Kenai Post Office employee Clif Vaught processes passport photos during the "Passport Family Affair" event held Saturday at the post office.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
The Kenai Post Office was bustling with business beyond the usual box holders checking their mail Saturday, as the outer lobby area was opened for a “Passport Family Affair” event.
“We had people lined up at twenty till ten, and we’ve been solid since. My guess is we’ll probably do around 200 people by the end of the day,” said Kenai Post Master Laurel Pickering, about halfway through the five-hour event.
Pickering explained that the post office has for several years now accepted passport applications Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., but recent regulation changes by the Department of State have created a demand beyond what could be conveniently accommodated during those hours.
“It’s a time-consuming process, so we decided to devote time and staff strictly for passport applications, but also we know a lot of kids need passports and we didn’t want them to miss school, so we made it on a Saturday so it could be a family affair,” Pickering said.
As of Dec. 31, U.S. citizens traveling between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Bermuda by land or sea including ferries will be required to present a valid U.S. passport or other secure, accepted documents to enter or reenter the U.S.
“With it taking six to eight weeks to get them back, we thought we should hold it now,” Pickering said in regard to the time it takes for an application to be sent off, processed and returned.
According to the Department of State’s Web site, the goal of these changes is to strengthen border security and facilitate entry into the U.S. by providing standardized documentation which will allow the Department of Homeland Security to quickly, reliably and accurately identify a traveler as U.S. citizen or legitimate foreign visitor.
Jodene McAuliffe, of Kalifornsky Beach, said while she had no immediate plans for travel, she was applying for a passport so she would be ready for when she did make plans to travel through Canada.
“I usually go out of Alaska twice a year to visit family and friends,” she said.
McAuliffe added that she didn’t mind having to apply for a passport to comply with the new regulations.
“I think the more identification people have, the better. It’ll make it more difficult for people traveling illegally. I also think it will make the state safer,” she said.
Susan Lacey of Kenai, who attended the event so her 14-year-old son, Levi, could apply for a passport to take part in a cultural program abroad, shared similar sentiments.
“Anything we do to protect security is a good thing,” she said.
Not everyone was entirely supportive of the new regulations. Jerry Charpentir of Anchor Point said he felt inconvenienced by having to apply for a passport just to drive through Canada to make visits to the Lower 48.
“I’m only here because I won’t be able to get past the border without the proper paperwork. I think having to apply for one is overkill,” Charpentir said.
However, Charpentir said since he was required to apply for a passport, having an event devoted to the process was a good idea on the part of the post office.
“I think this event for passports is great, because it makes applying more convenient,” he said.
For more information on the Department of State’s new travel document requirements, visit their Web site at www.travel.state.gov.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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