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Passport rush expected soon
Is your passport current? After June 1, 2009, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative will require that all international travelers — whether jumping over the boarder to British Columbia or jetting down to Mexico — have current credentials.
A valid driver’s license and birth certificate will no longer suffice for North American boarder crossings. News of this law caused an initial rush on passport agencies, said Mike McIntyre, director of the Oak Harbor Senior Center.
The Senior Center processed an average of 130 passports each month from January through March this year. But since August, the requests dropped to about 60 per month.
The lower numbers mean faster return times, said McIntyre, who estimates passports will arrive in four to six weeks, although lately they’ve been turned around in as quick as three weeks.
Once travelers realize that passports are required to visit Canada, McIntyre expects that there will be another big rush to the passport office. A big rush could mean longer passport turn around times, he said.
When international travel laws initially changed in 2007 requiring a passport for all air travel from the U.S. to Canada or Mexico, the Senior Center experienced a sharp increase in passport orders. The wait was up to three months, McIntyre said.
McIntyre predicts that the WHTI, which requires a passport, passport card or a state issued enhanced drivers license to pass through sea or land ports, will cause another rush on passport agencies.
The WHTI stems from the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which requires all travelers to carry a passport or other proof of citizenship when entering the U.S.
The Oak Harbor Senior Center is located at 51 SE Jerome St. Call 279-4580 to make an appointment, available between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., Monday through Friday.