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Article #35: What To Do To Get Your Passport, Or Get It Renewed ... In A Timely Fashion

Note: After the article below was written, I learned that a new proposal is to be announced shortly. There have been an increasing number of angry complaints from Americans whose summer vacations are threatened by new passport rules. Therefore, the Bush administration will temporarily waive a requirement that U.S, citizens have passports to fly to and from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda, provided the traveler can prove he or she has already applied for a passport. Instead of a passport, travelers will now be able to present a State Department receipt showing their passport application is being processed, and a goverment-issued ID such as a driver's license. However, all the information below is still correct and useful.

On January 23, 2007, new passport rules took effect. All air passengers returning to the USA from Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean MUST carry a passport. As early as next year, cruise passengers and travelers who re-enter the USA by car or on foot will need a passport too.

I live just a few doors from a U.S. Post Office which is also houses the Fredericksburg passport office. You should see the lines -- all the way around the building!! Sometimes out the door and down the street. Sometimes while in line people read or make new friends. Sometimes they bring folding chairs. Some even bring food and drink. I have no idea when this will let up. It's been going on for months.

Every time I see the lines, I utter a sign of relief because I don't have to renew until April, 2008. Yet, in the back of my mind I'm thinking, maybe I better get in line now so that I'll have my renewal by the time it expires. Trust me when I say the line realllllly moves slowly.

However, some weeks ago, when I was on a road trip, my hotel provided its usual complimentary USA Today newspaper. BINGO! Right in front of me was all the info I needed to facilitate my passport renewal. I tore the article out planning to share it with my bandmates. Then it dawned on me that most everyone could use this info. Unfortunately, I failed to retain the date of the article, but it was written by Laura Bly and the info that I've checked out is accurate. So, here 'tis:


FOR A FIRST PASSPORT, you'll need to apply in person at one of about 8,000 post offices, public libraries or other government offices.

BRING a certified copy of your birth certificate, two identical 2 inch by 2 inch color photographs, a valid photo identification, an application form and fee for the new passport. It is good for 10 years. It costs $97 for travelers 16 and older and $82 for those under 16.

PASSPORT RENEWALS cost $67. If your passport is undamaged and less than 15 years old, you were at least 16 years old when it was issued and you have the same name (or can legally document your name change), you can renew by mail. (Visit the website for details.)

IF YOU ARE TRAVELING IN LESS THAN 10 WEEKS, consider paying $60 for expedited service, plus overnight-delivery fees. These passports take about two weeks to process.

LAST MINUTE TRAVELERS leaving within two weeks who haven't yet applied for a passport should make an appointment to visit one of 14 regional passport offices (Boston, Chicago, Aurora, Colo, Norwalk, Conn, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, or Washington, DC) by email (go to travel.state.gov/passport, click on "About Passport Services," then "National Passport Services Center") or by calling 877.487.2778. The call center is staffed from 6 a.m. to midnight ET, Monday - Friday, plus limited weekend hours. According to the State Department website, the best time to call is after 8:30 p.m. or before 9 a.m. ET.

TRAVELERS WHO ALREADY HAVE APPLIED AND WITHIN TWO WEEKS OF DEPARTURE can check the status of their application at travel.state.gov/passport: Click "Online Application Status Check." Note that the State Department is taking up to one week for expedited applications and up to four weeks for routine applications to be tracked online.

CONSIDER PAYING EXTRA ($100 OR MORE) TO A PRIVATE PASSPORT EXPEDITER, which is allotted rush-application slots at regional passport offices. But ask first about delivery times and guarantees. Many of the largest firms belong to the National Association of Passport and Visa Services, napvs.org.

AS EARLY AS NEXT YEAR, under a proposed rule by the Homeland Security Department, U.S. and Canadian children will not need passports to enter the USA by land or sea as adults will. As long as they have parental consent, U.S. and Canadian citizens ages 15 or younger can enter the USA with a birth certificate; those ages 16 to 18 can with birth certificates if they're part of an adult-supervised school, religious, cultural or athletic group.