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6 Unique Stamps for Your US Passport

Passport stamps always have sentimental value, but when it comes to aesthetics, they often come up short. But not always. Some countries have passport stamps that are like miniature works of art. Here are six of the most interesting and unique passport stamps from around the world:

Alaska 

Okay, it’s not a country, but when you re-enter the US from Alaska, you might find your passport adorned with anything from a moose (Poker Creek Customs) to an old-style locomotive engine (Skagway), depending on where you enter. See examples in this post from TravBuddy.com.

Republic of San Marino 

 

Completely surrounded by Italy, the tiny Republic of San Marino is actually the world’s oldest constitutional republic. It’s not required that you get your passport stamped at the border, but if you choose to, it will be adorned with a stately seal that befits this country’s ancient history.

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For Canada Crossings, NEXUS Card No Longer Beats a US Passport

 A NEXUS card used to be the best-kept secret of frequent travelers to Canada. The card, which requires a background check and in-depth interviews with authorities from both the US and Canada to obtain, gives you “trusted traveler” status, plus your own special “express lane” at the border. With a NEXUS card, you could get through Customs much faster than with a US passport alone. Pretty sweet, right?

Unfortunately for NEXUS cardholders, the program is not the secret ticket to elite status that it once was. In fact, MarketWatch is reporting that the NEXUS lanes going into Vancouver are now experiencing the equivalent of bumper-to-bumper traffic, often moving more slowly than the regular lanes. In fact, one Canadian traveler told Marketwatch that ““In June, we were crossing at Peace Arch on our way to Seattle and the NEXUS line was much longer then the regular line. People were trying to sneak out of the Nexus line to get back into the normal lineup.”

Even more discouraging is the fact that some members of the program have exploited their “trusted traveler” status to sneak in undeclared stashes of alcohol and other goods, which will no doubt result in an extra dose of time-consuming scrutiny for those in the NEXUS lane.

David Gillen, the director of the University of British Columbia Centre for Transportation Studies, told MarketWatch that the program is basically a victim of its own popularity:

“Initially it was very successful because it speeded through people going over the border on a frequent basis. As more and more people have joined the system, the capacity has not increased to keep up with the number of members or the number of trips that they’re making.”

A NEXUS card is all you need for proof of citizenship when you cross the US/Canadian border by land or by sea. For air travel, you do need a passport, but having a NEXUS card will generally get you through the airport more quickly.

If you need a US passport, be sure to apply early. Applications take about six weeks to process, although you can expedite them by paying an extra $60 expedite fee. This will cut the processing time down to about three weeks. For faster, elite-level service, a private passport expediter like RushMyPassport is the easiest way to go.  We personally deliver your US passport application to the Department of State for super-fast processing, often in as little as 24 hours. Plus, there’s no appointment necessary, and no need to travel to a passport agency office.

Need a US passport? We can help you get the prompt service you deserve: Contact us today!

 

Sport Fishing in Mexico? Don’t Forget Your US Passport!

In California, deep-sea fishing boats crossing into Mexican waters have found themselves on the hook instead, as the Mexican  navy boarded them and checked their passengers’ passports. According to SignOnSanDiego.com, the sport-fishing boats believed that they were complying with existing regulations that allow anglers to take short fishing trips of a day or less into Mexican waters, as long as they have a Mexican fishing license. However, one of the boats reported being turned back when an angler on board was unable to produce a valid US passport.

Michelle Gandola, a spokeswoman for the Sportfishing Association of California, told SignOnSanDiego that the Association had contacted the Mexican government for clarification:

“We’re trying to get some kind of official statement from the Mexican government. But as far as we know, no new Mexican regulation or policy has come out about passport requirements on sport boats. All we know is that a few of our boats were boarded, and passengers were asked to produce passports. We’ve been operating in Mexico for over 50 years and have had great relations with Mexico. Our hope is that we can work this out and that it’s just a slight hitch that can be taken care of so we can get back to operating without any additional requirements.”

Still, for now, if you plan to go on a sport-fishing trip that includes a dip into Mexican waters, you should probably bring a US passport. Getting one will take six weeks if you apply with regular processing, and about three weeks if you pay an additional $60 for expedited processing.

If you have a trip booked, one way to avoid rescheduling is to make an appointment at the nearest regional passport agency office. For fast service without an appointment, another option is to use a private passport expediting company like RushMyPassport.

Need a US passport? Apply with us today!

