In a little while the level of the Amerikan police state will be jacked up a notch or two and passports will be required to go to Mexico, Canada, and countries in the Caribbean.
Travel to U.S. neighbors soon will require passports
BY MICHAEL MARTINEZ McCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS
If you're thinking about a cruise to Mexico or the Caribbean or a flight to Canada next year, consider this a warning.
If you don't have a passport, get one. And do it soon if you want to beat the year-end rush.
Without a passport, you won't be able to board a cruise ship or plane if you're traveling internationally, even to destinations that haven't required more than a driver's license or birth certificate in the past.
Starting Dec. 31, a passport will be required for travel by sea or air to Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, Bermuda, and Central and South America. By Dec. 31, 2007, a passport will be needed for all international travel, including land crossings such as the Tijuana, Mexico, border.
U.S. State Department officials say consumers appear savvy about the new requirements, which are part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative to strengthen border security. So far this year, passport applications have increased 30 percent over the first six months of 2005, and it's projected that some 13 million Americans will obtain passports this year, said Angela Aggeler, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Consular Affairs.
Anyone who doesn't have a passport could be left standing at the cruise dock as his or her ship sets sail.
"People may think they have their cruise all taken care of," said Bob Sharak, executive vice president of the Cruise Lines International Association, which represents the industry. "But if they don't have a passport, they're not getting on the ship."
If you're planning to travel, you should apply soon. It takes about six weeks to get a passport, although you can expedite the process for $60, plus overnight delivery charges -- but that's in addition to the $97 it costs for the passport.
Here's how to apply:
• Download application form DS-11 from the State Department's Web site: www.travel.state.gov/passport. Click on "How to get a passport." Forms are also available at local post offices.
• Provide proof of U.S. citizenship such as a birth certificate, naturalization certificate or certificate of citizenship.
• Present proof of identity, such as a current driver's license or government ID, and your Social Security number.
• Bring two color passport photos.
• Pay the fees: $97 for anyone 16 and older, $82 for anyone under 16 (all children, regardless of age, must have passports).
• Take the forms to any passport acceptance facility, such as a local post office or county or municipal office. To find a nearby office, click on www.iafdb.travel.state.gov.
First-time applications must be done in person; renewals can be done by mail.
Remember, some countries won't accept passports that are due to expire within six months of your arrival.
The State Department is expecting a rush of applications later this year, but Aggeler said agencies should be able to handle the increase.
"Our agencies and offices are prepared, even with the increase we've seen recently,' she said. "But I would not wait until the last minute."