You Need To Get A Passport

Under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, beginning January 23, 2007, ALL persons, including U.S. citizens, traveling by air between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda will be required to present a valid passport, Air NEXUS card, or U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Document, or an Alien Registration Card, Form I-551, if applicable.

This means no more driver’s license and birth certificate if you’re flying to places that used to accept it. You’ll need a passport. Getting one takes about 6 weeks, so why not apply now? By 2008, land and sea travelers will also need a passport, so there’s not getting around it.

To Apply For A Passport:
To obtain a passport for the first time, you need to go in person to one of 9,000 passport acceptance facilities located throughout the United States with two photographs of yourself, proof of U.S. citizenship, and a valid form of photo identification such as a driver’s license. Often these facilities are post offices, so why not apply when you’re mailing your holiday gifts?—MEGHANN MARCO

How to Apply For A Passport [U.S. Department of State]


Edit Your Comment

  1. spanky says:

    I want the Merchant Mariner thing instead. That sounds more badass.

  2. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    I heard about this awhile ago, and figured I’d wait till it was manditory, thinking it might cause the cost to drop. Not sure if that will happen, but spending $80-$100 for something required by law is a bit pricey.

  3. Musician78 says:

    Does this mean that if I go to Canada in a car in 2007, I will only need a license, but if I fly I will need a passport? But in 2008, even to drive to Canada would require a passport?

  4. Kornkob says:

    Yes- in the near future you will need a passport to travel outside the US.

    On the cost front: the $100 fee buys you an ID that is good for 10 years and is only ‘required’ if you leave the country. Stay home (and there’s a great deal to do in the US— it’s a big goddam place) and it’s not required at all.

    A tip: if you are a AAA member you can get offical photos taken at the AAA offices for about $10, if you don’t want to do it yourself:

  5. ‘land and see travelers’?

  6. levenhopper says:

    Kornkob (and everyone else for that matter) — Costco does passport pictures for $4.

    Also, they have the cheepest digital prints I’ve ever seen, at $0.16/print. Free shipping, and it comes within the week, usually.

  7. Hirayuki says:

    You can also submit your own digital photographs as long as they meet the State Dept.’s size and resolution specs. That tiny bit of leeway helped when applying for my son’s passport when he was two months old and not sitting up.

    If you want your passport right away, you can pay to have it expedited. If you do, though, you must indicate where you intend to travel. Personally, I like to travel; I could go to any number of places on pretty short notice (Canada is 40 minutes away by car), and since my son would have to come with me, I wanted him to have a passport ASAP. But I had to give concrete travel plans (our excuse for “possible” travel plans was a sick family member abroad) or I couldn’t get the application expedited (even though I paid the hefty fee).

  8. acambras says:

    I didn’t expedite my passport application (in 1998) and the passport arrived at my home in exactly 3.5 weeks, just like they’d said it would. Maybe I lucked out, but the process was surprisingly easy (maybe I went in expecting the worst).

  9. Solo says:

    I find the term “Western Hemisphere” offensive to my intelligence. Please take a minute to think about it and realize it’s the dumbest thing ever. Who coined that term?

  10. Kornkob says:

    Solo: I believe it was Nixon, speaking in terms of the Cold War of the time, which made a lot of sense then. It has subesquently passed into common usage like a lot of terminology does: once meant one thing and common usage then turns it into somethign else (look what happened to the word ‘discriminate’). If you ‘re insulted by terms that used to mean one thing but now mean something else, you might find your ability to communicate hindered.

    Levenhopper: There’s no Costco around here. *shrug*

    On another note: anyone know if the current passport issued have that easily copied RFID in them and, if so, what data are they putting on the RFID?

  11. any such name says:

    i concur – i applied for one around halloween in chicago since i knew i’d be going to canada for a christmas party and i got mine in 4 weeks as well, but maybe there will be a rush on them now due to this new rule.

    also, AAA gives members FREE passport photos – however i’m unsure, that may just be an AAA Plus thing.

