Agent Advisory – Do Your Clients Have Passports for June 1 Cruise, Border Deadline?

May 12, 2009

The U.S. State Department web site now has a “countdown clock”counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds to June 1, when new passport or passport card requirements go into effect. After several postponements to give citizens more time to obtain passport documents, the government will put the land and sea requirements of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) into force.

U.S. citizens entering the United States at sea or land ports of entry from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean or Bermuda must have a passport or passport card. U.S. citizen children under the age of 16 will be able to present the original or copy of their birth certificate, or other proof of U.S. citizenship such as a naturalization certificate or citizenship card. The Passport Card, available through the State Department, costs $45 and is valid for 10 years for adults or 5 years for children under age 16. It is important to note that the cards, while good for a cruise or land re-entry to the U.S. are not good for international travel, which requires a full passport. This means that if there is an emergency requiring a flight home from outside the U.S., lack of a regular passport for entry could create a hassle and a delay.

Find out more information about the passport card. Regular passports, valid for all international travel and border crossings are priced at $100 per adult and $85 per child under age 16. Passport renewals by mail are $75. Go to http: travel.state.gov and click “Passports” for more information.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Department issued a statement in late May saying U.S. and Canadian citizens who lacked proper documents, but are otherwise admissible to the U.S., will NOT be denied entry, such as those returning to the same U.S. port they departed from on a cruise. Those travelers are encouraged to continue their travel plans. However, the government officials are still urging travelers to become compliant to the law requiring passports, passport cards of the new U.S. Customs enhanced drivers’ licenses as soon as possible to avoid unnecessary cross border hassles.