I just renewed my passport, and just wanted to mention that the new rules require that you need one to travel to Canada (by air), or the islands. Unless you expediate it for an extra charge, it can take months to get it, due to the increased demand because of the new regulations. It took 2 weeks because I paid the higher fee. I miss my old photo where I looked like June Cleaver, but hey what can you do? As a friend pointed out to me- "in 10 years you'll like this new photo too", LOL.
Ironically, I just renewed my Canadian one. I have to say there is lots of hue and cry about that here in the Maritimes where many of us are closer to New England than to other parts of Canada (There is even one place near where I grew up where the library is half in Maine and half in New Brunswick (ie, half in Canada and half in the US!!) - people are so used to crossing the border for a loaf of bread or in some cases to get to certain Canadian islands that can ONLY be accessed by a route through Maine - that they do not want to pay for a passport.
I have had one most of my life so it does not make much difference to me. I did not have to wait long but I went to a center that was less busy. Here too, some people have to wait long periods. However, if I want to visit my parents in Fla and my relatives, I need a passport!! (I like to travel though anyway though while I understand the security, I still find it scary not to any longer live near the world's oldest non defended border!)
To my dismay, I found security to be better at Halifax than at Logan!! (You would think after 9/11 that Logan especially would be good!) Only one security guard at the Hfx airport who was seeking a job at the hospital I have privileges at spent more time on that than looking in my carry on luggage and that concerned me! But Logan I could have had anything, they did not ask me anything. Of course that's also true of Dublin!
Janey, I'm not surprised to hear that the security is better in Halifax. Pretty strange though considering 9/11. I will say the Portland, Maine airport that I've flown out of many times, is doing a pretty good job since 9/11, and that's where the whole disaster started.This message has been edited. Last edited by: BF,
NEWS, TIPS & ADVICE | PASSPORTS
Passport law changes: What U.S. travelers need to know
By Jane Engle, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
June 08, 2007
VIDEO: U.S. waives new passport rules, just for the summer
Confused about passports? No wonder. The laws that dictate which documents you need to travel to Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Bermuda were relaxed this week, the latest in a string of changes. Moreover, passport applications take twice as long to process these days, up to 12 weeks or more "” sometimes much more.
Here's what you need to know about these vital travel documents. Remember that the newest policies were just announced and that some details aren't clear. The most complete information is at the State Department's website, www.travel.state.gov. Click on "Passports for U.S. Citizens."
Question: Do I need a passport to visit Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean or Bermuda?
Answer: Not if you're a U.S. citizen and traveling before Sept. 30.
But if you plan to fly to these destinations, you must apply for a passport before you leave and present an online receipt from the State Department proving that you applied, plus a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver's license. These documents are required to reenter the U.S.
Two tips: Apply far in advance because it may take weeks, the State Department says, for your application to become trackable online. And if you do fly without a passport, be prepared to undergo extra scrutiny at security checkpoints, which could delay your passage through the airport.
If you're flying to Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean or Bermuda after Sept. 30, you must have a passport in hand. If you're driving or taking a cruise there, you won't need a passport until at least January. The exact date has yet to be set.
The law notwithstanding, some cruise lines may ask you to carry a passport anyway. One reason is that if you have a medical emergency during your cruise, it may be prudent to fly you back to the U.S. for treatment, and you'll need a passport to reenter by air.
Q: Do I still need a passport to visit foreign destinations other than Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda?
A: Yes. These rules haven't changed. A tip: Be sure your passport expiration date is at least six months after you plan to travel. That's because some countries won't let you enter or give you a visa if less than six months remains on your passport.
Q: Do I need a passport to travel to or return from a U.S. territory, such as Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands or Guam?
A: No. Those rules haven't changed.
Q: How do I apply for a passport, and how much does it cost?
A: In general, if it's your first passport or your old one has expired and was issued more than 15 years ago , you'll need to apply in person at a post office, public library or other government office authorized to receive applications.
There are thousands of these places, searchable by ZIP Code on www.travel.state.gov. Don't go to a regional passport agency; these deal with last-minute requests and other emergencies and can be visited by appointment only.
Besides filling out an application form, which you can download from the website, you must bring a government-issued photo ID; a birth certificate or other proof of U.S. citizenship; two current photos of yourself; and the required fee. The specifications for the photos, found on the website, are quite specific.
If you need only to renew your passport, you don't have to appear in person; you can complete this process by mail.
Fees are $97 for your first passport and $67 for renewals. Passports are good for 10 years.
Different rules and fees apply to children. See the website for details.
Q: How long does it take to get a passport?
A: Longer than you probably think.
