Friday, August 1, 2014

Tip of the Day: An Update on Passports and Visas

For further information, please refer to:

http://www.travel.state.gov/passport
http://www.travel.state.gov/passport/get/renew
http://www.unitedstatesvisas.gov

In compliance with the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, citizens of any country (including the United States) traveling by air between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda must have a passport, effective January 23, 2007. 

Effective January 31, 2008, all travelers entering the United States from México, Canada, the Caribbean or Bermuda will require a government-issued photo identification card and proof of citizen, such as a birth certificate. 
Further, on a date to a be determined later, anyone traveling to the United States from any of the aforementioned will be required to travel on a passport or other authorized identification. Note: 

These requirements do not apply to persons traveling to or from a US territory.
 
These new requirements are one of the reasons that resources are so limited and routine issuance of new and renewed passports can take weeks or, in some cases, months if you go through the normal process. Foreign ministries, embassies, and consulates worldwide are feeling the strain of this additional workload and resultant backlog.

The US State Department does have an expedited process for getting new or renewed US passports to you in two or three weeks. Additional fees are required for expedited service and for overnight delivery: 


http://www.travel.state.gov/passport

A word of caution, though: the expedited process takes closer to six weeks, despite State Department promises.

For those planning to travel in fewer than two months, Travisa may be an option. The company is based in Washington, D.C., and has offices in New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, London, and Beijing.


http://www.travisa.com has excellent connections at the State Department and on Embassy Row to help you get new or renewed passports, additional passport pages, visas, and second valid passports.
 

Travisa's phone numbers include (202) 463-6166 or (800) 222-2589.

There are three types of US passports: (1) regular (issued to all citizens), (2) official (issued to citizens on official assignments abroad for the US government), and (3) diplomatic (originally reserved for accredited diplomats only to foreign governments, but in recent years issued to expedite government officials who are not accredited diplomats).


Important travel tips:


1. Do not purchase or use a passport holder/wallet to protect your passport if it is affixed with the great seal of the United States. On the downside, most passport wallets bearing the Great Seal predominantly advertise that you are an US citizen;

2. Please note that Travisa has a travel store on its website that sells blank passport holders at a reasonable cost;

3.  Before leaving on your trip, ensure that you have a photocopy of the photo and information page from your passport (particularly the section that contains the passport number) and extra passport photos tucked away in your carry-on luggage. This will expedite replacing a lost or stolen passport if you are one of many travelers who lose their passports;

4.  Remember that the US State Department is one of numerous foreign governments these days that have rigorous entry regulations for non-citizens. Even though thirteen years has passed since the tragic events of 9/11, governments aligned with the United States in the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) continue to institute rigorous rules for foreigners traveling abroad;

5.  Examples include the Government of Japan now requiring all foreigners over 16 to be subject to fingerprinting and having their photograph taken by immigration officials;

6.  Since 2008, the European Union (EU) proposed a plan to store significant personal information (including credit card information) on foreign travelers without a clear strategy of how it will be used;

7. Before leaving on your trip, ensure that you have a photocopy of the photo and information page from your passport (particularly the section that contains the passport number) and extra passport photos tucked away in your carry-on luggage. This will expedite replacing a lost or stolen passport if you are one of many travelers who lose their passports; and

8. Read all visa applications carefully as many governments have particular requirements regarding photographs, for instance. The Philippines, for instance, requires that the photographs of all visa applicants be without eyeglasses; and

9. Taking advantage of a captive audience, I also strongly recommend that all foreign travelers DO the following:

a. Go to the below link to obtain international medical treatment and medical evacuation insurance, particularly if you're destined to a developing country. Such coverage should include the repatriation of your remains back home if you die abroad: NOTE: 6,000 US citizens die annually abroad, so don't "short-sheeted," as repatriation can cost anywhere from US$5,000-20,000:

http://www.insuremytrip.com;

b. If your foreign affairs agency provides the service, register your itinerary with your government, so they can contact you abroad if there is a family emergency back home; 

c. If you are traveling with lots of valuable electronics, go to the below link to obtain international coverage for your electronics:

http://www.safeware.com;

and

d.  If you are traveling with professional samples, medical products, pharmaceuticals, etc., obtain a surety bond through:

http://www.atacarnet.com