Passport Changes Could Put the Brakes on Travel Plans

By Zaneta Lowe  - bio | email | Twitter

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Just when your bags were packed and ready to go, new changes are on the way that could put the brakes on your travel plans.

Specifically, new passport rules go into effect June 1, 2009.

"If you're traveling by land and crossing the border into like Canada or Mexico, in the past, you could just use your birth certificate now you must have a passport," explains AAA South Travel Manager Roxanne Towler.

A passport card, or another Homeland Security approved travel document will work too.  However, those are the only ways travelers will be able to gain entry or re-entry into the United States.

US citizens taking a cruise that begins and ends at the same US port (also called closed-loop cruises) will get a break.

They can still use a birth certificate or government issued id, but Towler says a passport, is still the best option.

"Something could happen to you while you were on that cruise and you might have an emergency, need to come home and if you had to get off the ship in Mexico or the Caribbean, you would definitely have trouble getting back into the United States without a valid passport," says Towler.

A few other tips when applying for a passport:

  • Use black ink when completing all application forms. Blue is accepted if it's dark enough, but applications have been turned away.
  • Remember, all children, regardless of age must have their own passport, and there are special requirements for minors under 16, and for 16 and 17 year-olds.
  • Some countries require consent for minors traveling without both parents or guardians.

Towler says Mexico is one of them.

"If you are taking a child that is not yours, along on a trip with you, or you're taking a child, step parents, things like that, you have to have a letter, a notarized letter allowing you to take that child in their absence."

Towler says they're hearing it's taking two to three weeks to get a passport back these days.

To fast track it, never leave the portion blank on the application where it asks "when" you are traveling.

If you have a specific travel date, some experts recommend writing in one that's actually a bit sooner, that way you stand the chance to get your passport back a bit faster.