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If you’re planning to travel abroad in the new year, you may want to make getting a passport your New Year’s resolution. Effective Jan. 8, a passport will be required for U.S. citizens traveling by air between Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.
In lieu of a passport, a NEXUS Air card will be accepted for air travel between the United States and Canada, and a U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner’s Document will be accepted for seaman traveling by sea. These documents are available through the U.S. Custom and Border Protection agency (www.cbp.gov) and the U.S. Coast Guard, respectively.
The new security measure is part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, created to enforce border security and easily identify travelers. The U.S. Department of State anticipates that the initiative will extend to citizens traveling by land or sea no later than Jan. 1, 2008. Previously, U.S. citizens were able to use birth certificates and driver’s licenses as forms of identification when traveling to Canada or Mexico. Travel between U.S. territories, such as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands will not be affected. Passport fees will remain the same: $97 for those age 16 and older and $82 for minors under 16.
The State Department is also in the process of developing a PASS card, an alternative to passports for citizens traveling via land or sea, including cruise ships, from the United States to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean only.
If you are applying for a passport for the first time, you must apply in person. To find a facility near you, visit http:// iafdb.travel.state.gov.