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New passport rules: What you need to know

Planning a trip outside the country? Check out these important tips.
/ Source: Weekend Today

As of this coming Tuesday, Americans traveling to the Caribbean, Canada and Mexico by air will need a U.S. passport to re-enter the country. Gabe Saglie from Travelzoo offers advice on what this means for travelers.

Flying internationally? Don't forget your passport!
On Tuesday, January 23, all Americans re-entering the U.S. from Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Bermuda by air must have a valid U.S. passport.

On January 1, 2008, Americans re-entering the U.S. from Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Bermuda by land and sea must have a valid U.S. passport.

  • You can still take a Caribbean trip without a passport.
  • You can still travel to places like the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The passport requirement does not apply to U.S. citizens traveling to or returning directly from a U.S. territory. U.S. citizens returning directly from a U.S. territory are not considered to have left the United States and do not need to present a passport. U.S. territories include the following: Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Swains Island, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Even your newborn needs a passport!
There are no age minimums. Even babies will need passports.

Traveling to countries where there are security concerns?
If you're planning on going to countries where there are security concerns make sure you apply for your passport nine months before you plan to travel. These countries like to see a six-month minimum history on a passport.

Coming soon: Passport cards
The Department of Homeland Security has developed a passport card system called a PASS Card. It's a limited use passport that you can carry in your wallet. This provides U.S. citizens with a travel credential that costs less than a full-sized passport. Few details are currently available about the PASScard, but it will probably only be valid for land and sea travel between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean and U.S. citizens re-entering the country by sea or land; air travelers will still need the regular passport. It will be especially beneficial to business travelers and other individuals who live in border communities and travel frequently (by land or sea) between the United States, Canada and Mexico. The PASScard will also be a less expensive alternative to cruise ship passengers traveling from the United States to Bermuda, the Bahamas and the Caribbean. To get updates on this, visit .

How long does it take for a passport application to be processed? What if I have urgent travel plans and have no passport?
On average, the application process takes about six weeks; there are ways to expedite the process (to about 2 weeks) at extra cost.

What are the best months to apply for passports to make the process faster?
Between August and December — this is when most people are doing their actual traveling and have, therefore, already gone through the application process.

How much do passports cost?
Total of $97 for people over age 16; $82 for people under age 16. For expedite service, it'll cost an additional $60, plus express shipping fees.

Can I apply for a passport online?
No, the U.S. government requires passport applications be done in person.There are passport services online, but what you are basically doing is “hiring” such a company to represent you at the passport office (i.e., you will sign a form allowing them to be your official rep; additional costs for these private companies can range between $60 and $150; researching these kinds of companies is imperative.)

Which government agency should I turn to for more info?
Visit the U.S. Department of State at .