  12. any such name says:

    also, Kornkob – no RFID in the US passport i just got, though my canadian-american friend thought we were supposed to be getting them, too.

  13. Yeah, it’s worth the effort to go and do it. Lasts 10 years, means you never have to figure out where you left your Social Security card when you’re providing “right to work” documentation at a new job, and you can always take last-minute trips to Bermuda.

    And a little horror story for you; my aunt had let hers lapse because she didn’t think she’d be travelling abroad ever again, and then her sister died in South America and local laws require burial within 48 hours because of disease concerns. Even expedited processing was not fast enough because of the flight time to get there. (And expedited processing is only available in some cities.)

  14. neithernor says:

    Why not do it while you’re mailing holiday gifts? Because if your local post office is like mine, there will only be one person working during the holiday rush and your passport papers will hold up the line.

    Don’t make the wait worse than it is! Get your passport after the Christmas/ Hanukkah package rush. The Grinch thanks you in advance.

  15. AndyfromIL says:

    Are these to keep people from leaving the country? Walls. Passports to get in/out. Are permission slips next?

    “Let me see your papers.”

    “Papers PLEASE!”

  16. aka Cat says:

    I’ve heard you can microwave your passport to disable the rfid.

  17. ronaldscott says:

    “Getting one takes about 6 weeks, so why not apply now?”

    Fee: $97.

    I was forced to get one for business travel (unreimbursed, the bitches), but YOU don’t have to.

  18. SexCpotatoes says:

    How long?

  19. MrBartokomous says:

    I work for a company that runs Spring Break tours, and from what I can surmise… there’s going to be a profoundly heavy rush in about 8 weeks from now… if you’re planning to fly out of the country I’d be getting that application in now.

    A side note, and I’m not 100% on this… but I’m pretty sure you’ll need a passport to enter the US by sea as well starting Jan. 2007 So cruises and such will require passports as well if that’s the case.

  20. hardcle says:

    I don’t see why I should rush out and drop $100(!) to get a passport, when in my previous 39 years I’ve never left the country and don’t foresee doing so in the next 10. I thought this site was supposed to help us *save* money.

  21. acambras says:

    OK, hardcle — so don’t get a passport. Nobody is telling you that you HAVE to get one.

    But many of us do travel outside of the U.S. or foresee doing so in the near future. Through this post, Consumerist is disseminating important information.

    Oh, and it’s not just about saving money — it’s also about saving time and aggravation. If one’s getting a passport, there’s no way of getting out of the government imposed fee, but any advice that saves time and aggravation is a great thing.

  22. Frankly my experiences with the passport people make them the least annoying part of the US government. They’ve always been extremely helpful to American citizens (especially if you have trouble abroad or have your passport stolen overseas) and — this is my absolute favorite federal service — when you get your new one, you have to send in your old one, AND THEY SEND IT BACK TO YOU (corners cut off) so you can keep it for all the cool stamps and stuff!

    Stupid DMV wouldn’t even let me keep my first license for my scrapbook. Who the hell takes a 16-year-old’s license for a fake???

  23. hardcle says:

    Acambras: In case you didn’t notice, the title of this post is “You Need to Get a Passport” not “Important Information for the Many of You Who Travel Outside the Country”.

    The only thing that’s changing is that a passport will be required for travel to countries that didn’t require it before. This hardly requires that all citizens run out and spend $100 (an obscene amount of money, if you ask me) to get a passport.

  24. abyssphobia says:

    yeah, more funding to Irak!!!!kidding..

    I think it is very expensive and silly to have to present a passport to get back to your own country.To show to your own officials to your own people. Not to some other country, to your own.

    People should protest against.

    To go by car or walking to Mexico you don’t need a passport but you need it. Even Mexican people only show the laser visa but never a passport(crossing to the usa by walking or by car). I don’t get it.