Changes in Passport Requirements and Links


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Important Changes in Passport Requirements
If you are planning to take family vacation outside of the United States, please be aware of the major changes in passport requirements. Passport processing times have increased significantly due to high volumes, so make sure to apply early. For non-expedited passports, allow at least 10-12 weeks to process and receive your family's travel documents.
All U.S. citizens must now have passports when traveling by air to and from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and Bermuda. Anyone traveling back into the United States by land or sea, such as cruise passengers and those crossing the border between Mexico or Canada by car or ferry, will be required to show passports by January 1, 2008. Travel to U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa are not affected by these requirements and passports are not required for these destinations.
While it appears that cruise passengers have been spared for the present, it is probably wise to go ahead and get passports for your family members now to avoid any potential travel setbacks. If you miss your cruise departure and need to fly to the next island port in the Caribbean, for example, you will need a passport. Likewise, if anything happens on the cruise and you need to fly back into the United States, you'll need one as well. It's always better to be safe than sorry, and
Currently, approximately 70 percent of Americans do not have a passport. If your family falls into this group or if your passports have expired, here are some helpful tips for getting your travel documents.
Steps for Getting Your First Passport
If you are planning to get your first U.S. passport, start by visiting the website of the Department of State's Passport Services Office: Passport Home. To apply for a new passport, proof of U.S. citizenship such as a certified (raised seal) birth certificate and proof of identity such as a valid driver's license, government or military ID, or naturalization papers are required. A completed Form DS-11 is also necessary. Make sure not to sign the form until you or the applicant are in the presence of a passport official.
First-time applicants must apply in person at a passport acceptance facility, which include post offices; libraries; federal, state and probate courts; and county and municipal offices. Your nearest acceptance facility can be found on the Department of State's website.
All children under the age of 14 must also apply in person, so plan to bring them with you when you apply. Parents/guardians must show proof of their relationship with the child, including a certified birth certificate with parents' names, an adoption decree with parents' names, or a court order establishing custody or guardianship. In addition, parents must bring proof of their own identities such as a passport or valid drivers license. Both parents must appear together with the child when the passport application is filed. If that cannot take place, one parent can appear with the child and submit the second parent's notarized statement of consent authorizing passport issuance for the child (Statement of Consent: Issuance of a Passport to a Minor Under Age 14: DS 3053). For more information on this process, visit the Department of State's website.
Two identical color passport photos, taken within six months of applying, must be provided for each applicant when you apply for a passport. The photos should be taken against a plain white or off-white background, and applicants should not be wearing hats. Complete guidelines for the photos are available on the Department of State's passport website. Passport photos may be able to be taken at some acceptance facilities, as well as at photo processing shops, drugstores with photo processing capabilities (such as CVS), and mail processing stores like FedEx Kinkos.
First-time passports for persons over age 16 currently cost $97, including a $67 application fee and a $30 execution fee. Passports for children under 16 cost $82, including a $52 application fee, and a $30 execution fee. If you need your passport quickly, it can be expedited for an additional $60.
Passports normally take about six weeks to arrive. They can take much longer during busy periods such as now when non-expedited passports are averaging ten weeks, so plan accordingly. The period between January through July is the busiest for passports. If you're traveling within ten weeks and need your passport in a hurry, the Department of State recommends expediting your application so you'll receive your passport within two weeks. Private expediter services are also available, but they are generally more expensive, so shop around carefully and be aware of hidden fees and costs. Expeditors include such firms as Travisa (, (, G3 Visas and Passports (, A Briggs Passport and Visa Expeditors (, and (
Steps for Renewing a Passport
Renewing a passport is a much easier and less expensive procedure than acquiring your first passport. If your passport was not issued more than 15 years ago, if you were over 16 when you got your current passport, if you still have the same name or can legally document your name change, and if the passport has not been damaged, you can renew your passport by mail. If any of those requirements are not in effect, however, you will still have to follow the same steps as first-time applicants.
To renew your passport, simply fill out the DS-82 passport renewal form and attach to it your most recent passport, along with two passport photos and the $67 fee, payable to the U.S. Department of State. Passport renewals generally take approximately six to eight weeks. If you are traveling sooner, you can pay an additional $60 to expedite your passport or use a private passport expediting service as mentioned earlier.
Passport Rebate Programs
If the cost of passports for your family are causing you to think twice about a vacation to the Caribbean, a number of resorts and travel providers have offered passport rebate programs to defray the cost of new and renewal passports. Some of these are only valid for a limited time, although many have already been extended, so be sure to check the relevant websites for current expiration dates:
Through Jamaica's Passport to Rewards Program, participating resorts, attractions and rental companies are offering credits equal to the amount spent on applying for new passports ($97 for adults and $82 for children) for guests staying at their resort. Guests must present their new passport with Jamaica as the first entry stamp along with a receipt for the cost of the application. Some restrictions and application/visit dates apply to this offer. For more information on the program, participating resorts and firms, and expiration dates, visit
SuperClubs Resorts have a "Passport Inclusive" program to cover the cost of new or renewal passports for SuperClubs guests and individuals traveling as part of a group. This offer is available at all of the SuperClubs resorts in the Bahamas, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Curaçao and Jamaica as well as the Starfish Trelawny Resort & Spa in Jamaica. Restrictions and expiration dates apply, so make sure to visit their website for more details.
Marriott and Renaissance Caribbean & Mexico Resorts are offering a "Passport to Paradise" rebate program, providing a $100 resort credit for guests with new passports. New passport holders visiting a Marriott and Renaissance Caribbean & Mexico Resort will receive a $100 resort credit by presenting their passport upon check-in. Expiration dates apply to this program, so make sure to check their website for current details. Passports must only show a stamp from the host country. Guests can apply the credit towards a range of resort services such as spa treatments, water sports and activities or dining at one of the property’s restaurants. This program is available at nine beachfront resorts in seven tropical destinations, including Aruba, Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Grand Cayman, St. Kitts, and Curaçao. Some restrictions apply. For more information, visit or call 1-888-PARADISE (1-888-727-2347).
Cheap Caribbean is offering rebates of up to $97 per person for vacationers who book vacation packages through their firm. This offer applies to vacation packages only, and does not apply to room-only reservations, cruises, vacation villas, air-only purchases, or bookings at partner sites. See the Cheap Caribbean website for more details.For a limited time, many resorts and hotels on Nassau/Paradise Island are offering a passport rebate for up to four travelers per room. Expiration dates apply for this program, so make sure to check the Cheap Caribbean website for current details. Other requirements, proof of purchase documents and restrictions also apply. For more information, visit the Nassau/Paradise Island website at
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Even though we aren't really vacationing when we go to get stem cell treatment outside the U.S., these requirements are important because of the length of time it is now taking to acquire a passport. We did not need one to cross over the border into Mexico by car, but starting in 2008, even that will require a passport. All of the other countries where stem cell therapy is currently available already require a passport for U.S. citizens. If you are not from the U.S. and would like to post about the requirements for citizens of your country, this is the place.


