The Department of State put a lot of effort into publicizing the changes to US travel requirements that became law on June 1st. They added a clock to US Passport Agency’s web site, counting down to the second when the new rules would go into effect. They made announcement after announcement, starting months ahead of time.

However, for all their outreach, there were at least 2 people that the State Department failed to reach with their warnings: Former US Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.  The two ex-presidents were asked about the new requirements during a joint appearance in Toronto on Saturday, May 29th.

As reported in the Winnepeg Free Press, here’s how they responded:

“I’ll be frank with you Frank, I don’t know about the passport issue,” Bush told the crowd of 6,000.

“I thought we were making good progress on using a driver’s licence to cross the border. What happened to the easy-pass card?”

Clinton too said he’d only heard about the passport requirement a day earlier, adding that in all likelihood most Americans were completely unaware of it as well.

Apparently, our two former presidents would have benefited from reading our blog! The new requirements were put into place as part of the final phase of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). To sum them up:

  • All adult American citizens traveling to Mexico, Canada or the Caribbean must have a US passport or another document approved by Homeland Security to get back into the country. Previously, you could use your driver’s license and a birth certificate if you were crossing by land or by sea, but that is no longer the case.
  • Children under the age of 16 can use a birth certificate when traveling by land or sea.
  • Children ages 16-18 can use a birth certificate when traveling by land or sea as part of an organized, chaperoned group, like a sports group or school group.
  • Passengers of any age can use a driver’s license and birth certificate (or naturalization certificate) if they are on a closed-loop cruise that begins and ends in the same US port.
  • Air passengers of any age need a US Passport Book.

If you need a passport to travel to Mexico, Canada or the Caribbean, you should be prepared to wait. It’s currently taking at least 4 to 6 weeks to process a passport application submitted with standard processing. New passport applications submitted using the government’s expediting service take at least 2-3 weeks, and that’s if you pony up the cash for overnight shipping to and from the Passport Agency.

Can’t wait that long? A private passport expediting company is a convenient way to get your passport more quickly. An expediting company hand-delivers your application materials and then sends you your new passport. Because your application goes to the top of the stack, it gets processed much more quickly-in as little as 24 hours!

Don’t let the new passport regulations interfere with your summer vacation-order your passport now!