Travel Happiness: New Documentation Requirements
New Documentation Requirements
by Art Richards
Changes are Coming! Early in April, US officials announced a program called The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which will require travelers to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda to have a passport in order to return to the United States by 2008.
"We want folks to think about their travel to and from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda as equivalent to taking a trip to Europe or Asia, " quoted Elaine Dezenski, acting assistant to the Department of Homeland Security.
The initiative is part of a new terrorism prevention policy to be implemented by 2008 in three proposed stages, which will also require nationals of those countries and territories to present passports when entering the United States, officials said.
Under current regulation, a driver's license or other identification is all that is required for travel to and from the United States to many North American neighbors. Beginning December 31, 2007, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative will go into effect requiring passports to be the only documents accepted under the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, according to US officials. A proposed timetable, which will be formalized later this year after a public review period, the passport rule will be imposed on air and sea travel to and from the Caribbean, Bermuda, and Central and South America on December 31, 2005 and will extend to Canada and Mexico on December 31, 2006.
The US government is considering accepting other documents including the Border Crossing Card now used by citizens of Mexico and the Customs and Border Protection Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI), NEXUS and free and Secure Trade (FAST) program cards, the Department of Homeland Security's acting assistant secretary said.
Two other concerns have surfaced as well, and deserve repeating. Many Caribbean Islands are requiring children under age 18, traveling with an adult or guardian other than their parents to have a notarized letter stating that the parent(s) have given consent for the child to leave the country. If the child's last name differs from the last name of the accompanying parent(s), proof of parentage is required. Parent's name change must be documented (i.e. marriage certificate). If the minor is 14-17 on the day of departure, they must hold either a valid passport or a valid, official photo ID along with their birth certificate. Anyone under 18 on the day of departure will be denied boarding if not accompanied by an adult 18 years or older. Failure to comply with the above will result in being denied boarding!
The bottom line is that we are highly recommending that every traveler secure a U.S. passport. Adult passports are valid for 10 years and children under age 16 are valid for five years. It is the acceptable travel document. With this new implantation, we recommend you act early to secure this document, as there will certainly be a run on requests for new passports. If you currently have a passport, you should always be sure you have a minimum of six months remaining on your passport before leaving home. To apply for a passport one needs an application, two passport photos (available for about $10.00 at most travel agencies), and a certified birth certificate. The application can be processed at the local Clerk of the Court or some Post Offices. New passports cost $97 each and renewals are $67. Children under 16 are $82.00.
So, please make note! If you plan to travel outside the United States in the near future, you need to secure a US passport.
Richards is the owner of Richards World Travel, Inc. (www.richardsworldtravel.com).