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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Passport soon needed to return from Mexico

    New laws going into effect Jan. 23 require travelers to show a passport when crossing back into the U.S. from any country by plane, a move that could hinder students’ travel plans, according to passport authorities.

    Previously, citizens only needed a driver’s license or other valid form of identification to cross the border, according to the U.S. Department of State.

    “”Students traveling for spring break really need to get in here by the last week in January,”” said Kristina Waters, a senior passport agent at the University Passport Acceptance Facility, 1128 E. Mabel St.

    Waters said there might be confusion about when the laws go into effect, while some students may be unaware of the new requirements.

    Although the law will initially impact air travel, on Jan. 1, 2008, all methods of travel will be subject to the law.

    Others in the travel industry said students are aware of these changes.

    “”Pretty much all the students who have come in to book spring break trips know about the passport laws,”” said Michael J. Glen, a STA travel branch manager in the Student Union Memorial Center. “”But we are making sure they know.””

    Glen said business has been the same as usual, and students are planning trips despite the new requirement.

    But some people are waiting for availability of the new passport card announced in connection with the 2008 changes, Waters said.

    The People Access Security Service card, or PASS card, is an alternative to a passport and is about the size of a credit card. It uses radio frequency identification technology in the form of a small chip installed in the card to scan border crossers from a long range, Waters said.

    “”People will be able to just drive through the border station and the card will be scanned,”” Waters said. The PASS card will only be available for use by land or sea crossings.

    The passport card will be a faster and more secure method of controlling the border, according to a media note from the office of the spokesman for the U.S. Department of State. It is scheduled for release in a few months.

    Despite this alternative method to passport stamping, some in the travel industry suspect travel might decrease as a consequence of the law.

    “”I’ve been hearing from a lot of people that when they need a passport to go to Nogales, they will stop going,”” Waters said.

    Still, the Jan. 23 air travel requirement has sent Tucsonans scurrying to get a passport.

    The Tucson Main Postal Station, 1501 S. Cherrybell Stravenue, had a passport fair Friday to compensate for the large increase in passport sales.

    “”We set this up because a lot of people were traveling next month and didn’t realize the law had changed,”” said Rob Soler, customer relations coordinator for the Tucson Main Postal Station.

    The post office sold 264 passports in about five hours, Soler said. The average wait time was two hours or more.

    “”If we do the fair again, we will probably schedule appointments and double the staff,”” he said.

    The new passport requirements have drastically increased the number of passports sold yearly in Tucson. In 2005, 4,540 passports were sold, compared to 9,980 in 2006, Soler said.

    “”Since Oct. 1, 3,962 passports have been sold in Tucson, so we can see how people are really going to be coming in to get passports in 2007,”” he said.

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