The new rules for U.S. passports are in place. Surprisingly enough, only about 27% of all Americans possess a valid United States passport. With the new rules that took effect in January 2007, you are going to need one now more than ever. Here is a guide to the new rules for U.S. passports.
From now on, you will be required to present your passport when traveling by air between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. Prior to the government’s new Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, United States citizens were only required to show a driver’s license and/or birth certificate when traveling between these destinations. Not any longer.
You can continue to travel without a passport to U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands. And if you are traveling by land or sea to any of the above-mentioned destinations, you can continue to use your driver’s license and birth certificate until January 2008.
If you do not already possess a U.S. passport (and 73% of us don’t), you will need to apply. You can apply by going in person to a U.S. passport agency. Passport agencies can often be found at your local post office, courthouse, or public library. You must bring with you two passport-sized photographs of yourself, proof of citizenship (such as your birth certificate), a valid form of photo identification such as a driver’s license, and a completed passport application form.
The fee for an adult United States passport is currently $97. It will be valid for the next ten years. Children (defined as 15 and under) can purchase passports for $82, and they are valid through the next five years.
You may renew your passports by mail. For more information on renewals, you can visit the website to the U.S. Department of State by clicking the link in the Resources section below.
Ordinarily, it will take six to eight weeks for your passport to arrive. If you need your passport sooner, you can request to have your application expedited for an additional $60 fee. Expedited passports arrive in approximately two weeks. You will need to present proof of your travel plans when you apply.
Under the new rules, if you attempt to reenter the United States without a valid passport, you will be required to go through an additional screening process to verify your U.S. citizenship. But travel is hectic enough without that, so take the simple steps to apply for a U.S. passport now.