The winter holidays are fast approaching and anyone interested in traveling internationally to visit family, friends or just trying to get away from it all, shouldn't wait until the last minute to apply for a passport.
"It's now or never for people traveling during the holidays or New Year's," said Hector Rivera, customer service supervisor at the Kenai Post Office.
As of Jan. 23, 2007, the Department of Homeland Security launched an initiative requiring all persons traveling by air between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean region to present a passport to enter or re-enter the U.S.
"And as of January (23, 2008) U.S. and Canadian citizens travelling by land and sea including ferries will need a passport to enter or re-enter the U.S.," Rivera said.
According to the U.S. Department of State's Web site, the goal of this initiative is to strengthen U.S. border security while also enabling the Department of Homeland Security to quickly and reliably identify a traveler as a U.S. citizen or legitimate foreign visitor.
The Kenai Post Office currently accepts passport applications Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. The recent regulation changes by the Department of State have created a demand beyond what can be conveniently accommodated during these hours, which is why the post office will devote time this weekend to the process.
"It's to give people a break that need to get a passport, but work during the week, or have kids that are in school during the week and don't want them to miss class," Rivera said.
This will be the second year the post office has devoted weekend hours to the passport application process.
"We did it last year and over 200 people showed up, and we're expecting about the same or more this year," Rivera said.
With so many expected again, Rivera said everything will be set up to streamline the process for applicants.
"We'll have the application available and we'll be taking photos," he said.
Applicants just need to bring proof of citizenship and identify, such as a previous U.S. passport, a certified birth certificate or naturalization certificate; and a current, valid driver's license, government ID card or a military ID card.
Applicants will also need to bring money to cover the cost of the application process.
"The passport cost is $97 for adults and $82 for children 16 years or younger. Photos are an extra $15," Rivera said.
Application processing time takes four to six weeks, but there is also an "expedited service" for those that plan on travelling sooner, and while this option allows applicants to have their passport processed in two to three weeks, it does cost significantly more.
"The expedited service cost will be an additional $92.50," Rivera said.
The Kenai Post Office's weekend passport fair will be Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information on the event call the post office at 283-7771.
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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