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Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) puts a damper on many travel plans

As many of you may know by now, especially if you have upcoming plans to travel to one of our neighboring countries like Canada or Mexico, your travel plans just might be at risk. "The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act or 2004 requires the Department of Homeland Security and Department of State to develop and implement a plan to require all travelers, U.S. citizens and foreign nationals alike, to present a passport or other document, or a combination of documents, that denote identity and citizenship when entering the United States. Congress amended portions of the Act in 2006. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative is the Administration's proposed plan to implement this mandate." So what does this mean? Well, for starters, if you're traveling to Mexico, Canada, Bermuda or the Caribbean, you are now required to obtain a passport for your travels outside the United States.
You could, not to long ago, travel to Canada or Mexico as easily as traveling to visit your parents 5 states away. Not anymore. The Federal government's goal to "strengthen border security and facilitate entry into the United States for U.S. citizens and legitimate foreign visitors" now requires all travelers to basically "check-in" by obtaining a passport for identification and proof of citizenship. This is an absolute necessity to secure our borders against un-authorized access with the foremost hopes of preventing terrorist acts by individuals abroad. Unfortunately, the policy and enforcement on border security will affect both incoming travelers and domestic travelers going abroad. As of January 2007, traveling to Mexico, Canada, Bermuda and the Caribbean is now considered "traveling abroad," where once we could travel to the above countries with limited or no documentation needed at all.
So how does this affect travel to Canada? Or Mexico? Or Bermuda? Or the Caribbean? Well the short answer for you is not much. But if you're like me, and take family vacations annually to Mexico, it might cost a bit more this year. Take for example a family of 4 (2 adults and 2 children under 16 years). The cost of our trip just exploded because by law, I am now required to obtain a passport for each individual crossing in and out of the United States. So, lets see, not only do I have to pay for the monetary cost associated with obtaining a passport, 4 passports in this example, but I now have to take the time out of my day to find out where I can pick up 4 passport applications; then fill them out, and then find a place that will take my passport photo to be attached with the passport application. I'm not done…I have to round up my entire family to go on this passport excursion. Do I pull my kids out of school for this? Do they miss band or sports practice after school? Do I waste an hour and fight traffic with my family just to find our passport applications and a place that will take our passport photo? Unfortunately, this scenario will look all too common in 2007 and beyond as the Federal government continues to increase security for our Country. My advice is to get your passport early and beat the rush. And if you're lucky, find someone who will come out to your work place or home and furnish all your passport needs, from forms to photos Mobile Passport Photos.Linda Young is a high school English teacher and a business owner. VisitMobile Passport Photosfor more information.

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