Apply For Your Passport Hassle-Free

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Getty Images/David McNew
    U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials say they're confident the transition will be smooth.

    If you still need documentation to travel across the U.S. border, no need to set an appointment. On Monday, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection along with the U.S. Department of State will host a U.S. passport card and passport fair.

    The new rules requiring passports or new high-tech documents

    to cross the

    United States

    ' northern and southern borders took effect June 1, 2009.

    U.S. citizens must have a U.S. passport card as well as a Trusted Traveler Card or an Enhanced Driver's License to re-enter the United States.

    From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the South County Career Center, you can apply for a passport or passport card. The fair takes place at 1111 Bay Blvd. Suite E, Chula Vista, 91911.

    Applicants can bring photos, or have them taken onsite for a fee. They also need to bring evidence of U.S. citizenship, a document establishing identity, and a check or money order to pay for application and execution fees.

    The new rules, which also affects sea crossings, are the final implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, a security measure crafted from recommendations from the 9/11 Commission.

    It's part of a gradual boost in security along the northern border that has featured millions of dollars in upgrades and the hiring of hundreds of more customs officers and U.S. Border Patrol agents.

    Before the new rule, travelers only needed to show identification, such as a driver's license, and orally declare their citizenship. In 2008, the federal government changed that rule to require proof of citizenship, such as a birth's certificate or a passport.

    Under the new rule, travelers also can use a passport card issued by the U.S. State Department to cross land borders. The card does not work for air travel. At $45 for first-time applicants, it's a more affordable alternative to the traditional passport, which costs $100. More than 1 million passport cards have been issued since last year.

    Identification documents available under the "Trusted Traveler" programs are also accepted. Those require fees ranging from $50 to more than $100. These programs, developed by the U.S, Canadian and Mexican governments, allow vetted travelers faster access to the border. In some cases, members in these programs have their own lanes at border crossings.

    Enhanced driver's licenses, which use a microchip to store a person's information, also can be used to cross the northern and southern borders. Washington state, Vermont, New York, and Michigan are the only states that offer them so far. An application process and interview are required for these licenses.

    There are some exceptions. Children under 16 traveling with family, people under 19 traveling in youth groups, Native Americans and members of the military will be able to use different forms of identification. Also, travelers in cruises that depart from a U.S. port, sail only within the Western Hemisphere and return the same port do not have to comply.