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Refund Available for Expedited Passports; Update on Rules for Other Countries

June 13, 2007

Refund Available for Expedited Passports; Update on Rules for Other Countries
June 13, 2007 –The State Department will reimburse travelers who expedited their passports but then still had to wait. In the latest effort to deal with the massive issues caused by new passport regulations, the government announced they will refund the $60 many travelers paid to get their U.S. passports expedited.

Last week, the government announced it would delay the air requirements of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, a law that would require citizens of the United States to have a passport when entering into the United States from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda. U.S. citizens are temporarily allowed to re-enter the United States from anywhere in the Western Hemisphere provided the traveler can prove he or she applied for a passport.

Passport applicants who paid for but did not receive expedited service should send a written refund application to the agency’s refund office in Washington. They should provide their passport number, if available, their name, date and place of birth, the approximate date they applied for the passport, as well as a mailing address and phone number.

Homeland Security officials say this most recent passport delay will not affect their schedule of requiring passports for land crossing into Canada or Mexico beginning in January 2008.

The U.S. passport waiver applies only to leaving and entering the United States. Other nations have entry requirements that may be different from those in the U.S., so travelers should contact destination embassies or consulates for specific entry requirements. Mexico, for example, requires proof of U.S. citizenship with a passport, a birth certificate or certified copy of it, or a naturalization document.

The Canadian government is making a few passport changes as well. Canadian citizens applying for a passport renewal will not have to provide proof of citizenship or a guarantor as of Aug. 15. First-time applicants also will be able to use just about anybody with a passport as a guarantor as of Oct. 15. Guarantors, who vouch for an applicant’s identity, are currently restricted to a small list of professionals.

The Canadian government also pledged to hire hundreds of new passport staff, extending office hours in some cities and holding clinics in rural areas where officials will collect completed applications. Another 65 post offices and government service centers will also receive applications.

Canadian officials said there are about 170,000 applications being processed in Canada at this time. The average wait for a passport, they said, is two weeks for those with a correctly filled application delivered to a passport office and 10 weeks for those who apply by mail. The 10-week average is six weeks above the norm before the U.S. law created a flood of applications.

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