Even though not all of Japan was hit by today’s 8.9 magnitude earthquake, the U.S. Department of State has issued a travel alert, urging U.S. citizens to “to avoid tourism and non-essential travel to Japan at this time.” [More]
If you have apply or renew passport on your to-do list, better put it on your “done” list this week if you want to save money. Starting July 13, new higher passport fees go into effect. [More]
Travelers paying $60 to expedite their passport application should prepare to wait three weeks, not three business days, for their passport to arrive. The State Department published the change last week in the Federal Register, shifting the target processing date for expedited applications from “three business days” to “a number of business days,” which, according to the Washington Post, means three weeks. Members of Congress lambasted the change:
The State Department will issue refunds to people who paid to expedite their passport application, but didn’t receive their passport within fourteen days. Expediting a passport costs $60 on top of the standard $97 application fee. The move comes after the State Department admitted they could not handle a spike in passport applications caused by new rules that prevent citizens from traveling to neighboring nations without a passport.
Unable to cope with the overwhelming demand for new passports, the State Department will allow Americans to travel between Mexico, Canada and Caribbean nations without a passport until September 30. Citizens have needed a passport to fly to and from neighboring nations since January 23.
The State Department is swamped with passport applications. The backlog is driven in large part by new rules that require U.S. citizens to have a passport (and not just photo id and a birth certificate) in order to re-enter the country by plane from Canada, the Caribbean, and other countries in the Western Hemisphere.