As of last Tuesday, the United States Department of Homeland Security made it mandatory for all passengers traveling by plane to present a valid passport when re-entering the United States from cities in Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean.
This move, the first of a two-part process titled the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), will likely affect students with upcoming Spring Break travel plans in March.
Kristen Middleton, a sophomore, was not aware of the newly implemented requirements. Although she has not made plans for Spring Break, Middleton plans to study abroad this summer.
“I guess I’ll have to go and get my passport renewed, but it’s kind of an inconvenience,” she said.
Christi Day, a spokesperson for STA Travel, said that the new initiative will affect students who do not already have their passports, which may result in students planning Spring Break trips to domestic destinations as opposed to international favorites such as Cancun.
Day also said that students should look into getting their passports now, regardless of what trip they are planning because of the eight to 10-week turnaround on passport applications.
“If you get your passport now, you avoid problems later,” she said.
According to the U.S. Department of State website, more than 70 million citizens hold valid passports, which equates to about one-quarter of the population. The site also said that the State Department has experienced an increase of passport applications in the past several months and does not expect many hassles.
Christine Siru, a senior, said that she does not think the new requirements are useful.
“I recently got my passport renewed,” she said. “But if you renew it and don’t get it on time, then you can’t go anywhere.”
The second phase of WHTI may be implemented as early as Jan. 1, 2008, and will apply the same passport rule to those crossing borders by land and sea.
The initiative comes as a result of recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. By implementing the passport requirement of all travelers, the government hopes to strengthen border security and facilitate entry into the U.S.
“It’s an understandable precaution in order to keep terrorists out of the country,” Angel Cordova, a senior, said. “Every little bit helps but in the overall scope there’s no 100 percent foolproof method.”
How to apply for a first-time passport and renew a passport:
-Must apply in person at a passport acceptance facility
-Provide the DS-11 application form, two photographs, proof of U.S. citizenship and a valid form of photo ID
-Fees: $97 for routine service, add $60 for expedited service.
-Follow these steps to renew a passport in person, providing the expired passport as proof of identification.
How to renew a passport by mail:
– A passport may only be renewed by mail if the bearer was 16 years of age or older when it was issued.
-If renewing by mail, complete the DS-82 form and submit along with the expired passport, two photographs and the required fee.
U.S. citizens in need of a passport may visit http://travel.state.gov for more information.
Megan Ondrizek may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.