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New passport regulations creating high demand for travelers

June 14, 2007|by ERIN JULIUS

Local travelers need to learn to plan ahead when traveling outside the country, a local travel agent said as she discussed newly tightened, then relaxed, passport regulations.

Citizens traveling to and from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda who were required to have a passport in hand might not need a passport after all because the United States Departments of State and Homeland Security relaxed that restriction, according to a AAA Mid-Atlantic press release.

Travelers still must provide proof that they have applied for a passport and a government-issued photo identification card, according to the release.

Demand for passports is at an all-time high, according to the state department's Web site. Because of the high demand, it takes 10 to 12 weeks for citizens to obtain a passport, so Americans should apply at least 12 weeks before they plan to travel, according to the Web site.

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Travelers also must find out if their destination will accept the official proof of application in lieu of an actual passport, said Mary Anne Recher, office manager for All About Travel.

One of her company's clients wanted to travel to Jamaica, but Jamaica is one of the islands requiring U.S. citizens to have their passports, Recher said.

Only one or two of her travel agency's clients have canceled trips due to the ever-changing passport regulations, she said.

Confusion over passport regulations has "put an edge on travel," Recher said.

Travel agents are thrilled that the government is moving toward requiring passports for all travel outside the country, Recher said. Passports make traveling in and out of the country a cinch, she said.

Cruises are popular this year because they allow U.S. citizens to travel outside the country without passports. As of Dec. 31, 2007, passports will be required even for cruises, however, so Recher advised people to apply for passports now.

People applying for passports for the first time must go to one of 7,000 passport offices throughout the U.S. and take proof of citizenship, two photographs and valid photo identification, according to the release.

People also must apply for passports in person if they don't have their expired passport, if their expired passport was issued more than 15 years ago or was issued before they were 16 years old, or if their passport was lost or stolen, according to the release.

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