Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Reminder New Passport Rules Effective June 1st

There has been much attention given to the new travel requirements going into effect on June 1, 2009, and I would like to revisit this topic. In my previous post, New Passport Rules Starting June 1st - Are You Ready, I summarized the new rules, the list of 19 affected countries, and provided links to various government resources that would help you decide what documents are required in your particular circumstance. I'll repeat the links here for your convenience.

In this post, I want to call out a couple of the caveats that I referred to in my previous post. I suggest you read both posts and visit the websites if you are not certain what requirements pertain to your circumstance.

Closed-Loop Cruises
While the new Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) requires valid passports for land and sea travel, a final ruling was issued allowing leniency for “closed-loop” cruises, i.e., sailings that both originate and terminate in the same U.S. port.

U.S. citizens taking “closed-loop” cruises are not required to have a passport but will need proof of citizenship and a government-issued photo ID, such as an original or certified copy of a birth certificate and a driver’s license. Children will also be required to carry a birth certificate and a photo ID if over the age of 15.

Although a passport is not required for “closed loop” cruises, we strongly recommend all guests travel with a passport (valid for at least six months beyond completion of travel), a passport card or an enhanced driver’s license (EDL). Having these documents will enable them to fly from the U.S. to a foreign port in the event they miss their scheduled embarkation or to fly back to the U.S. if they need to disembark the ship mid-cruise due to an emergency.

If a cruise begins and ends in different U.S. ports or begins and ends in a foreign port, a valid passport or other recognized WHTI-compliant document is required. A valid passport is required if you are traveling on any Europe cruise.

Rules for Children
U.S. citizen children under the age of 16 will be able to present the original or copy of their birth certificate, or other proof of U.S. citizenship such as a naturalization certificate or citizenship card.

Groups of U.S. citizen children ages 16 through 18, when traveling with a school or religious group, social organization, or sports team, will be able to enter under adult supervision with originals or copies of their birth certificates or other proof of citizenship. See the Department of Homeland Security's for more information on the changing travel requirements.

Here are the links to useful websites once again:

State Department - overview of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) - see Travel page
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – see Crossing U.S. Borders page
Canada Border Services Agency - for travel to/from Canada

Plan For Unexpected
I cannot emphasize enough that you need to take both land and sea requirements into consideration when deciding what document you need to satisfy the new WHTI rules. In my previous post and above, I've already cited a couple of very common situations where the unexpected can find you traveling by plane instead of by sea. In emergency situations like these, the last thing you want is to be denied boarding due to the lack of proper documentation.

You may be denied boarding if you do not have the proper identification. I suspect that there will be some delays in boarding as the rules take effect, but after they have been in effect for awhile, this should speed the boarding process at airlines and cruise ports across the world.

Finally, don't forget to complete your online cruise check-in, providing the passport numbers. This will help the cruise line comply with government manifest requirements and also speed the boarding process.

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