You’re going to need your passport

May 6, 2008 at 2:00 pm Leave a comment

Or a passport card that’s half the size and half the cost.

Caprice Padilla/Adelante staff
Volume II, Issue 3 (Crossing Borders)

Crossing the border is about to become more affordable and convenient. At a time when new federal regulations have placed a financial burden on U.S. citizens who depend on international fluidity for business and personal affairs, the government’s issuance of a new passport card comes as a welcomed relief to many.

The wallet size card carries the same rights and privileges as the traditional U.S. passport book, but may only be used when traveling by land or by sea, not by air. It is limited to those returning from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda.

“The passport card is designed for the specific needs of the northern and southern border resident communities,” according to the U.S. Department of State’s Web Site, http://travel.state.gov/.

A vicinity-read radio frequency identification (RFID) chip will be in all cards, allowing officials to access secure government databases containing photographs and biographical information prior to the traveler arriving at an inspection site. The chip itself will not contain any personal information; instead, a unique number will link to the databases. A protective sleeve will also be issued with the card to prevent unauthorized access while not in use.

Prior to Jan. 31, oral declarations of citizenship were permitted at border entry points, and more than 8,000 types of documents denoting citizenship were accepted.

According to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection report, 31,060 false oral claims of U.S. and Canadian citizenship were made during the 2005-2007 fiscal years. In October through December 2007 alone, 1,517 false claims were made in an attempt to enter the U.S. illegally.

The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), implemented by the Department of Homeland Security, establishes new regulations for all travel into the U.S. The air phase, already under complete enforcement, requires a passport or other valid travel document to reenter the country. The land and sea phase requires U.S. citizens to present a passport or WHTI approved document, or government issued photo identification with proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate for entry.

On June 1, 2009, the land and sea phase will be fully implemented. Travelers must have a passport book, card or WHTI compliant document to enter the U.S. Applications for the card are now being accepted; full production is expected by July.

These regulations do not apply to U.S. citizens traveling to and from U.S. territories, including American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, Swains Island and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The passport cards will offer the most relief to those living on the border who travel regularly to Canada or Mexico. In particular for those who do not travel elsewhere, this less expensive option is a financial blessing.

The passport book costs $100 for adults and $85 for minors who are first time applicants, with renewal costs at $75 for adults. The passport card costs $45 for adults and $35 for minors. Adults may pay $20 for a card if a valid passport is already owned. First time applicants may also choose to pay $120 for both the passport book and card. Both are valid for 10 years for adults and five years for minors.

Border residents have been accustomed to the luxury of taking a quick drive out of the U.S. to visit family, purchasing cheaper products such as medicine and food, visiting less expensive physicians and enjoying international culture.

News of pending regulations has sent waves of anxiety among families who cannot afford to pay $85- $100 per family member for passport books to cross what used to be a free border. With passport cards costing less than half of what passport books cost, reentering the U.S. from neighboring countries will be more accessible for border residents.

First time applicants and minors must apply for passports in person at a passport agency. Many state, county, township and municipal government offices, clerks of court, post offices and public libraries accept applications on behalf of the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs. To search for the nearest facility, one may access http://iafdb.travel.state.gov/.

A passport application, proof of U.S. citizenship such as a birth certificate, proof of identity such as a photo ID, two 2X2 inch identical photographs and payment of the application fee are required.
Applications for passport renewal may be submitted by mail to the nearest U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate, along with the most recent passport issued, two 2X2 inch identical photographs and the application fee.

Applications are typically processed within four weeks; expedited service is available.

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Entry filed under: Crossing Borders 2008. Tags: , , , , .

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