Passports required for Mexico, Canada

Kate Bigam

Students planning to travel to Cancun or the Caribbean Islands over Spring Break will have to invest a little bit more money than usual into their vacation.

As of yesterday, all American air travelers are required to have a valid passport in order to fly out of and back into the United States.

According to a fact sheet provided by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, the air-travel law is the first phase of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, designed to strengthen border security.

Rick Webster, vice president of government affairs for the Travel Industry Association, said most travelers who fly to their international destinations already have passports.

“We’re hoping that (yesterday’s) first phase of the implementation of Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative will be a non-event,” he said. “We’re hoping its been well-publicized enough that there won’t be any issues.”

In the past, travelers to Mexico, Canada, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Bermuda were not required to carry a passport. Under the new law, only air travelers are required to carry passports across international borders.

Linda Copley, clerk of Kent City Council, said the city of Kent has been providing passports since 2002.

Since that time, more than 2,550 passports have been processed.

Normal passport processing time is eight weeks and costs $97; for $157, the process can be completed in six weeks. The city of Kent receives $30 from each application.

In a memo sent to Mayor John Fender and the City Council, Copley called passport sales a “financial success” for the city.

“People are applying for a variety of reasons,” she wrote, “from the young man who was just naturalized to the elderly couple going on a cruise for their golden anniversary.”

But Webster said the final phase of the plan, which will be carried out sometime in 2008 or early 2009, will affect more people by requiring international land and sea travelers to carry passports.

“Looking down the road, when the implementation occurs for sea and particularly for land border travel, there’s where we’re much more concerned,” Webster said. “You’re dealing with a much higher volume of travelers.”

Pat Smith, media relations manager for Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, said the new law won’t affect airport personnel much.

“By the time (travelers) have gotten to us, they already have their passports,” Smith said. “Really, nothing is going to change.”

And Christine Keller, clerical specialist in Kent State’s Office of International Affairs, said the new law will not affect the university’s study abroad programs because Kent State already requires incoming international students and American students studying abroad to have passports.

“It shouldn’t change anything,” Keller said.

Contact public affairs reporter Kate Bigam at [email protected].

Need a passport to make it to the beach for Spring Break?

Applications are accepted at Kent City Hall located at 217 E. Summit St. from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. every day but Wednesday. No appointment is necessary.

Linda Copley, clerk of Kent City Council, offered a piece of advice to those going through the applications process: “The most difficult part of the application is knowing one’s parents’ date and place of birth,” she said. “This is applicable to everyone applying.”

Here’s what else you’ll need to complete the process:

• A completed application form, available at and local post offices

• Two passport photos, available at local drug stores

• A state-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license

• A certified copy of a state-issued birth certificate

• An old passport, if applicable

• Payment by check ($97, normal/$157 expedited)

Once issued, passports are valid for 10 years.