The U.S. State Department is urging travelers to apply for passports and visas now, during what is traditionally a slower period for passport renewal, rather than wait until next year.
The department’s concern comes amid reports that demand for passports is expected to be unusually high in 2008 as a result of the January 31, 2008 implementation of the land and sea portion of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which mandates that U.S. and Canadian citizens will need to present either a WHTI-compliant document or a government-issued photo ID (such as a driver’s license) plus proof of citizenship (such as a birth certificate) when traveling to or from Canada, the Caribbean, and Mexico.
Passport offices across the country were taken by surprise earlier this year by the unprecedented demand for passports that resulted when the air portion of WHTI went into effect in January 2007. That portion of WHTI requires travelers to present a valid passport to enter and depart from the U.S. when flying to Bermuda, Canada, the Caribbean and Mexico.
Another wave of passport anxiety is likely to occur in the summer of 2008 when the State and Homeland Security departments extend the passport requirements to land and sea points of entry. For additional information, consult the U.S. State Department Web site’s page on the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.