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Archive for Friday, August 18, 2006

New passport rules raise concerns

August 18, 2006

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— The travel industry is pressing the Bush administration to delay a security measure that would require all cruise passengers and air travelers taking trips beyond U.S. borders to carry passports starting Jan. 8.

The measure - part of a larger federal anti-terrorism effort - eventually would require all travelers, including U.S. citizens, traveling between the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Bermuda to have a passport or "other accepted document" to enter or re-enter the United States.

The proposal, which has been published in the Federal Register and is under review, would be phased in over two years.

But Roger Dow, president of the Travel Industry Assn., said Thursday that the cruise industry, in particular, was ill-equipped to meet the proposed 2007 target date because few people who booked cruises had passports.

The requirement would be imposed on airline passengers at the same time, but Dow said the airlines began asking travelers to Canada and Mexico for passports several years ago. He noted that many air travelers, unlike occasional cruise line passengers, already carry passports.

"We're concerned about the potential for chaos" in the cruise industry, Dow said, adding that the industry is asking the administration for a "modest extension" to June 2009.

The requirement for passports would be extended to land border crossings with Canada and Mexico in January 2008. Travel experts fear that it could put a damper on travel from Canada, which is the United States' largest international travel market.

The industry also is pressing its case with Congress, and measures calling for a delay have advanced in the Senate, sponsored by Sens. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who warned that federal agencies are ill-prepared to carry out the program.

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