A U.S. passport will be the must-have
travel accessory this holiday season for
Kyrene Corridor residents and other
Americans planning to visit Bermuda, the
Caribbean, or Central and South America.
And it’s a darn good idea to carry one
even if you’re planning only a short
jaunt across the border to Mexico,
travel officials say.
Beginning Jan. 8, anyone flying into
this country from a foreign land will
need a passport under the federal
government’s Western Hemisphere Travel
And the feds mean “anyone.”
Even babies traveling in their mothers’
arms will need the little blue book.
It’s all part of a toughening of U.S.
borders under the
Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of
2004, which requires the State
Department and Department of Homeland
Security to implement plans to require
all travelers -- U.S. citizens and
foreign nationals alike -- to present
passports or other documents that denote
identity and citizenship when entering
the United States.
Like most federal programs, however, the
Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative
can be confusing. For example, people
who fly directly from a U.S. territory
such as Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin
Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana
Islands, and American Samoa can get into
the mainland USA without a passport by
presenting other forms of
The key word is “directly,” however. If your flight has a stopover
in a foreign land, you’ll need the
passport to enter when you eventually
get to the USA.
The tougher passport requirement doesn’t affect those who travel by
land or sea…yet. It’ll be another year
at least before you will need a passport
to drive across the border from Mexico
or take that cruise to Mazatlan or the
Sunsational Cruises on west Elliot Road
is advising cruise customers to get
their passports sooner rather than
later. In fact, Sunsational Cruises
offers free passport photos to customers
who purchase cruises that last seven
days or longer.
“We’re encouraging people to get their
passports just to do it,” Gierada said.
“It’s not going to be the only time they
travel,” he added.
Most of his customers “realize it’s a
good thing to have,” Gierada said. “They
only concern they have is do they have
enough time to get it?”
Travelers may not think they need a
passport to take an Alaskan cruise, but
they might, Gierada cautioned. If you
fly through Vancouver, B.C., on your way
to that Alaskan cruise, you will need
the passport to re-enter the USA
starting Jan. 8, he noted.
On its website, Princess Cruise Lines
also is urging its passengers to carry
valid U.S. passports. A passenger who
falls ill on the cruise or who must fly
home for an emergency could be caught
out without a passport, the huge cruise
“Even if your
cruise does not involve air travel
outside the U.S., should you be required
to unexpectedly depart a vessel prior to
the end of the sailing, a passport would
be required to re-enter the U.S. by air.
As such, Princess Cruises continues to
strongly recommend that all passengers
are in possession of a passport by Jan.
8, 2007,” the Princess website notes.
Passports currently cost $97 for adults and $82 for children under
age 16. The State Department’s Bureau of
Consular Affairs suggests U.S. citizens
check the State Department’s travel
website at travel.state.gov, or
call the National Passport Information
Center at 1-877-487-2778; TDD/TTY:
1-888-874-7793 for information about
applying for a passport.
One thing to remember: Applying for a first-time passport must be
done in person. You can renew by mail if
you still have an undamaged passport
that was issued within the past 15 years
and you were over age 16 when it was
issued, and if you still have the same
name or can legally document your name
The WHTI originally proposed requiring passports for land and sea
travelers beginning Jan. 8. Travel
industry representatives successfully
lobbied Congress, however, to postpone
the land-and-sea restrictions until at
least January 2008 and possibly as late
as June 2009.
“The hundreds of TIA members who came to Washington, D.C., for the
Travel Leadership Summit made a huge,
positive impact on this issue. As one
congressional office told the TIA staff,
on the WHTI issue they heard us “loud
and clear,” Travel Industry Association
of America President Roger Dow wrote in
an Oct. 2 letter to its members,
including the Arizona Office of Tourism.
The Phoenix-based Border Trade Alliance also lobbied to delay the
passport requirement for those who cross
into the USA from Mexico or Canada by
land or sea. The proposal to require
passports beginning January 2007 for all
who cross the U.S.-Mexico or U.S.-Canada
border would have hurt border economies,
the BTA argued.
“This new requirement has the potential to inflict a new burden on
travelers, especially casual travelers
across the U.S. and Canadian borders,
and could put tourist dollars, a highly
sought-after form of investment, at
risk.,” it argued in a position paper.
The potential burden on the traveling public could cause
significant disruption to Western
Hemisphere travel, the BTA cautioned.
“Communities on both sides of the U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico
borders are inextricably linked both
culturally and economically, thus we are
reluctant to support any program that
puts our unique cross-border
relationships at risk,” it added.
With everyone from the federal government to AAA Arizona to
independent tour companies like
Gierada’s Sunsational Cruises
recommending people get passports, there
has been an increase in passport
inquires at local AAA offices, according
to Linda Gorman, representative
for the AAA in Arizona.
Gorman said she did not have specific information on the increase
in passport inquires at the Chandler AAA
office at 4040 W. Ray Road, but she said
AAA throughout Arizona has seen more
inquiries since October.
AAA offices, by the way, offer passport photographs but do not
carry passport applications. AAA
typically refers people to local courts
and post offices for passport
applications, Gorman said.
Those who routinely cross the U.S.-Mexico may not need to carry the
official U.S. passport with them once
the United States develops its planned
PASS Card. The limited-use passport,
about the size of a credit card, will be
good only for land or sea travel between
the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, the
Caribbean and Bermuda.
The wallet-sized PASS card is expected to cost $20 for adults or
$10 for children and, plus a $25
The BTA, noting the high cost of passports for families who
routinely cross the U.S.-Mexico or
U.S.-Canada borders, strongly endorsed
what it called a “border crossing card”
similar to the proposed PASS Card.
For additional information, check the following websites: AAA
search for “passport”; Arizona Office of
Border Trade Alliance (www.thebta.org);
or U.S. State Department (http://www.travel.state.gov/).