Effective June 1, 2009, the final phase of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) will go into effect. Any change in federal regulations is likely to cause some confusion, and the WHTI is no exception to this rule. One common question people have been asking is this: Do I need to renew my passport to comply with the new travel regulations?
The answer, fortunately, is simple: only if it’s expired! The final phase of the WHTI requires that anyone traveling to Mexico, Canada, or the Caribbean by land, sea or air present a valid US passport when they re-enter the country. Currently, US passports are only required if you are traveling by plane.
So, if your passport is expired and you’re planning a trip to any of the regions listed above, you will need to renew your passport before you go. If you already have a valid passport, there’s no need to renew it early. Just remember to bring it with you! Passport renewal is usually a simple process. You may even be eligible to renew your passport by mail!
However, you do need to allow enough time before your trip for your passport renewal to be processed. You should allow at least 6 weeks if you request regular processing with your passport renewal, and you may need to allow even more time if you are applying near the June 1st deadline.
If you need to get your passport more quickly, a private passport expediting company can get it back to you much faster. With an expediting company, your application is delivered by hand to the US Passport Agency, where it goes to the “top of the pile” for faster processing.