There’s a train wreck coming, but few know about it. Starting January 8, 2007, new requirements for lawful entry into the United States will catch many U.S. citizens off-guard. For some the moment of panic will hit when they try to reenter the U.S. For others, panic will set in when they try to depart the U.S, especially those with children not living with both parents.  You’ll see frantic individual parents try to check in for an international flight without having a proper release, custody or travel document to take their minor child outside the U.S. By becoming familiar with the following requirements, you’ll be able to advise your clients to steer clear of the train wreck and hopefully undertake foreign travel in the Western Hemisphere without incident. You may also see that it applies to you for that upcoming Caribbean dream vacation.

What’s New?

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 requires that by January 1, 2008, travelers to and from the Caribbean, Bermuda, Panama, Mexico and Canada have a passport or other secure, accepted document to enter or re-enter the United States. This new requirement is being phased in and a final deadline will appear in the federal register in the coming months. For now, the proposed timeline is:

  •  January 8, 2007 – Applied to all air and sea travel to or from Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda.
  • January 1, 2008 – Extended to all land border crossings as well.

(Pay careful attention to the above dates. The January 8, 2007 requirement is for air and sea travel and was delayed one week to allow travelers returning from December holidays to return before the new requirement. The 2008 deadline for land borders presently remains set for January 1, 2008.)

How is this different from current requirements?

This is a change from prior travel requirements and will affect all United States citizens entering the United States from countries within the Western Hemisphere who do not currently possess valid passports. This new requirement will also affect certain foreign nationals who currently are not required to present a passport to travel to the United States. Most Canadian citizens, citizens of the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda, and to a lesser degree, Mexican citizens will be affected by the implementation of this requirement. For many years U.S. citizens, and some citizens of other countries in the Western Hemisphere including Canadians, have not been required to present a passport or other specific forms of secure identification to enter the U.S. Instead, a wide variety of less secure documentation has historically been accepted.

How do I get a passport?

United States citizens can visit the State Department’s travel website, or call the U.S. National Passport Information Center: 1-877-4USA-PPT; TDD/TTY: 1-888-874-7793. Passport information for those seeking passports in Hennepin County can be found at:

Does anyone need to apply for a passport in person?

You’ll need to apply in person if:

  • You are applying for a U.S. passport for the first time;
  • Your expired U.S. passport is not in your possession;
  • Your previous U.S. passport has expired and was issued more than 15 years ago;
  • Your previous U.S. passport was issued when you were under age 16;
  • Your currently valid U.S. passport has been lost or stolen.

You’ll need two identical passport style photographs of yourself, proof of U.S. citizenship, and a valid form of photo identification such as a driver’s license.

Are there any additional requirements for minors?

Application procedures for minors are the same as those for adult applicants with the addition of the following requirements (These requirements apply to renewals as well as first time applications):

Under 14: Whether renewing or applying for the first time, both parents must appear in person and present proper ID to execute the application. If your circumstances do not allow both parents to appear, you must provide one of the following:

  • Child’s certified U.S. or foreign birth certificate (with translation, if necessary) listing only applying parent
  • Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth Abroad listing only applying parent
  • Court order granting sole custody to the applying parent (unless child’s travel is restricted by that order)
  • Adoption decree (if applying parent is sole adopting parent)
  • Court order specifically permitting applying parent or guardian’s travel with the child
  • Judicial declaration of incompetence of non-applying parent
  • Death certificate of non-applying parent

If your circumstances do not allow both parents to appear, and you cannot provide the above documentation, you must provide a notarized Statement of Consent (DS-3053) signed by the non-applying parent. This form is available from the U.S. Department of State web site and from county offices where you can make in person application.

In all cases, the minor must be present at the time of application. Whether renewing or applying for the first time, the minor’s birth certificate is required to prove parent-child relationship.

Age 14-17: One parent must appear in person and present proper ID to provide parental consent. The minor must be present.

You should allow at least 8 weeks to process your passport in advance of travel. The length of time needed to process any application may vary due to application volume or failure to provide all necessary information and documentation. Expedited processing is available for an additional fee. Foreign nationals should contact their respective governments to obtain passports.  Following is a link to offices of foreign consulates in the U.S.:

What if I need expedited processing for a passport?

If you choose expedited service, you will receive your passport within about two weeks.

  1. Expedited service incurs an additional fee of $60.00 plus overnight mailing fees ($13.65 each way).
  2. You should provide a copy of your travel itinerary or plane tickets to prove need for expediting.
  3. If you will be traveling in less than two weeks, or need your passport immediately due to visa requirements, you should contact a visa service to hand deliver your application to a passport agency.

