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Trusted Traveler Programs: NEXUS – The Wait is Over

This is our third post in our series Trusted Traveler Programs.  In our last post we covered the Global Entry Program.  In this post we are going to take a closer look at NEXUS, a program designed to expedite the border clearance process for travelers into Canada and the United States.  The NEXUS card is approved as an alternative to the passport for air, land, and sea travel into the United States for US and Canadian citizens.   Once approved into the NEXUS program, you are issued a photo-identification, RFID card.

Benefits of NEXUS:

  1. Receive expedited passage at:
  • NEXUS-dedicated lanes
  • Airport kiosks
  • By calling a marine telephone reporting center to report your arrival into the United States and Canada.
  • Cross the border with a minimum of customs and immigration questioning

How to apply?

Cost:  US $50 or CN $50 application-processing fee.

All NEXUS members can enjoy the benefits of Global Entry (link to Blog Post #2) at no additional cost by using the automated kiosks for entry at participating airports. You will need to check your status in your GOES account, as you may need to submit fingerprints or other necessary documentation beforehand.

If you are currently a Global Entry member and want to add NEXUS to your membership, here are the steps you will need to complete:

  • Login to GOES.
  • On home page under Program Membership(s), click  “Manage Membership”
  • Click on the “Add Trusted Traveler Program” and select the NEXUS option.
  • Provide additional information and answer questions. (Some of these questions are very similar).
  • Once all the application information is entered/ corrected, certify your application and pay the fee.
  • Applicants seeking to use NEXUS to enter Canada must complete an enrollment interview with the Canada Border Services Agency.

The NEXUS Card is valid for five years from the applicant’s birthday following card issuance. Renewal typically takes place six months prior to expiration and members may be required to attend another interview to verify that they still qualify for the program.  Renewals can be done online.

Trusted Traveler Programs: Global Entry Program – Arrive in Style

As we mentioned in our previous post “Trusted Traveler Programs – Are You Enrolled?”, Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States.

How Does the Global Entry Program Work?

Global Entry is intended for frequent international travelers but as of now, there is no minimum number of trips necessary to qualify.  When arriving at the airport, the following occurs:

  1. Participants proceed to Global Entry kiosks
  2. Present their machine-readable passport or U.S. permanent resident card
  3. Place fingertips on the scanner for fingerprint verification
  4. Make a customs declaration.
  5. Receive a transaction receipt from kiosk and proceed to baggage claim and the exit.

While the whole point of being part of the Global Entry program is to expedite the arrival process, you may still be selected for further examination when entering the United States.  Any violation of the program’s terms and conditions will result in appropriate enforcement action and revocation of the traveler’s membership privileges.

How to Apply: 

  1. Fill out an online questionnaire.  (Takes about 15 minutes and includes consent to a background check. There are questions about addresses, employment and travel — past and present.)
  2. After hitting the submit button, the officials on the other end do a criminal background check.
  3. If  approved, an in-person meeting with an agent follows.
  4. Interviews are held at a participating airport or enrollment centers in select cities.
  5. If approved, fingerprints and photographs are taken.

Additional benefits include access to expedited entry in other countries.

COST:  $100

BONUS:  If you are accepted for Global Entry you are also automatically qualified for the newer domestic screening program, T.S.A. PreCheck, which often (but not always) means you don’t have to remove your shoes, belt and jacket or take your laptop and liquids out of your carry-on. Plus it’s free.

Stay tuned for our next post in this series which covers NEXUS.

A Passport Into Your Favorite Fiction

Many great novels and short stories involve travel. It’s easy to see why; when you leave behind everything that’s familiar and step out into the unknown, all the key ingredients of an exciting plot are waiting for you. To quote JRR Tolkien, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

Do you have a favorite travel story? Why not actually walk in your favorite characters’ footsteps? For example, here are four great stories that you could plan a trip based on:

The Odyssey

Okay, so you probably won’t want to be on the road for as long as Odysseus was, but there’s no reason you can’t plan a trip to Greece that includes some of the more prominent stops on along his path. In fact, New York Times travel writer Matt Gross recently went on just such a quest. Instead of Scylla and Charybdis, he faced down Greece’s somewhat capricious ferry system to visit several different islands on his way to Ithaca. Here’s how he described the experience: “There was a regularity to the joy of discovering these new places, each so similar, none identical.”

