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More delays on passport rules?

On the heels of the recent delay till Sept. 30 for U.S. citizens to show a passport when returning by air from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda, Congress voted last week to postpone by 18 months passport requirements for U.S. travelers entering the country by land or sea from Canada and Mexico.

The Senate and House approved separate amendents; the bills must reconciled before the change can move forward.

If the measure goes into law, travelers will have until June 1, 2009, to secure a passport. The provision would also affect Canadians traveling to the U.S.

Under legislation to secure the borders in the wake of 9/11, the government imposed the passport requirement starting Jan. 23, but a backlog of applications led to outcry from the travel industry. At present, travelers who have applied for but not yet received passports can temporarily enter and depart from the U.S. by air with a government-issued photo identification and Department of State official proof of application for a passport through Sept. 30.

DOCUMENTS STILL NEEDED

Adults who have applied for but not yet received a passport should present government-issued photo identification and an official proof of application from the U.S. Department of State. Children under the age of 16 traveling with their parents or legal guardian will be permitted to travel with the child's proof of application. Travelers who have not applied for a passport should not expect to be accommodated. U.S. citizens with pending passport applications can obtain proof of application at: http://travel.state.gov.

This accommodation does not affect entry requirements to other countries. Americans traveling to a country that requires passports must still present those documents.

Ironically, the State Department's move to delay the requirement to show a passport has caused new problems for travelers to Mexico and Canada who assumed they now need only a passport application to cross the borders.

Mexico still requires a U.S. passport or proof of citizenship--such as a birth certfcate (an original or a certified copy) or certificate of naturalization with a photo.

Canada requires a U.S. passport or an original birth certificate (not a certified copy) plus photo identification.

Photo by iStockphoto.com

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