ADA — Travel plans for dozens of Adans have been recently delayed by the overwhelming volume of passport requests in the United States.

Recent changes in passport requirements have caused a tremendous fluctuation in the amount of people applying for United States Passports. As of January 2007, American citizens are required to have a passport to travel to and from Canada, Mexico, the Carribbean and Bermuda by air.

With this new requirement, the number of passports request in the United States skyrocketed delaying the normal receiving time of 2-4 weeks to a slow and not guaranteed 10-12 weeks to receive a passport. According to the U.S. State Department, about 12 million passport applications were processed in 2006 and as many as 17 million are expected this year.

“We have had people miss their honeymoons, senior trips and summer vacations,” said Ernestine Eubank, Pontotoc County court clerk. “It has been a mess.”

The U.S. Departments of State and Homeland Security announced June 8 that U.S. citizens traveling to Canada, Mexico, the Carribbean and Bermuda who have applied for but not yet received passports can nevertheless temporarily enter and depart from the United States by air with a government issued photo identification and Department of State official proof of application for a passport through Sept. 30. The changes have not affected people entering and leaving the U.S. by land or sea to these countries, but this will change as well.

As early as January 1, 2008, 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), may be required to present a valid U.S. passport.

All of the changes to passport requirements are part of Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), whose goal is to strengthen border security and facilitate entry into the United States for U.S. citizens and legitimate foreign visitors by providing standardized, secure and reliable documentation which will allow the Department of Homeland Security to quickly, reliably and accurately identify a traveler.

Ada Travel Service Agent Dawn Maples advises people who are planning to travel this summer or even this year to apply for their passports as soon as possible. She pointed out the passport leniency was until September after that the restrictions will take affect.

“People who have applied for their passports in February have still not received them yet,” she said. “If you are planning to travel outside the United States this year, I would advise you apply for your passport now.”

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