Eat, Pray, Love

“Eat, Pray, Love”-based itineraries are becoming a bit of a cliché. However, with a list of countries that includes Italy, India and Indonesia, it’s hard to go wrong with Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir as a guide.

Robinson Crusoe

Robinson Crusoe Island is the island where Alexander Selkirk, the real-life Robinson Crusoe, was marooned for four years, inspiring the classic story by Daniel Defoe. Although it’s no longer deserted, the island, located off the coast of Chile, is an intriguing vacation destination: beautiful, remote and generally overlooked by tourists.

Around the World in 80 Days

One of the classics of the travel fiction genre, the protagonists of “Around the World in 80 Days” start in London and travel through Egypt, India, Hong Kong, Japan and the US before ending up back where they started. Methods of travel include steamship, train, elephant and even a sleigh. This being the 21st century, however, you can simply take a plane.

No matter where your favorite book takes you, if you’re leaving the country you will need a passport. Since it can take six weeks or longer to process your passport application, you should apply as soon as possible. You can expedite your passport application for an additional fee of $60, but be aware that it will still take three weeks for your passport to arrive.

For speedier service, you have two choices: making an appointment at one of the country’s 24 regional passport agency offices, or use a private passport expediting company like RushMyPassport. We hand-deliver your application to the Department of State, for processing in as little as 24 hours with no need to make an appointment or wait in line at a passport agency office.

Contact us today to get your passport quickly and easily!

 

Do You Need a Passport to Go to Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is an incredible country. Whether your goal is to explore the jungle or simply lounge on the beach, you’ll find what you’re looking for here. But do you need a passport to go to Costa Rica? What do US citizens need to get into the country?

According to the Department of State, you definitely need a passport to enter Costa Rica. If you don’t have one, get one before you travel. Equally important, if you have a passport already, check the expiration date. To enter Costa Rica, it’s not enough simply to have a valid passport. Your passport has to be good for at least 30 days after you arrive. If your passport expires in less than 30 days, you won’t get into the country. You’ll also need to show proof that you plan to leave: either a ticket home or a ticket to another country.

The passport requirement for Costa Rica exists even for visitors who arrive on a round-trip cruise from the United States. You will still need a passport to enter the country.

As you plan your Costa Rican adventure, make sure you allow enough time for your new passport to arrive. Currently, it’s taking at least 6 weeks for passport applications to be processed. If you spend an extra $60 for expedited processing, you’ll still be stuck waiting at least 3 weeks for your passport to arrive in the mail.

However, there is still hope if you’ve waited until the last minute or just happened to notice that your passport expires in less than 30 days from the day you plan to enter Costa Rica.  If you’re traveling in less than 14 days, you are eligible to make an appointment at a regional passport agency office. These facilities can issue passports in 24 hours or less, but there are few caveats you should be aware of.

First, there are only 21 passport agency offices serving the entire US at this time, although the Department of State plans to open more over the next year. That means you may have to travel a significant distance to get to the office. Second, these offices generally have limited hours of operation, so you’ll probably have to take off work to get there when they’re open. Depending on your employer, this might be easier said than done.

The easiest way to get your passport in time is to use a private company like RushMyPassport. We’ll meet with the Department of State on your behalf to submit your passport application, resulting in processing times as low as 24 hours.

Need a passport in a hurry? Let us help!

Scotland Wants William Wallace’s Passport Back

The government of Scotland is preparing to make a formal request to the British government: hand over William Wallace’s passport.  William Wallace, the Scottish hero who inspired the movie Braveheart, may have had the passport with him when he was arrested by the English. The English never gave it back, instead storing it in their National Archives.

The Times Online quotes Scottish official Christine Grahame explaining why the passport should be returned:

“This is a very significant historical document related to [one of] Scotland’s most iconic and lasting national heroes. There are very few artefacts in existence which are believed to have been handled directly by Wallace and the return of his Safe Conduct would be an important step in better understanding this period. It is entirely inappropriate that it should languish, forgotten in some closed drawer in Surrey and I urge the UK National Archive to pass it to the National Museum of Scotland where it can be properly displayed.”

