New rules affect travel to Mexico, Canada
April 10, 2009
If you’re planning to cruise the Mexican Riviera or sightsee this summer in the Canadian Rockies make sure your U.S. passport is valid.
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative already requires American air travelers entering the United States from Mexico, Canada or islands in the Caribbean to show passport books or cards.
Rules that take effect June 1 will regulate land and sea travel from the nation’s North American neighbors by requiring travelers older than age 16 show passport documents at the border, said Ryan Cowley, chief deputy Summit County clerk.
But obtaining the documents doesn’t have to be a bewildering experience, he said.
"It’s pretty simple," Cowley said. "There is a two-page application and they need to have their driver’s license and a birth certificate. It’s really a hassle-free process."
Still, it’s never too soon to apply, he stressed.
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"We’ve had some people come in, who are a week away from going, and it really makes it difficult," Cowley said. "We’re probably at least twice as busy as we were at the beginning of last year."
Americans can currently cross borders into Mexico and Canada by showing photo IDs and birth certificates, Cowley said.
"It changes the way travel has been done," he said about the set of guidelines that takes effect June 1.
Entering foreign countries along cruise itineraries beginning at domestic ports could also require Americans show passports to get home, he said.
"A lot of cruises to Alaska stop in Canada," Cowley said. "Before, you could just go on the cruise and not have to worry about anything."
Summit County residents applying for passports for the first time have two options. The Clerk’s Office is accepting applications for passport cards, which allow entry by land and sea into Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean.
The wallet-sized identifications cannot be used to fly, Cowley said, adding that cards are valid for 10 years and cost $45 for adults. Passports won’t be required for children under 16 years old traveling to Mexico, Canada or the Caribbean.
"They were originally going to do this a couple years ago and they came out with the passport card to make it more cost effective," Cowley said about new Mexican and Canadian travel requirements.
Obtaining a regular passport required for all air travel to and from the United States costs first-timers $100.
"People may not have definite travel plans, but they say, ‘If I’m going to need a passport anyway, I might as well just get it,’" Cowley said. "Then, if they decide to go to Mexico, they’re able to do that without a problem."
Passports currently take about four to six weeks to process.
"If you’re planning a trip in June, then it’d be a good thing to come in and get those passports taken care of now," Cowley said.
In Park City, passports are available at the U.S. Post Office at 2100 Park Avenue. The office can be reached at 655-8037.
Visit the travel.state.gov, or summitcounty.org/clerk Web sites for more information about passports. Passports must be applied for in person and two passport photos are required. Contact the Summit County Clerk’s Office at 615-3204.