Jan 222007
 
Authors: Brian Park

If you are traveling by air to Mexico, the Caribbean or Canada in the near future do not get stuck in the terminal because your passport did not make it to the airport.

Students readying themselves to soak up sun and tequila in Mexico for Spring Break may be surprised with a new passport law going into effect today.

All U.S. citizens, including children, traveling by air between the United States and Mexico, Canada, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Bermuda will be required to present a valid passport to fly.

Only air travel is affected. Using a driver’s license or birth certificate is no longer accepted. Crossing the Mexican or Canadian border in a car or by sea does not require a passport, and sea cruises and ferries are exempt as well.

Receiving a new passport can take six to eight weeks and with Spring Break beginning March 10, students traveling under the new law will have to pay an expedite fee of $60 to receive their passport in two weeks.

Passports cost $97 – with the expedite fee, travelers can expect to spend $157.

Sharon Sampson, the passport acceptance clerk at the U.S. Post Office at 301 Boardwalk Dr., said it is very rare that someone comes into the office and does not know the changes going into effect.

But Katie Messiro, a travel adviser at STA Travel in the Lory Student Center, said most students do not know of the new law.

“We had signs out for a while and we’re trying to get word of mouth out about it,” Messiro said.

Now that STA is done with the campaigns, they are continuing to inform people about the new requirements.

The post office has not conducted any informative campaigns, but the U.S. State Department is advertising via television and newspapers, according to Sampson.

While business has not been affected at STA Travel, the new law has probably increased business 20 percent or more at the post office. A steady flow of people is coming in to get passports, Sampson said.

The federal government is implementing the travel initiative due to a mandate that passed in 2004, after Congress approved some of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations.

The purpose is to reduce the types of documents travelers can use to enter the United States, simplifying the job of inspectors looking for fake or invalid ones, according to the New York Times.

Over 8,000 styles of birth certificates are issued by agencies in the United States, according to Maura Harty, assistant secretary of state for consular affairs. “No inspector could ever possibly master all of those,” Harty told The New York Times.

The new requirement does not apply to people traveling to any U.S. territory. The U.S. territories include Puerto Rico, Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, Swains Island, America Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands.

The New York Times contributed to this article.

Staff writer Brian Park can be reached at news@collegian.com.

How To Get A Passport – breakout box

– Go to the U.S. Post Office at 301 Boardwalk Dr.

– Make sure to bring:

o Certified birth certificate from the county or state, not a hospital.

o Driver’s license or a valid form of government issued identification.

o Two passport-size photos. If you do not bring photos with you the post office can take photos for $15.

o A new passport costs $97 and takes six to eight weeks to process.

o To expedite a passport, so it only takes 2 weeks to process, it costs an additional $60.

o You can pay with cash, check or debit card. Credit cards are not accepted at the post office.

– For more info:

– Call the U.S. Post Office at 225-4123

– Visit the U.S. State Department Web site at http://travel.state.gov/index.html

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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