Law of the West
For the last several weeks, wherever we go, all of us are reminded of the Season. And, of course, the stores and radio stations are playing all the classics of the Holidays. Everyone is “dreaming of a white Christmas”. Today it would seem that our dreams are about to come true, with a vengeance. The winter storm warnings are going up everywhere in Eastern Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas. I, for one, intend to be dreaming of something other than snow, not later than the 26th!
As I started flipping through my scuba diving magazines and brochures of South Pacific resorts, my “photo-phobic” wife was considering places closer to home.
Perhaps some nice spa in Mexico, Bermuda or the Caribbean, after all Dena thought, shorter air flights and no passport needed. Well, she is only half right.
The flights might be shorter, but as of next year you will need a passport. Starting on Jan. 23, just in time for all those college kids heading out on Spring Break, everyone entering the United States by air will need a passport. This includes U.S. citizens. No longer will your driver’s license be sufficient. You will need a passport.
Okay, so we can still drive down to Mexico and a passport won’t be required ” Maybe. Beginning as early as January 2008, a passport will be required for land and sea travel into the United States as well. (And, there are some indications that it could be earlier depending on the requirements for maintaining homeland security.) So the long and short of it, everyone will need a passport in the very near future.
Children, regardless of age, including newborns and infants, require a passport for travel.
So how do you get a passport? If this is your first passport, you have to apply in person at a passport acceptance facility. These are often times federal, state and county courts; some public libraries; many post offices; and, a few other governmental offices. Or, if you are in a hurry (traveling within two weeks) you can go to a regional passport office. You will need two passport photographs, proof of citizenship (a birth certificate) and a valid photo id card (driver’s license). The total cost between fees and photos, for routine service, will be a little over $100.
If you have a passport, but it expired, you might be able to renew by mail. You can renew your passport by mail if: you still have your old passport; its less that 15 years old; you were over 16 years old when it was issued; and, you still have the same name or you can easily prove your new name.
Routine passport service means you will get your passport in about six weeks, though you should allow about eight to be safe. Expedited, two week service comes with a higher fee. There are also private services that will get you a passport with a 24-hour turn around, but such service comes with a hefty surcharge on top of the governmental charges. For around $200 in extra fees these private “expediters” will “walk” your application through the passport office. So if you wait until the day before you need to travel, your procrastination will cost a total of around $350.
If you plan on taking the kids with you on a foreign vacation, and they are under 14 years old, you had best allow some additional time. There are a slew of additional requirements to get a youngster a passport. The requirements are basically to ensure that both parents are “ok” with the child’s travel. They are meant in large measure to prevent international parental kidnapping and custody battles.
For more information, the State Department has an outstanding website. You can reach it at http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html. As far as private services that will expedite your application, just use your web browser and search “passport expediter”. There are quite a few services out there.
To all our readers, from the Scorsine Family, may your Holidays be bright and may the New Year bring you and yours untold blessings and good fortune. And, with that, let’s see … white sand, warm blue water, gentle breezes, great diving, nice spa, I’m dreaming of …