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Passport Law Update

By: Doug Snover

Dec. 16, 2006

There will be a two-week delay in the new requirement for air travelers to carry passports when leaving or entering the United States from anywhere in the Western Hemisphere, including Mexico and Canada, according to the U.S. Departments of State and Homeland Security.

The United States had planned to begin requiring passports at airports on Jan. 8 under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, but decided late last month to postpone the new rule until Jan. 23.

The change in travel document requirements is part of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.

As early as January 2008, all travelers coming into the United States – even those returning to U.S. soil from holiday cruise ships or day trips to Mexico – will be required to present a passport or other accepted document that establishes the bearer’s identity and nationality at the border.

The requirement applies to all travelers, even infants.

The State Department has dedicated additional resources and personnel to meet the increased demand for passports generated by these requirements.

In Fiscal 2006, the department issued a record 12.1 million passports to American citizens, and anticipates issuing 16 million passports in Fiscal 2007.

The two-week delay in the requirement for air travel may allow Americans who have procrastinated a little extra time to get their passports, noted Linda Gorman, AAA Arizona public affairs manager.

“What many people don't realize, however, is that it is a good idea to obtain a passport-whether you plan to travel abroad soon or not,” she said.

“Since it may take several weeks to receive a passport, it is a good idea to start the process early, before you even anticipate a need. For instance, a valid passport will allow you to visit an international destination if you need to go in a hurry, such as the death of a relative or a last-minute vacation abroad. Passports will also be required for students who plan to visit Mexico and the Caribbean for Spring Break in 2007,” she said


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