Do you have international travel plans in your near future? If so, you better get the most up-to-date rules about U.S. Passports. These rules seem to change frequently, with sudden delays in implementation. For the latest information, you should check the Department of State Travel Web site, but it’s a good idea to check another source as well, because that site is sometimes lacking.
Here are some excerpts from a recent CNN article on passport requirements for travel to and from Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
1. Get the details
If you’re a US citizen flying into the country from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda, you’ll need a passport. This rule was in effect earlier this year, but there was so much demand, the government was just inundated.
If you’re under 16 and traveling with a parent or guardian you will need to prove that you’ve at least applied for a passport.
If you’re driving across these borders or taking a cruise, you won’t need passports…yet! That’s coming next year.
2. Start the process
If you’re traveling this winter, you’ll want to get your application in now but, if you’re traveling earlier, like Thanksgiving, you’ll want to expedite the passport process.
A good rule of thumb here is that if you’re traveling in 120 days or less, you’ll want to get an expedited passport, says Terry Trippler of Cheapseats.com.
According to the State Department, getting a regular passport can take six to eight weeks while an expedited passport can take 3 weeks.
Of course you’ll be paying for the convenience. An expedited passport costs about $157 for an adult, compared with the regular price of $97.
3. Know where to go
Your first step should be the State Department Web site at www.travel.state.gov. If you’re getting a passport for the first time, you’ll have to go to a passport acceptance facility in person.
To find out where one is located, type in your Zip code on the Web site. You’ll be given a list of places where you can pick up an application. Generally these places will include post offices, public libraries and some municipal offices. Just indicate that you want an Expedited Passport.
Now, if you’re really desperate, you may be able to get your passport in a couple of hours to a few days. For that, check out government passport agencies in your area. Go to travel.state.gov and just type in passport agencies.
If you can get an appointment, you may be able to walk in and walk out with a passport, according to Tripper.
And if you choose to scout out online passport services, be sure you’re dealing with a legitimate company. The last thing you want is to deal with a con artist.
4. Get the status
You can always check the status of your passport online. Go to the State Department’s Web site and click on status check.
If you’re going to be needing your passport soon, you should check the status now. The State Department indicates it’ll take 7-10 days to get tracking information.