DA - Passport fees to increase; passport card now available
Passport fees to increase; passport card now available
By JUDY D.J. ELLICH
Daily American Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 29, 2008 11:31 PM EST
Beginning Friday, anyone obtaining a passport will have to dig deeper into their pockets.
Additionally, everyone will have the option to apply for a passport book, a passport card, or both. “Anyone can apply for the passport card after Feb. 1, but they (State Department) will not start distributing them until sometime in the spring,” said Somerset County Prothonotary Angie Svonavec.
Last year was the first time a driver’s license was not enough for Americans to fly to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean, and now anyone traveling by land or by sea, including ferries, will also need a passport.
The passport card is half the price of the passport book, and is valid for 10 years for adults and five years for children. But, unlike the book, the card is limited and may only be used for land and sea travel between the United States, Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean.
On Friday, the passport card, which is wallet size, is $45 for adults and $35 for anyone under the age of 16. For passport holders, a card will cost an additional $20.
For first-time applicants, it will cost $100 for adults and $85 for children under the age of 16. The fee is $3 more than last year.
To renew a passport usually costs $75, depending on whether or not it was issued in the last 15 years. The person must have the same name and must have been 16 or older when the passport was obtained. The passport book must be undamaged.
Another change in the passport requirements deals with age and consent. Two parents must consent for children under the age of 16 to obtain a passport. Last year, the age was under 14.
“This was done to protect the children from abduction and address concerns about runaway children,” said Cy Ferenchak, assistant spokesman, Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State.
Parental abduction is a major concern for the State Department, especially if one of the parents has citizenship in another country, he said.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, federal legislation was passed to strengthen U.S. borders.
The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 requires the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the State Department to develop and implement a plan to require all travelers to present a passport, or other document or a combination of documents that show identity and citizenship when entering the United States.
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative is the administrative arm of the plan to implement this mandate, Svonavec said.
Before the initiative, the office processed about 20 passports a month. That number rose to an average of 100 a month last year.
Svonavec anticipates the processing numbers to decrease this year.
“We don’t foresee a rush in passports this year,” she said.
The processing time is six to eight weeks, she said. At one time last year, it was taking closer to 12 weeks to process passports. With an extra expediting fee of about $60, that time can be narrowed to two weeks, she said.
Last year, when the initiative went into place, the prothonotary’s office processed 828 passports for adults and 111 for children. In 2006, the office processed 721 adult and 86 children passports.
The initiative’s passport requirement does not apply to U.S. citizens traveling to or returning directly from a U.S. territory, Svonavec said. U.S. territories include Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Swains Island and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, according to the State Department.
For additional passport information, go to http://travel.state.gov/passport.
(Judy D.J. Ellich can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment on the online story at dailyamerican.com.)