Homeland Security Tightens Restrictions

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A family of five traveling to Puerto Penasco, Mexico (Rocky Point) will have to add more than $400 to their traveling budgets.

The U.S. State Department's Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 mandates that all American citizens traveling to and from popular tourist destinations -- like Bermuda and Panama -- must have proof of citizenship.

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Ed Jim of Travel Network explains new Homeland Security passport rules to Megan Miller as she plans a trip to Mexico. Beginning Dec. 31, 2006 passports will be required to travel between the U.S. and Mexico or Canada.

As of Dec. 31, 2006, the law extends to travelers, including children, visiting Mexico or Canada.

Payson resident Trey Haworth, one of the 75 million U.S. passport holders, said the stiffer enforcement is well overdue.

"I think it's time we get our security in this country back on track and prove who you are to come and go out of this country," Haworth.

Haworth has taken his family south of the border to play in the sun many times. He views the passport costs as just an additional travel expense.

"We (consider) Mexico a sister state when the fact of the matter is that it's another country," Haworth said.

Haworth has had his own passport for some time. He travels often to Mexico as a manufacturer's representative.

Passports for travel are becoming increasingly important, said Ed Jim, owner of Travel Network.

"I think in the long run it is going to be better security for everyone," Jim said. "But travelers need to plan ahead."

According to Jim, passports for identification at airports instead of a state-issued identification card generally streamlines the check-in process because passports contain more information.

Travel, including cruises, in the Caribbean, Bermuda and Panama will require a passport one year sooner, Dec. 31, 2005.

Megan Miller, shopping for an exotic vacation, didn't know about the pending changes.

"I was thinking about going to Mexico on a cruise next year," said Miller. "It's more paperwork, but if that's what they've got to do to keep track of who is coming in and out of the country, then I think it's good."

Passports cost $82 for minors under 16, $97 for adults, and take about six weeks to come in the mail.

"You can get a passport in as little as two weeks," said Jim. "But that costs extra, so it's better to make plans now if you're going to be traveling (outside the country)."

Rush passports are $60 extra.

Both parents must appear together and sign for their minor child's passport. If only one parent appears, that parent must bring a notarized statement from the other parent along. Both signatures make parental abductions more difficult across international borders.

"Back in the 1960s and 70s - and even in the 80s people didn't need to worry about these things," said Jim.

The next generation of passports will include a "biometric chip" in the rear cover.

The 64-kilobyte chip will contain a digital image of the bearer's photograph, name, date and place of birth, passport number with date of issuance and expiration.

Concerns over the security of the "e-passport" have already surfaced, and some travel experts wondered whether the e-passport will be subject to unauthorized reading.

Anti-skimming materials will be added to the chip to help reduce this risk.

Passport applications are available at Gila County's Superior Court Clerk, 714 S. Beeline Highway, Room 104 or through your travel agency. For more information, call (928) 474-3978 or visit: travel.state.gov.

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