A visa service is a private company that you can hire to act as a courier. For a fee, they will hand deliver your application to one of 13 passport agencies located throughout the United States. To use one of these services you should take the following steps:

Search online using keywords like “visa service” or “passport service”; or look in a local phone directory under “passports.” Compare and select the company and service level that best fits your needs. Contact that company right away to make arrangements. They will make you aware of all of the additional documentation and fees required. Even with expedited processing the entire process could take anywhere from 24 hours to over a week, depending on the company and service level you choose.

Other than a passport, what types of documents will be acceptable under this initiative?

The government expects that acceptable documents must establish the citizenship and identity of the bearer through electronic data verification and will include significant security features.  Ultimately, all documents used for travel to the United States are expected to include biometrics that can be used to authenticate the document and verify identity.

The passport is the document of choice right now because of security features and general availability. Individuals traveling within the Western Hemisphere are encouraged to obtain a passport.

For land border crossings, other documents that are being considered are SENTRI, NEXUS and FAST program cards.  These are current international frequent traveler programs (see for further information). The Border Crossing Card, (BCC – also known as “laser visa”) is also being considered as a substitute for a passport and a visa for citizens of Mexico traveling to the United States from contiguous territory.

No currently existing documents other than the BCC, SENTRI, NEXUS or FAST cards are under active consideration as substitutes for the passport. The Departments of Homeland Security and Department of State are working to determine acceptable alternative documents other than a passport and will make that announcement soon.

Will this requirement apply to travel between the United States and Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands?

The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative will not affect travel between the United States and its territories. U.S. citizens traveling between the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa will continue to be able to use established forms of identification to board flights and for entry.

If traveling outside the United States or a U.S. territory, a passport or other secure document will be required. For example, a person may travel to and from the United States to the U.S. Virgin islands without a passport or other secure document, but under proposed regulations, a passport or other secure document would be required to re-enter the U.S. Virgin Islands from the British Virgin Islands or another country as of December 31, 2006.

Foreign nationals traveling to a U.S. territory from the mainland U.S. and seeking to return to the mainland U.S. will undergo immigration inspection and are advised to have all necessary visas and entry documents to present when returning.

Where can I check for further requirements?

What can one use to show permission of the other parent when traveling with a minor child?

First of all it is advisable to check with the airline, travel agent, or cruise line regarding required documentation for traveling with any minor. In addition to the child’s passport, one should also bring with a certified copy of the child’s birth certificate, and identification such as a school ID, driver’s license or a state ID card. The parent should also bring a copy of his or her marriage, divorce/custody papers if possible. Keep a copy of all of these at home or with a relative when traveling. Following is a sample affidavit that may be used to show permission of the other parent.


In the Matter of                  )                                                         AFFIDAVIT OF

The Marital Termination )                                                         NAME OF NON-TRAVELING

Agreement of:                     )                                                        SPOUSE

Name of Plaintiff                )

vs.                                          )

Name of Respondent        )

Case No. _________________




COUNTY OF _____________ )                    NOTE: NAME OF COURT OF DIVORCE


STATE OF MINNESOTA               )


1. That I am the biological and legal father of a male/female child(ren), Name of Child, Children, born in city and country of birth, and date of birth, month, day, year.

2. That on Month of Marriage, and Year, I married traveling parent’s name, who changed her name during our marriage to (if name changed of spouse) and that she is the biological and legal mother of name of child/children.

3. That on date of entry___________________(month,day,year) of Judgment of MTA/divorce, dissolution, a marital termination agreement changed the name of my former spouse, from name of married name of former spouse if changed, back to her maiden name, name after divorce/dissolution/MTA if changed, the agreement between the aforementioned adult parties covering joint legal and physical custody has been duly approved by a family court judge, and filed with the Minnesota family court for _____ County in the _____ Judicial District, and has become a final judgment/decree.

4. That said marital agreement specifies and permits the right to travel outside of the home state, of Minnesota, and home country, United States, for up to a 30 day period per year.

5. That I have been duly informed, and I consent to my child/ren and full names, traveling to Specify Places of Travel and Dates of Travel, for (specify purpose of travel) summer vacation purposes, with traveling spouse (mother/father) , and a period, up to two weeks thereafter, should an unexpected medical or similar emergency occur. (Allow time and permission for emergencies)

WHEREFORE, I respectfully submit my consent, as the legal mother/father and guardian for permission to travel with the legal father/mother and joint legal custodian/guardian of names of child/children of the minor child of the aforementioned marriage, internationally, to city, country or countries, during the day, months, year of travel (i.e. month of ____ 2006).

Further your affiant sayeth not, except that this affidavit has been made in good faith


Dated: ________

Subscribed and sworn to before me                                      _______________________

The ____ day of ____  2006                                                            Signature of Affiant



Notary Public



By Steven C. Thal