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State Department Prepares for Onslaught of Applications for Credit Card-Sized Passports
Saturday , February 14, 2009

The government has introduced passport cards designed to speed border crossings by U.S. citizens traveling to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean, and the State Department is preparing to handle an onslaught of up to 30 million applications as the deadline nears when Americans won't be able enter the country from Mexico or Canada without a passport.

The government approved the wallet-size cards as a cheap and convenient alternative to passport books. They may be used only by citizens returning to the United States through land or seaports from Mexico, Canada, Bermuda and the Caribbean. Air travelers must carry full passports.

The cards emit a radio signal picked up by Customs and Border Protection officers at checkpoints. The signal provides inspectors with a file number linked to passport data on each cardholder.

The cards are handy for frequent border crossers, and cost just $45 for a first-time adult applicant, rather than the $100 fee for a passport book. The cards cost $20 for adults who already have a regular passport.

Brenda Sprague, deputy assistant secretary of State for passport services, said the cards contain information identical to what is found in a standard passport, and are just as secure. About 850,000 cards have been issued nationally.

Once the new system is in place, Sprague predicted, lines at Arizona border checkpoints may be shorter because inspectors can verify passport cards more rapidly than birth certificates and other documentation now accepted.

The State Department said Americans won't be allowed to enter the country from Mexico or Canada without a passport after June 1. Those who are turned away will have to seek emergency documents through a U.S. consular office, a process that may take 24 hours or more.

"It concerns me to a point," Sprague said during an Arizona tour this week. "But I know what we are capable of doing. We have built in so many mechanisms to anticipate the surge in demand."

Sprague expressed confidence that most Americans were aware of the new law, which affects U.S. citizens re-entering the country from border nations and the Caribbean.

She doesn't believe huge numbers of citizens will find themselves stranded at U.S. borders, nor does she anticipate increased logjams at checkpoints.

The State Department issued a record 18.5 million passports in 2007.

Despite the looming deadline, Sprague said the 2009 fiscal year is on track for only 12 million applications.

rosco 357

i rememeber going to mexico for a week almost, to mexico city in the 70's, bad mistake, lol, but i think best i can remember i had to get a travel visa , i think was what it was called, i went some where in laredo, to an office as we all did, my wife and sis and bro in law, my birthcertificate had a small chunk tore out, so they would not accept it,the lady doing it was nice , and i did not even need my birthcert. i forgot what she needed, drivers licence or what, or social sec. card, but anyway it was easy,, to get the visa, on the bus coming back from monterey, was the last place we stayed, some officials came on the bus while we were still in mex. and took up our visas, i thought we would need them to cross the border, but nope not then, i even asked the guy on the bus can we have them back,nope they kept them,, i remember the guys on the bus that got on to take them were not very friendly , at all.
i have never been to canada, but i would think it would be a nice place, but i dont know, and i would think it a paradise compaired to mexico,assuming canada is much nicer, its seems odd, one place on one border is ok and to me the other place sucks big time and poor as dirt,,

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