Passports used to arrive within six weeks after you applied. Then it was 10 weeks. In its latest posting, the State Department says that because of a surge in applications, it can take up to 12 weeks. Some postal employees and travel agents suggest allowing 16 weeks or more.
If you make a mistake on your application, such as submitting a photo that's too small or sending the wrong fee, it could take even longer. That's because the State Department typically rejects such an application, returns it to you and the clock starts over.
Q: Can I do anything to speed things up?
A: Maybe. For an $60 more, you can request "expedited service," which the State Department says will get the passport to you in two or three weeks. However, with the current backup, Times readers have reported longer waits.
Another option is to entrust your application to a private expediting service. This isn't cheap "” it can cost $100 and up, plus the government's expediting fee "” and it's no guarantee. But these companies have standing appointments at passport agencies, which gives them a better shot at pushing through applications.
One way to find an expediter is to visit www.napvs.org, the website of the National Assn. of Passport & Visa Services. The website links to its members, which include many of the bigger companies.
Q: How do I check the status of my application?
A: You can do this online at the State Department's website. But it may take up to four weeks for the information to become trackable, the department says. Some readers have complained that it is inaccurate or doesn't show up at all.
You can also send an e-mail, but responses may take several days. Don't bother to phone; the lines are too backed up.
Q: What should I do if I'm due to leave for my trip within two weeks and I don't have my passport?
A: You have a problem, and it's not easy to solve, unless you can take advantage of the temporary passport waiver for Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean or Bermuda (see above).
Otherwise, the State Department advises that you call for an appointment at a regional passport agency "” if you're lucky enough to live near one. There are 13 in the U.S., mostly in big cities. The toll-free phone is (877) 487-2778.
Despite adding more capacity and staff, the line is overloaded. Readers report lengthy waits or say they can't get through at all.
White House delays border passport rules By DEVLIN BARRETT, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 27 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration will delay for at least six months a rule that Americans present passports when crossing the U.S. border by land or sea, officials said Wednesday. The announcement marks the second time in a month that officials have scaled back security plans in response to complaints.
Beginning in January, land and sea travelers returning from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda will be allowed to present a birth certificate and driver's license in lieu of a passport.
Starting next year, travelers also will no longer be able to make a verbal declaration of U.S citizenship to re-enter the country.
The modification is expected to last at least until the summer of 2008, when officials hope to require passports or similar documentation at all land and sea crossings.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced the proposed rules and new flexibility after a passport requirement for air travel to those countries produced monthslong delays in processing passport applications at the State Department.
Even as recently as last week, DHS officials had insisted in the face of a public outcry that they were going forward with the tougher regulations on land and sea crossings starting in January.
Chertoff tried a different approach Wednesday.
"We are not going to drop the ax on Jan. 1, 2008," said Chertoff. "We've come to understand that it's important to build flexibility in our systems."
The announcement that officials would ease into the new rule was greeted with scorn by lawmakers critical of the agency.
Rep. Thomas Reynolds, R-N.Y., called it "more of the same bureaucratic doublespeak."
"They ask us to trust them to get this right. Frankly these two agencies haven't earned the trust of this Congress or the American people," said Reynolds.
The impending rule in January has rankled those living on the northern border, where people frequently cross into Canada for casual shopping and sports events.
That anger spread to all sections of the country in recent months as travelers faced a logistical nightmare of trying to get passports in time for travel. The waiting time for passports soared from around six weeks to more than three months, delaying or ruining the travel plans of thousands of Americans.
Chertoff, who in February pronounced the program was proceeding "flawlessly," on Wednesday called the current delays "a hiccup."
"I'm obviously dismayed that there was a problem in producing passports," he said.
But he also cautioned that without tougher rules the United State will remain unnecessarily vulnerable to terrorists using false documents to sneak across the border.
Under a post-Sept. 11 security law passed by Congress, U.S. citizens were to be required to show passports at such land and sea crossings beginning in 2008.
At a Senate hearing Tuesday, Maura Harty, assistant secretary of state for consular affairs, took the blame for the passport mess, even as she offered a wide array of explanations.
Part of the problem, she said, 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 "” but that is precisely what northern state lawmakers had warned would happen for those living along the U.S. border who do not plan such trips far in advance.
Rep. Steve LaTourette, R-Ohio, said he thought the agency's new schedule was still "overly optimistic," but was glad they were at least "giving themselves some wiggle room and could delay implementation further if needed."
Complaints from the public and from Congress about the passport delays forced the Bush administration on June 8 to suspend the air travel passport requirement until September.
Officials announced that those flying back from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda may now do so until September with an identification card like a driver's license and a printout from a State Department Web site showing they have applied and are still waiting for a U.S. passport.
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