Those who are planning a flight to what used to be a relatively no-hassle vacation to anywhere either north or south of the U.S. borders had better get used to hearing that phrase.
A new federal law will kick-in Jan. 23, requiring everyone traveling by air between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Bermuda to present a valid passport, Air NEXUS card or U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner document.
For many people in this area, a foreign excursion means a quick scoot up I-5 to British Columbia for a weekend in Vancouver, a day trip to Victoria or some skiing at Whistler. For at least another year, those traveling by car who never thought they’d need a passport should still be able to get by with the normal sheaf of documents, such as a driver’s license and a birth certificate.
But be forewarned, the new law is coming in stages and the next one – possibly as early as Jan. 1, 2008 – would require a passport for all travel out of the country, whether by 747 or mini-van.
And for those without passports who booked a week in Cabo San Lucas or Aruba for later this winter? Better get on the stick.
The traditional passport application, including a completed form, passport photo and an in-person appearance at a passport acceptance facility, takes up to six weeks. An extra $145 can grease the wheels of government, but travellers can still expect at least a two-week wait.
Some local passport agents say the rush hasn’t hit yet, but you can be sure it is coming, along with the hysterical stories of non-refundable deposits already placed.
The rush is already happening at the Mill Creek Police Department and the Mountalke Terrace city clerk’s office. In Mill Creek the additional business is taking place during what is normally a very slow time for that city’s passport technicians.
Now, more than five years after 9/11 – the incident that sparked this tightening of the national security screws – Americans are seeing this next step of terrorism-related actions, actions that regrettably, seem to be with us for a long time to come.