Passport Information

Border Crossings Get Tougher for U.S. Citizens

Passports

Americans who cross into Mexico and Canada by land on a regular basis are
encountering new rules requiring them to prove citizenship upon return or risk being denied entry into their homeland.

The change, effective January 31, requires production of a photo ID, such as a driver’s license, at the border—a departure from past practice in which an oral declaration would suffice, and a precursor to more stringent rules requiring a passport for transnational travel.

“For the safety of the American people, the United States cannot have an honor system at the border,” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said. “Requiring secure and reliable documentation at our borders will drastically reduce security vulnerabilities posed by permitting entry based on oral declarations alone.”

The rules, which apply to U.S. and Canadian citizens older than 18, are a departure from long-held practice, but the government said the security implications are huge. Between October and December 2007, it said, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officers reported 1,517 cases of fraudulent claims of U.S. citizenship. Travelers who cannot produce a valid document may face delays, the border agency said.

A list of qualifying documents can be found at CBP’s Web site. U.S. travelers became eligible to begin applying for a new trusted traveler passport card on February 1 in anticipation of the narrower border-crossing document.

Homeland Security originally was scheduled to implement passport requirements this summer, but Congress postponed the rules by a year. The State Department said it would begin taking “pre-orders” February 1 for the new wallet-sized passport card, designed as a cheaper passport alternative for border-state residents and others making frequent land border crossings.

The fees will be $45 for adults and $35 for children. Passport fees were slated
to rise on February 1. Passport Details

Washington eases passport rule for summer

Washington “For U.S. citizens traveling to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda who have applied for but not yet received passports can nevertheless temporarily enter and depart from the United States by air with a government issued photo identification and Department of State official proof of application for a passport through September 30, 2007. “

Officials said the “record-breaking demand” at passport offices had led to excessive delays of up to three months.
The revised procedures will remain in place until 30 September.

The federal government is making this accommodation for air travel due to longer than expected processing times for passport applications in the face of record-breaking demand.

Between March and May this year, the State Department issued more than 4.5 million passports.

Washington says extra staff had been recruited to deal with the surge in demand, toll-free phone lines have reportedly been overloaded and passport offices swamped by desperate applicants who have been waiting for months.

Did You Know That…. 1st Qtr 2007

Beginning January 23, 2007, ALL persons, including U.S. citizens, traveling by air between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South Americas, the Caribbean and Bermuda will be required to present a (1 from the list):

  • valid passport
  • Air NEXUS card
  • U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Document
  • an Alien Registration Card, Form I-551, if applicable

As early as January 1, 2008, ALL persons, including U.S. citizens, traveling between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Bermuda by land or sea (including ferries), may be required to present a valid passport or other document as determined by the Department of Homeland Security.

While recent legislative changes permit a later deadline, the Departments of State and Homeland Security are working to meet all requirements as soon as possible.

Ample advance notice will be provided to enable the public to obtain passports or passport cards for land/sea entries.

The passport requirement does NOT apply to U.S. citizens traveling to or returning directly from a U.S. territory. U.S. citizens returning directly from a U.S. territory are not considered to have left the United States and do not need to present a passport. U.S. territories include the following:

  • Guam
  • Puerto Rico
  • the U.S. Virgin Islands
  • American Samoa
  • Swains Island,
  • and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

The cost of a new passport for an adult is $97, and for children $82.

Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson

reduced flight delays when it opened its fifth runway in May 2006. That’s significant, considering it’s the world’s largest airport with more than 85 million people flying in and out every year.

The new $1.1 billion, 9,000-foot runway has increased by about 30% the number of arrivals the airport can handle at any time, reducing passenger wait time as they taxi or circle in the air.

Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson joins Chicago O’Hare, Denver and Dallas-Fort Worth as the only airports in the U.S. where three jetliners are able to land safely at the same moment.

In all, the average per-flight delay will be nearly halved to about eight minutes, the airport says. The runway will also cut through the nation’s air traffic congestion.

The IRS

The Internal Revenue Service issued a 2007 allowable vehicle reimbursement rate of 48.5 cents per mile, despite a moderation in gas prices compared with the volatile post-Hurricane Katrina prices last autumn.

The 2007 rate is an increase from the 2006 rate of 44.5 cents per mile. It also is back on the same level as the rate enacted in September 2005, a rare midyear adjustment to accommodate for the surging fuel costs following Katrina.

The higher rate this year stems from overall higher prices for vehicles and fuel for the year ending in October, according to the IRS. Not counting the drop in 2006, following the post-Katrina adjustment, IRS mileage rates have climbed continually during the past few years. The rate was 40.5 cents per mile in 2005 and was 37.5 cents in 2004.

Although it is not mandatory for companies to follow the IRS safe-harbor rate, most use it as guidance for reimbursement of employees using personal vehicles for business travel.

More than 80 percent of 171 respondents in Business Travel News’ third annual Expense Managers Survey said they used the 2006 rate of 44.5 cents for reimbursement.