Until last week, Susie Williams-Allen, a newspaper columnist for the Purcell Register in Purcell, Oklahoma, wasn’t aware of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). The WHTI, which has been in effect since June 1, 2009, requires that American citizens returning from Mexico prove their identity and citizenship with a US passport on their way back across the border.
Last week, she and her husband decided to take a day trip into Mexico without first obtaining a passport. Unfortunately, on her way back across she learned about the new laws the hard way…from a decidedly unsympathetic border guard. Mrs. Williams-Allen and her husband faced a stern round of questioning before they were eventually allowed back across, treatment that she did not expect from a US border patrol officer as a US citizen.
The rules have been in place since June, and the Department of State has been diligent about publicizing the new requirements, but it appears that infrequent travelers are still falling through the cracks. As Mrs. Williams-Allen noted in her column, “Maybe I should have known I needed a passport. I think there may be more out there like me who do not know. It is not like I am a world traveler.”
The moral of the story? If you are planning a trip to Mexico, even if it’s just walking across and taking a taxi back to the US, obtaining a passport should be your first step! It’s also a step that should be taken well in advance of a trip, if possible. Currently, obtaining a passport takes about 6 weeks if you apply with normal processing and about 3 weeks if you apply with regular processing.
To get your passport more quickly and with less hassle, consider using a private passport expediting company like RushMyPassport.com. You’ll get detailed, easy-to-follow instructions to help you with your paperwork, plus personal help and guidance from a professional passport specialist.
Also, an expediting company will personally deliver your passport application to the Department of State, drastically reducing the time you have to wait. In fact, with an expediting company, your passport could be on its way back to you in as little as 24 hours!