Naturally, William Wallace’s passport looked nothing like the familiar passport books you see today. In fact, in those days a passport was actually a letter written by a head of state, granting “Safe Conduct” to the bearer. Wallace’s letter was written by King Philip IV of France, granting Wallace safe conduct to travel to Rome where he hope to gain the support of the Pope.

A copy of the letter, as well as a translation, is viewable online here.

Fortunately, today you don’t have to petition a head of state directly for your passport. However, applying for one can still be a difficult and time-consuming process. RushMyPassport can help. We provide you with professional assistance and handy checklists that make filling out the forms a snap and reduce the chance of mistakes that could hold up your application. Then, we hand-deliver your application to the Department of State, cutting processing time down to as little as 24 hours.

Apply for your passport today!

Do You Need to Get a Passport for Spring Break?

It may still be cold and gloomy outside in many parts of the country, but make no mistake: spring is coming! That means it’s time to start planning for Spring Break.  And if your Spring Break plans are taking you outside of the country, you may need to get a passport.

To help you with your travel plans, here are the passport requirements for some of the more popular spring break travel destinations:

Mexico

Warm blue water,  gorgeous beaches and margaritas galore-what more could you want in a spring break destination? You probably need to get a passport before you can go party in Cancun, though.  For more details, see:

Do You Need a Passport to Go to Mexico?

US Citizens Visiting Mexico Face New Passport Requirements

Canada

If you prefer skiing and other winter sports to lazing around on the beach, Canada has some excellent ski resorts.  Most trips to Canada will require a passport.  For details of Canada’s passport requirements, see Do You Need a Passport to Go to Canada?

Europe

If you have the funds, springtime is one of the best times to visit Europe. The weather is nice, and because “high season” for travel to most European destinations is in the summer, visiting Europe in the spring means you get lower prices and fewer crowds.

Travel to Europe always and without exception requires a US passport.

The Caribbean

The Caribbean is another great place to go for a laid-back vacation filled with sun and sand.  However, most Caribbean travelers will need to get a passport before they leave.  For details, see:

Do You Need a Passport to Go to the Caribbean?

Cruises

A spring break cruise allows you to easily visit many different destinations for a great price.  Passport requirements for cruises depend on where you go. For more details, see:

Do You Need a Passport to Go On a Cruise?

If you need to get a passport for Spring Break, you’d better hurry-you don’t have much time. Regular passport processing can take at least 6 weeks. The government’s expedited processing option takes 2 to 3 weeks and costs an additional $60 plus overnight delivery fees.

If you need to get  a passport sooner than that, the most convenient way  is to use a private passport expediting company like RushMyPassport.com.  An expediting company will deliver your documents to directly to the Department of State, for processing times as low as 24 hours.

Get a passport today!

History of the US Passport

Did you know that the first US passports were actually printed by Ben Franklin? According to this book review of “The Passport: The History Of Man’s Most Travelled Document,” the first US passports were made especially for the  United States legation in Paris, France around 1777. Franklin modeled them after the French passports of the time, and printed them from his own printing press.

However, passports did not become commonplace until 1918, when carrying them abroad became mandatory instead of merely advisable.  According to the US Department of State’s blog, passports during this period consisted of a large sheet of paper with the bearer’s photo and other information, pasted into a book cover, and were “bulky and inconvenient to carry.”  By 1926, a lighter, more durable design had been unveiled, which more closely resembles the passport books we carry today.

Additional modifications were made to the design of US passports over the years, usually with the aim of making them harder to forge. For example, background watermark images were added and the binding was tied with special knots. Today, passports contain an RFID chip to that connects to the Department of State’s database, making them even more difficult to forge. We also have the smaller, wallet-sized passport card, although it is only valid for land and sea crossings to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

When applying for a passport today, it is important to allow enough time for the government to process your request. If you apply for regular service, allow at least 6 weeks (maybe longer if the Passport Office is going through a busy period). If you apply for the government’s expedited service, expect to wait at least 3 weeks.

