A Public Service Announcement for All You Passport-Free Americans
Remember the good old days, when you (OK, maybe not you personally, depending on your location, but rather the generic “you”) could take a spur-of-the-moment trip to Niagara Falls—the Canadian side, where the exchange rate favored Americans—with just your birth certificate and a camera? You pulled up to the customs booth and had a casual chat with the agent who, most likely, decided you looked safe enough and wished you happy trails. The last several times I went to Canada, I didn’t even had to show that birth certificate, and that included the Thanksgiving weekend jaunt to Quebec City less than three months after the September 11 terrorist attacks, the only difference then being that when I crossed back into the U.S., the agent welcomed me home.
Anyway, you can still take that impromptu road trip (OK, maybe not you personally, but you know…) as long as you go, well, by road. If you’re flying to Canada—or Mexico, or Bermuda—you now need a passport. The new rules went into effect today. And by this time next year, you’ll also need a passport for the road trip.
Here’s the quick and dirty for those caught off guard.
- The cost for adults (16 years and older) to obtain a U.S. passport is $97, including all ancillary fees. For kids, it’s $82.
- First-time applicants must apply in person at a designated location, some of which will take your photo on-site. You can search for locations here.
- You can fill out the application online, print it, and bring it with you to submit.
- It takes about 6-8 weeks to receive your passport, unless you pay extra for a rush.
- Your passport is good for ten years if you got it when you were 16 or older, otherwise five years.
- The current passport requirement essentially covers travel by air between the United States and any other country. The exceptions are U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Mariana Islands including Guam, and American Samoa.
- In 2008, the requirement will extend to all travel by any means between the U.S. and any other country, excepting the U.S. territories.
For more information, go to the State Department’s passport web site.