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More travelers must have passports

June 03, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

New restrictions on Western Hemisphere travel will force more people to get passports.

By Jan. 1, 2008, all travelers to and from Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Bermuda will need passports or other acceptable identification to enter or re-enter the United States.

The mandate is part of the federal Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.

"We're trying to make people aware," said Tina Withrow, a travel consultant with Carlson Wagonlit Travel in Hagerstown.

The travel agency and the Funkstown Post Office are holding a passport fair on June 10.

The post office will process passport applications at the travel agency at 1691 Langley Drive from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Passport fees are $67 for adults and $52 for children younger than 16. There also is a $30 execution fee.

Passport photos will be available for $15 each.

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act was passed to help increase U.S. border security, particularly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, said Laura Tischler, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs.

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The 2004 act will force travelers to show proof of citizenship instead of just saying they are citizens, which often was allowed, Tischler said.

The State Department initially planned to tighten the travel restrictions in three phases, starting Dec. 31, 2005, but waited.

Instead, the restrictions will apply to all air and sea travel starting Dec. 31, 2006.

Land border crossings will be included beginning Dec. 31, 2007.

Tischler said the new restrictions help explain a noticeable increase in passport applications in the last year.

She said 10 million passport applications were processed in the last fiscal year, but the State Department expects the number to rise to 13 million for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30.

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