 

Your US Passport Can Take You to Japan- but is it Safe?

More than four months after an earthquake and a tsunami delivered a devastating one-two punch to Japan, the tourism industry is still reeling from the blow. Perceptions about the safety of the country (or lack thereof) are keeping many Americans away.

Japan’s travel industry tends to rely on well-heeled travelers, but according to the New York Times, tourist visits are down 50 percent. Meanwhile, Daniel Simon, the general manager of the Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi, told the newspaper that “we don’t really think the high-end leisure traveler will come back until Chinese New Year 2012 because there’s still too much negative news in the media about Japan.”

So, high-end travelers are staying away. More intrepid travelers might very well say, “Let them.” Though the country will likely experience aftershocks for some time, the actual risks of traveling to Japan are low. For example, according to the US Department of State,

The “health and safety risks to land areas which are outside a 50-mile radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are low and do not pose significant risks to U.S. citizens. Out of an abundance of caution, we continue to recommend that U.S. citizens avoid travel to destinations within the 50-mile evacuation zone of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant.”

And that’s it…just avoid a circle of the country that’s a 100 miles in diameter, out of a total area of 145,925 square miles. That means that almost 95% of the country is still safe to visit. Even within that 50 mile radius, the Department of State says it’s perfectly fine to travel as long as you’re just passing through via train or through Sendaki airport.

Everyone has their own tolerance for risk, of course. If you feel the risks of traveling to Japan are acceptable, there are certain advantages to going now instead of waiting: you’ll pay less for everything from tickets to lodging, and you’ll spend less time waiting in line.

Masaki Hirata, the executive director of marketing and promotion at the Japan National Tourism Organization, told the New York Times that since the disaster, “It’s less crowded now, and package tour prices are down 20 to 50 percent.”

If you do decide to go, you’ll need a US passport if you don’t have one already. Be careful about booking last-minute plane tickets without a passport, because it can take at least six weeks for your documents to arrive in the mail after you apply. Even with expedited processing through the Department of State (1 $60 fee), you can expect to wait three weeks.

What’s a spur-of-the-moment traveler to do? For faster service, you can make an appointment at one of twenty-four regional passport agencies, or take the easy way out by using a private passport service like RushMyPassport. We deliver your passport application directly to the Department of State, for processing in as little as 24 hours.

Let us help you get your US passport today!

 

How Many Americans Have a US Passport?

As long as you’re an American citizen, you qualify for a US passport, which allows you to travel to almost any country in the world. But how many Americans have actually taken the government up on this offer?

According to social travel start-up Tripl, 115  million Americans currently have passports. That may sound like a lot, but it’s only about 37 percent of the population. To put that number into perspective, 155 million Americans, or 50 percent of the population, have an account on Facebook.

So, at least for now, more Americans are on Facebook than have a passport!

Why don’t more Americans have passports? There are probably a number of factors at play. For one thing, America is a big country, so there’s no shortage of potential vacation spots that don’t require one. For another, getting a US passport involves a significant up-front cost, especially if you have a family. There’s also the perception that the passport application process is cumbersome and time-consuming.

Still, looking at Tripl’s infographic, there are some tantalizing hints that perhaps the rise of social networking sites may eventually help increase the number of Americans that travel abroad. For instance, 96% of US college students are on Facebook. 52% of those students said that they had planned trips based on photos their friends posted on Facebook, and 45% said that Facebook had inspired them to visit a friend in another country.

If you need a US passport, keep in mind that it does generally take about 6 weeks for a passport application to be processed.  If you apply for expedited processing, you can cut that down to three weeks, but that still means you need to plan ahead.

If that’s not fast enough, you can make an appointment at a regional passport agency office. These offices issue emergency passports and are generally located in major cities; there are currently 24 of them in the US. A more convenient option is to use a private expediting company like RushMyPassport. We take your US passport application right to the Department of State for processing in as little as 24 hours!

Beat the Heat With a US Passport

The dog days of summer are here, and at least in some parts of the country, being outside past noon is downright unpleasant.  In Oklahoma City today, the high is expected to hit 104! According to Wikipedia, the ancient Romans believed that during the dog days, “the seas boiled, wine turned sour, Quinto raged in anger, dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies.”

