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Sunday, 17 June 2007 23:25

U.S. State Department Temporarily Relaxed Rules for Traveling to Certain Places Outside the U.S.

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slide28The U.S. State Department last week temporarily relaxed rules for travelers to Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean. Under new Homeland Security Measures travelers between the US and those countries and regions could get out of the country- but not back in without a valid US Passport. The result, massive back ups for the passport system with many travelers questioning their travel plans. Last week it was announced that those rules would be relaxed and the US government said travelers who have a receipt showing they have applied for a passport and a government-issued ID would be allowed back in the United States.
slide30 On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives also sided overwhelmingly with the public. By a 379-45 vote, it approved a 17-month delay for rules requiring passports for U.S. residents traveling by land and sea to Mexico, Canada, Bermuda and the Caribbean. The Bush administration opposes delaying the rules, but the big House vote suggests its opposition can be overcome. The change in January was aimed at improving U.S. security, but also triggered a surge of passport applications that doubled processing times to at least 12 weeks. An estimated 500,000 passports already have taken longer than usual, and some even arrived too late for travelers to leave home. Government documents indicate about 6 million U.S. residents will need passports to travel by sea or air to Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean in the next five years, and the number of Americans needing passports for land crossings into Canada and Mexico could reach 27 million. That's in addition to regular demand for passports. The State Department reported processing 12.1 million passports last year. This year it expects to process 18 million., a Web site with 10 million reviews and opinions posted by 6 million users, recently polled its American members and found that, despite a weak dollar, 46 percent planned to travel abroad this summer.
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