. will be required to carry a passport in order to re-enter the U.S.
“For people who don’t have access to a computer or the Internet, the Auto Club recommends seeking a computer with Internet access at a local public library,” added Gardea.
Passport applications are available at any Auto Club office or a U.S. Post Office, and can also be downloaded at the State Department’s Web site, www.state.gov. Citizens who wish to either renew or apply for a new passport must submit passport photos with their application, and those can be taken at any Auto Club office for a fee of $8 for members and $15 for non-members.
First-time passports cost $82 for citizens less than 16 years of age, and $97 for those 16 years old and older. Passport renewal costs $67. For an additional fee, there are services to expedite passport applications and reduce the processing time to 4 weeks or less. The Auto Club provides expediting services through Travisa. Also, expediting services are offered by the State Department and other private passport services.
First-time applicants for a passport, or those with expired or lost passports, must submit their application in person to a passport processing location such as a post office during the hours that service is available. Non-expired passports can be renewed by mail by sending the application, the most recent passport and two identical passport photographs to the State Department.