If you’re looking for an escape from summer’s punishing temperatures, your US passport might be just the ticket.  Here are some possible destinations to help you beat the heat:

Norway: The average temperature in Oslo in July is only 63.1  °F.  Nice! Plus, the country has a variety of activities available that are guaranteed to chill you out, such as glacier walking or visiting the North Cape, where the breeze that hits your face comes directly from the North Pole itself.  In Norway, summer is also the season of the famous midnight sun.

Patagonia: Located at the southern edge of South America in Argentina and Chile, the Patagonia region is the perfect destination for skiers, snowboarders and nature lovers. Since it’s in the southern hemisphere, when it’s summer here, it’s winter there. Ski resort towns like Bariloche, Argentina combine fresh powder with delicious food and a vibrant nightlife.

Iceland: Even if the middle of summer, it’s almost unheard of for the mercury in Iceland to ever rise above 60 degrees. Add in glaciers, hot springs and a variety of other activities and it’s easy to see how a visit to Iceland would make for a refreshing interlude from the scorching heat of midsummer.

If you don’t have a US passport yet or you need to get yours renewed, don’t despair.  While regular passport processing takes about six weeks, there are a number of other options that can help you get your passport more quickly. For example, you can apply for expedited processing from the Department of State, which will cut processing time down to three weeks. For even faster service, you can either make an appointment at a regional passport agency office or use a private passport expediting company like RushMyPassport to get your US passport application processed in as little as 24 hours.

Need a US passport, fast? Contact us today!

 

 

The Best “Secret” Places To Take Your US Passport

You’ve been to Mexico. You’ve been to Canada. You have pictures of yourself standing in London with Big Ben in the background and holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy. What now?

If you want to add some unique stamps to your US passport, consider these 5 undiscovered destinations. While not technically secret, these countries are off the radar for most US travelers but definitely worth visiting.

The Maldives: This remote chain of islands in the Indian Ocean is home to some of the most pristine beaches you’ll ever see. The weather is warm and the water is the clearest cerulean blue. The Maldives is not easy to get to, and you’ll most likely have to fly through London or Dubai. It’s also not cheap, as this Gadling post illustrates: a “shoestring” budget over there is about $280 per couple per day, and prices can be much higher. What price paradise?

Albania: Albania, on the other hand, is a budget traveler’s paradise. Delicious Greek-style cuisine, gorgeous scenery and Mediterranean beaches make this country a winner. Why is it still relatively undiscovered? Until recently, Albania suffered under a repressive Communist dictatorship. The country is still poor and has not joined the European Union yet, but conditions are much improved from the “bad old days” and according to the Department of State, the country is mostly safe as long as you avoid demonstrations.

Macedonia: Like Albania, with which it shares a border, Macedonia’s liberation from an oppressive regime is relatively recent. Macedonia is somewhat wilder, with incredible hiking, superb skiing and lots of ancient ruins to explore. The best way to enter the country is through Albania or Kosovo.

Tasmania: Technically, Tasmania isn’t its own country- it’s part of Australia. However, it’s isolation from the mainland means that even native Australians have just recently begun to discover its charms: gorgeous beaches, great food and wine and stretches of wilderness that hold wildlife that lives nowhere else on the planet.

Of course, visiting any of these countries requires a US passport. Make sure you apply ahead of time if you don’t already have one- it can take up to six weeks from the time you submit your application for your US passport to be issued. Even if you pay the extra $60 for expedited processing, it can still take at least three weeks.

To get your passport faster, you can either make an appointment at one of the State Department’s 24 regional passport agency offices or choose a private passport expediting company like RushMyPassport for faster, more convenient service with no appointments needed.

Get your US passport today!

 

 

Your US Passport Photo: How Close to Reality is It?

A US passport issued to an adult is valid for ten years. A lot can happen in that period of time, especially where your personal appearance is concerned. Weight can be gained or lost, haircuts can change and if you’re surgically-inclined, you might even get a new nose or lips.

A new photojournalism project by Suren Manvelyan and Biayna Mahari on the Behance Network showcases just how much of a difference a few years can make. The project compares old-but-still-valid passport photos with current photos of the same person. Here’s how the creators describe the goal of the project, which they’ve named “Passport and Reality:”

“This is a project about how different can look a person in real life and his own passport photo. People change every minute and the only thing that stays still is their passport photo. All the same person but such different looks.”

Looking at the pictures is like looking back through time: gangly young boys grow into sturdy men, shy girls grow into hip, stylish, adults. I wonder whether the subjects preferred their old passport photos or the new shots?

