Passport Applications for 2007, 2008 -A Travel Guide for US Citizens

Most who plan on traveling internationally probably know that new travel document requirements have been in place since January of 2007. Additionally, new regulations take effect in January of 2008. Here are some key considerations to make your preparations easier.PASSPORTS: Because of new regulations required by the Homeland Security Act, passports are now required for air travel in Western Hemisphere countries that were previously exempt. Beginning in January 2008 those regulations extend to land and sea travel as well.If you have never before obtained a passport, the procedures may be a little intimidating, but it’s very simple if you thoroughly research and complete the requirements well ahead of your anticipated travel date. Waiting too late and having to hurry or pay extra for expedited service simply adds to the pressure and the costs. Consider the following steps and resources.o Begin the process of obtaining a passport and required visas well in advance of your travel date – by as much as 6 months.o Thoroughly research passport and visa requirements. Do not assume anything. Requirements may change without much warning.o Obtain the application, one for each member of the family that is traveling, including children and infants. As always, check the most up-to-date sources because requirements change. Ask questions. The applications may be obtained from many US Post Offices but must be delivered only to specified US Post Offices. See below for the link to the official US government site for specifics.o Obtain 2 official passport pictures. Most portrait photographers can supply these, including Wal-Mart Stores that maintain a photography studio. Some US Post offices also offer photography services.o Save your money for the occasion. The total passport fee is just under $100, not including the passport pictures. If you have to expedite the process, costs may be 2 or 3 times as much.VISAS: Before you travel to a foreign country, check with the embassy or consulate of the country that you plan to visit. Ask specifically for their visa requirements. Be sure to mention the date of travel, because requirements change from time to time and you must comply with current regulations. The U.S. Department of State maintains a web site that contains information about visa requirements, but it may not be up to date.Again, this is something you want to start on early in your planning stages because it may take you a few weeks to contact the appropriate agency and to receive response back. If you are required to secure a visa, that too will take time.As with any official documents, when you receive them, check them carefully for accuracy. You do not want to be held up at the ticket counter or the customs gate because of what may seem to you to be an insignificant spelling or typo mistake. No mistakes are insignificant.Just a word of encouragement with documentation. Carry with you always your personal picture ID and birth certificate and copies of your required documentation. If you are for any reason stopped at a checkpoint because of some inconsistency in paperwork, additional copies and more-than-required documentation may save you time and hassle. And, last of all, looking at the overall picture, a very low percentage of travelers experience any problems with documentation. Follow the requirements. Do not attempt to skip steps, and you’ll be just fine.