As U.S. passport regulations for travelers will change on January 23, 2007, SmarterTravel.com has compiled information on the new rules and advice on obtaining a passport for those without one. “Americans have traditionally been able to cross the border or head to the beaches in the Caribbean without thinking further than bringing their driver’s license. In fact, 70 percent of people in the U.S. don’t even have a passport,” said Anne Banas, executive editor of SmarterTravel.com.
“These new travel laws require everyone heading out of the country to have a current passport for identification.”
The new laws will take effect on January 23, 2007, and they require U.S. citizens to have passports when traveling to and from Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean by air. Travelers returning by land or sea will be required to show passports by January 1, 2008. These requirements don’t affect U.S. territories like Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam.
To get a passport, travelers will need proof of U.S. citizenship and proof of identity, such as a valid driver’s license, government or military ID, or naturalization papers, and they will need to fill out Form DS-11. This form needs to be signed in the presence of a passport acceptance official. Americans can apply for a passport at post offices, libraries, courts or municipal offices. Two “passport size” photos are required, and they must be recent (within the last six months). Photos can be taken at many local drug stores or Fed-Ex Kinkos.
Passports generally take up to six weeks to arrive, and first-time passports for travelers over age 16 include a $67 application fee and a $30 execution fee (a total of $97 in all). They can be expedited for an additional $60 and will arrive in two weeks. Once issued, passports are valid for 10 years.
“Getting a passport isn’t difficult, but there is a wait and it can be expensive,” continued Banas. “Planning ahead is key, especially for those obtaining documentation for the first time.”
Some Caribbean countries and travel providers are coming up with new ways to attract visitors. Several vacation-package providers, including SuperClubs and Cheap Caribbean, are offering rebates of up to $97 per person to off-set the expense of passports.