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Passports for 2008?

I heard on the local news last night that due to the overload of applicants for passports, it will probably not be a requirement to have a passport for border crossings from the U.S. to Mexico or Canada by car or foot until mid 2009. Of course, if you are planning on treatment in 2008, it is a good idea to check for sure, but it looks like next year the requirements will remain the same as they are now.
You should go ahead and continue the passport process however.

They can and do change requirements without any notice.

A passport is always a useful thing to have, it is considered the "best" form of identification by Banks and the like, so it is worth having even if you don't wind up needing it for travel.


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If you are going for treatment in Mexico and doing a border crossing in the next few months, it is very doubtful you would even get your passport back in time. It is not worth the money to have it expedited. But, Technocracy is right in that it is a very useful document to have and in the future it may be required for everything including domestic flights.


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More press on passports

New Border-Crossing Requirements

If you're accustomed to driving across the border to shop, ski or sightsee in Canada, you need to know about new border-crossing requirements.

Starting Jan. 31, citizens of the U.S. and Canada ages 19 or older will have to present a government-issued photo ID (such as a driver's license) along with proof of citizenship (such as a birth certificate or naturalization certificate) in order to enter or depart the U.S. by land or sea.

Children ages 18 and younger need proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate.

The requirements also apply to Americans driving or sailing to and from Mexico, and to those traveling by sea to and from Bermuda and the Caribbean.

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the new rules end the practice of "accepting oral declarations of citizenship alone." Details at

The Cruise Lines International Association says most cruise companies already require proof of citizenship and government ID for boarding. "These requirements have been industry standards, but will now be required by law and enforced as of Jan. 31," CLIA said in a statement.

A separate proposal to require passports for land and sea travel from the Caribbean, Canada and Mexico has been postponed. The DHS originally proposed that requirement to take effect this coming summer. A bill signed by President Bush in December included a provision delaying the passport requirement until the summer of 2009.

But you do need a passport if you're flying into the U.S. from Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean under rules that went into effect in 2007. Those regulations resulted in a deluge of passport applications, with the State Department issuing a record 18.4 million passports in fiscal year 2007, compared to 12.1 million in 2006. Thirty percent of Americans now hold passports, up from 27 percent. Last summer, the time it took to get a passport doubled, but processing times are now back to normal (four to six weeks); details at

If you don't have a passport and you're craving a Caribbean getaway this winter, remember that U.S. citizens may still travel to and from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which are U.S. territories, without a passport. But bear in mind that U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers may ask your citizenship when departing on these flights, so having your birth certificate available is helpful.


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You should go ahead and continue the passport process however.

They can and do change requirements without any notice.

A passport is always a useful thing to have, it is considered the "best" form of identification by Banks and the like, so it is worth having even if you don't wind up needing it for travel.

Also, if you stay any extended time in a foreign country, one thing I have been taught to do is this:

Upon check-in at the destination hotel, have the hotel staff make a photocopy of the front 2 pages (with picture) of your passport, and the page with the latest country entry stamp on it. Put those pages in your wallet or purse, and put the original passport either in your in-room safe or a hotel safety deposit box, if you have no in-room safe.

There are countries where a stolen US passport sells for a huge amount of money, and this is the best way around that risk.

That way, when you get ready to leave, you will know that you will have your passport.


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Be safe

This is excellent advice. You can even leave a couple of copies with someone at home who could fax them to you if necessary. You will still need to get a copy of the stamped page that Harv is talking about when you arrive. Several years ago, my mom had her passport and airline tickets stolen in Sweden and it was a nightmare. Luckily, I was in the travel business and knew what needed to be done, but it still involved wasted vacation time for her and a trip to the consulate. She also had to get new pictures. If possible, take a couple of extra pictures along too. I wouldn't get paranoid and worry unduly about all of this, but don't walk around on the streets with your passport or fall asleep in the airport like my mom did. Stolen passports are big business.