Land travel to US will require passport

Next summer’s family vacation to Haines or that March break cruise you’ve been planning could end before it even begins.

Next summer’s family vacation to Haines or that March break cruise you’ve been planning could end before it even begins.

Your plans are in jeopardy if you don’t have your passport yet.

On January 31, 2008, American border patrol will begin phasing in the next stage of its Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.

Already Canadians entering the US by air are required to present a passport.

But as of right now, oral declarations of citizenship are routinely accepted during land and sea crossings.

As early as January 31, 2008, and no later than the following summer, the US will give a 60-day warning that you’ll need a passport to enter or reenter the US.

Don’t wait until the last minute to apply, warns Yukon MP Larry Bagnell.

It generally takes six to eight weeks to process a passport application.

“The wait gets longer around this time of year not just because of the big rush to get passports to go into states,” said Bagnell.

“At Christmas and March break people are travelling to all sorts of places.”

As he spoke over the phone on Wednesday, three people were waiting in line at his office to have their passports checked.

The MP’s office has processed more than 7,000 passport applications within the last five years.

A passport receiving office has also been opened through Service Canada in the Elijah Smith building.

Applicants should use one of these outlets instead of mailing in the passport, said Bagnell.

Many people that come to the MP’s office have made mistakes filling out the complicated forms.

It’s much better to have the passports checked first, rather than mailing them all the way Ottawa with mistakes, said Bagnell.

Applications with errors are returned for correction and could add another 10 to 12 weeks to the process.

Emergency processing is only available out of passport offices, such as those in Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa.

So Yukoners need to plan ahead, and apply for passports several months in advance to ensure they receive their passport on time, said Bagnell.

“We’ve even travelled to Beaver Creek and Old Crow to help people with passports, and to remind everyone about the new rules for travel.”

Passport Canada has changed certain aspects of the application process to make things easier for applicants.

The guarantor can now be any adult with a valid passport who has known the applicant for at least two years.

Before, only certain professionals, such as doctors, lawyers and engineers, could sign off as a guarantor.

There’s also a simplified renewal process for passport application.

Now to renew an adult passport you only need to send in a completed application, passport photos, and the expired passport.

You no longer need guarantors and birth certificates.

Even though some of these applications have been simplified or made easier, processing times will remain the same.

So if you’re planning a trip to Alaska for the New Year and don’t have a passport yet, go visit Bagnell and his staff, or the experts at Service Canada.

Applications should be submitted in October in order to have the passport arrive in time for January travel.