Passport Needed To Travel Outside The U.S.

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The Departments of State and Homeland Security now require anyone flying to Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda to have a passport. The effective date for this new requirement is January 23.

Marc Hamlin is the Brazos County District Clerk. His office handles passport applications for county residents, and he says there are no exceptions to the rule.

Hamlin said anyone currently with plans to fly directly after January 22 who do not have a passport could pay an expediting fee to have their application process sped up, but odds are the document will not be in when they need it.

June Pinnell, an office manager at A&M Travel, says that's the reason their travel agents began telling clients early.

"We really told them, and started maybe six months ago when we first found out," Pinnell said.

But that's not the only change that will affect your world travels. At the start of 2008, you will be required to have a passport to take cruises or to drive outside of the US.

The changes are a result of a 9/11 Commission recommendation that was passed into law under the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.

Hamlin said having the passport when traveling abroad anywhere helps an a person to be able to prove who they are. And as a result of the current world climate, the federal government is taking more measures to secure national borders.

"Their adding another step trying to guarantee that people coming over into America actually have the presence or the credentials to be here," Hamill said.

In addition, Pinnell said having your passport while on a cruise now could make it easier for you get back to the states in case of an emergency. Should someone need to return to the states before their cruise is over, more than likely, they will flying. Pinnell said if they are in Mexico or the Caribbean, getting back into the country could prove difficult.

By 2008, it will be mandatory to have a passport to travel anywhere outside the US, so the recommendation is to get your passport now before you need it.