Despite these changes, most if not all of the people featured for this project are still recognizable in the old passport photos, which is obviously a good thing. However, the Department of State’s requirements for passport photos do state that “Your passport may not be accepted at the border if your appearance has changed significantly or if you cannot be identified from the photo in your current passport.”

So, if you don’t recognize yourself in the photo, you might want to go ahead and apply for a US passport renewal a little bit early. Sure, it’s a hassle and you’ll have to pay for it, but that sure beats having problems trying to get in and out of the country.

For detailed instructions on replacing your current US passport, see Can I Renew My Passport By Mail ?

If you need to replace your US passport, RushMyPassport can make the process quick and easy. We’ll go over the process for you to make sure you understand the paperwork and passport photo requirements. Then, we’ll take your paperwork and passport photos directly to the Department of State for processing is as little as 24 hours.

Let us help you replace your US passport today!

 

Your US Passport: Don’t Leave For Canada Without It!

When you head out to catch a flight to Canada, what’s the one thing you shouldn’t leave home without? Hint: It’s not your American Express card! It’s your US passport, which you’ll need to get on the flight.

Evan Longoria, the third baseman for the Tampa Rays, found that out the hard way when he tried to catch a charter flight with his teammates to Toronto. As he explained to the St. Petersburg Times, “First road trip of the year into Toronto, I packed everything, I was up early, took my dog for a walk and just didn’t even think about bringing my passport.”

Fortunately for him, he was traveling with a sports team on their own chartered flight, so the team simply waited at the airport until someone showed up with his passport. His trip wasn’t ruined; he just has to deal with the VERY public razzing of his teammates, one of whom immediately took to Twitter to make fun of him. Meanwhile, team manager Joe Maddon told the St. Petersburg Times that Longoria “probably owes somebody or all of us some kind of a meal or something. We’ll figure out something. … There’s got to be some kind of due punishment.”

This story would have a had a much less happy ending if you or I had shown up at the airport without a passport. Most people don’t have access to a private chartered plane, after all, and commercial airlines won’t wait for your passport to be brought to you. Plus, if you miss your flight, you’re likely to be on the hook for all sorts of hefty change fees. The best thing to do is to check and make sure you know where your passport is at least a month before you plan to leave. Then, put it somewhere safe.

That way, if your passport isn’t where you thought it was you’ll have time to locate it or get it replaced. Regular processing takes at least six weeks, and expedited processing from the Department of State takes at least three. If you get caught without a passport at the last minute, you’ll have to either make an appointment at the nearest US passport agency office, or use a private company like RushMyPassport.

We’ll walk you through the application process and then personally hand your paperwork over to the Department of State for processing in as little as 24 hours without the hassle of travel to a passport agency office.

For fast US passport processing, contact us today!

How Likely Are Your Neighbors to Have a US Passport?

Do you need a passport to keep up with Joneses? The answer might depend, in part, on where you live. C. G. P. Grey, a professional time management coach currently living in London, used data from the government website Data.gov to come up with an infographic that shows what percentage of people in each state have a valid US passport.

In the infographic, published on his blog, you can see that New Jersey, Delaware, Alaska, Massachusetts, New York and California have the most well-traveled residents. Out of these states, New Jersey wins the passport race: 68.36% of its residents have a US passport.

The state with the lowest percentage is Mississippi, where only 19.86% of the residents have passports.

Travel blog Gadling noted that, oddly enough, Grey’s data suggest that at least 45% of Americans have a passport. That’s a significantly larger percentage than the 30% reported by CNN and other news outlets last month. Re-reading the CNN article, I’m not able to determine where they got that number. They reference a report from the US Department of Commerce, but it doesn’t mention the percentage of Americans with passports. So, I’m wondering if Grey’s numbers might be more accurate.

If you don’t have a passport, it’s a good idea to apply for one before you need it. They’re good for 10 years, and it makes planning an international trip much easier if you don’t have to worry about getting your passport in time. At the moment, normal passport processing takes about 6 weeks, though if the government shuts down again this could increase. An additional $60 will get you expedited processing, but you should allow at least 3 weeks even for that.

If you need your US passport sooner, don’t worry: there are ways that you can get one in time! Citizens who need a US passport for travel in 14 days are less are eligible to make an appointment at one of twenty-two regional passport agency offices in the US; or skip the lines and the hassle and use a private passport expediting company like RushMyPassport.