To get your passport faster, a private passport expediting company like RushMyPassport.com can be a real help. With RushMyPassport.com, your application could be processed in as little as 24 hours!

Apply for you US Passport today!

Does the Name on Your Passport Need to Match Your Ticket?

It seems like every time you turn around, there’s a new security rule you have to remember at the airport.  Now, TSA has begun a new program called “Secure Flight,” which attempts to reduce the number of people who are misidentified as being on the government’s no-fly list for suspected terrorists. As a result, your airline will now ask you to provide your name exactly as it appears on your driver’s license or passport-whichever ID you plan to present at the gate.

The New York Times’ Practical Traveler blog has a great article about the Secure Flight initiative and what it means for you. Basically, you need to start making sure that your name is the same on all of the documents you use for travel (passport, driver’s license, frequent-flier accounts, etc).  Right now, Secure Flight is still being phased in, and small differences such as having your full middle name on your passport and your middle initial only on the ticket should not keep you from flying.

However, more significant differences between the name on your passport and the name on your ticket can lead airline security to pull you aside for the dreaded “secondary screening.” For example, going by your middle name on your ticket when your passport has your full name can cause problems when you try to board the plane, even if you go by your middle name in everyday life. Whether or not you will be allowed to eventually board the plane is a toss-up, and depends on the judgment of the agent screening you. (more…)

Get a Passport to the World of Harry Potter

The new Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, just came out yesterday. Hardcore Harry Potter fans have probably already seen it, maybe even more than once. The next film, the first installment of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is not going to be out until next November. What’s a Harry Potter fan (young or old) to do until then?

Well, you could get a passport and take a plane to Great Britain, where the books were set and the movies were filmed.  Naturally, Harry Potter-themed tours have sprung up in London, as well as in other locations used in the films. For example,  you can see Platform 9 3/4 in King’s Cross station, (or, rather, a baggage cart that appears to be disappearing into the wall where Platform 9 3/4 would be if Muggles like us could see it).

Other London locations that were featured in Harry Potter films include the London Zoo (Little Whinging Zoo), the Australian High Commission (Gringotts Wizarding Bank) and Charing Cross Road (Diagon Alley). You can get a free PDF  of a self-directed Harry Potter London walking tour here.

You can also visit Oxford, where many of the scenes from inside Hogwarts’ library and dining room were filmed.  Other scenes from inside Hogwarts were filmed inside Gloucester Cathedral. Don’t forget to visit Glenfinnan Viaduct (Hogwart’s Express) and Alnwick Castle, too! (more…)

New Passport Rules Don’t Slow Border Traffic

Today, Border Patrol officials began asking Americans for passports at the American and Canadian borders.  The final phase of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative is in effect, and a passport or another government-approved document is now required to re-enter the country.

How has this affected traffic across the borders? Not much, it seems. The Houston Chronicle is reporting that wait times at both the northern border with Canada and the southern border with Mexico are normal today, and that the new rules haven’t caused an increase in travel time for most American citizens.

However, not everyone who regularly crosses the border has the correct documents.  FoxTV in El Paso reported that a flood of people applying for a last-minute passport has led some residents to camp out at the local county courthouse to make sure that their passport application gets in.

The new regulations require that American citizens returning from Mexico, Canada or the Caribbean show a US passport, US passport card, or other approved ID to reenter the country. There are some exceptions for children and certain cruise passengers.  For more on the new regulations, see Do I Need a Passport For Travel To Mexico, Canada or the Caribbean?

For now, the government is letting people through without passports with a written warning, often after delaying them for a background check. However, they aren’t saying how long that policy will continue, so if you’re planning on visiting our neighbors to the north and south anytime soon, you need to apply for a passport.

Passport applications usually about two months to process, so you should apply well in advance. Even if you ask for the government’s expedited processing service, expect to wait at least a month. For faster service, you can submit your application through a private passport expediting company instead. These companies will carry your application to the Department of State by hand for processing times that can be as quick as 24 hours. Unlike the process of applying for an emergency passport directly through the government, there are no appointments necessary and you don’t have to travel out of your way to a Passport Agency office. The expediting company handles all of that for you!

Don’t get caught unprepared at the border-order your passport today!