New U.S. Travel Rules



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With summer vacations on the horizon, travelers need to be aware of newly-enacted Homeland Security regulations that have now taken effect for U.S. travelers.

Beginning immediately, U.S. citizens who travel to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean by plane will need a passport. And starting sometime next year, travelers visiting these same destinations by land or sea will similarly require a passport.

Previously, all that was needed was a driver's license or a birth certificate.

Congress has enacted the new rules as a response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, at the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission.

Most Americans, however, are not yet ready for this new law.

As it stands now, less than a third of U.S. citizens — approximately 73 million — maintain valid passports.

And according to a new Kayak.com survey of more than 1,000 respondents, 32 percent plan to apply for a passport now that it will be mandatory for U.S. citizens returning by air from Canada, Mexico and parts of the Caribbean.

Though fewer than one-in-20 have started the application process, nearly one-in-five of those polled say their travel plans this year will change due to the new legislation.

“We know from the Travel Industry Association that only 27 percent of Americans have passports,” says Steve Hafner, Kayak.com co-founder and CEO. “In our poll, only a small percentage of those who plan to get one say they have sent in their applications. The State Department reports that applications were already starting to spike, so we think it could create a major backlog when they start processing all of those new applications once they're in the system.”

Be sure to plan ahead, since it takes about six weeks to receive a new passport or roughly two weeks if you apply for expedited service. Costs to apply for a passport are $97 for adults and $82 for children.

If you can't get a passport in time and really want an island vacation, many choices do exist that don't require a passport — including cruise getaways, as well as visits to such islands as Daufuskie, Islamorada and the Marco Islands, says Hafner.

U.S. territories, such as Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam, are exempt from the passport requirement.

For more information on getting a passport and for travel information, visit the U.S. Department of State's Web site at www.travel.state.gov.

Source: StatePoint Media

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