(LOS ANGELES, May 28, 2009) – As of Monday, June 1, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is enforcing rules requiring U.S. citizens to carry passports or passport cards when traveling by car or cruise ship to Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean. The Automobile Club of Southern California can assist members and non-members with renewing passports and obtaining International Driving Permits that are required in some countries in order for U.S. residents to drive there on vacation.
U.S. citizens are already required to carry passports on all plane trips outside the U.S., but on June 1 that requirement will extend to cruise and car trips as well. However, those traveling by cruise or car outside the U.S. will also have the less expensive option of using a “passport card” rather than a full passport. A passport card is about the size of a driver’s license and can be a more convenient way to quickly present identification.
“The passport-cards are a budget-friendly option because they cost $45 while a first-time passport costs $100,” said Kim Wilde, manager of Auto Club travel product management. “However, since the passport card may only be used for cruise or drive trips outside the U.S., a full passport may be a better option for many people.”
The Auto Club offers the following information for travelers interested in renewing or applying for passports, or those interested in a passport card:
- Those obtaining a first-time passport must go to a passport processing center, located in selected U.S. post offices and other government facilities. These offices often have limited passport processing hours, so check ahead of time for locations and hours at http://www.travel.state.gov/
- Passports are valid for 10 years from the issue date. In most cases, passports can be renewed by mail as long as they are not lost or damaged. New passport photos are required for renewals.
- First-time passports cost $100 for travelers aged 16 and older, and $85 for children under 16. All children, including infants, must have their own passport to travel internationally. Passport renewals cost $75.
- Typical processing time for new passports, passport cards and renewals is four to six weeks. Expedited passports are available for an additional $60 through the State Department.
- Applications for new and renewed passports are available at passport processing centers, all 75 Auto Club offices, and online at http://www.travel.state.gov/.
- Passport photos can be taken at any Auto Club office for a fee of $8 for members and $15 for non-members.
- Those who have never obtained a U.S. passport or those who have expired passports must apply in person for a passport card if they choose to obtain that instead of a full passport. Cost for a passport card is $45 for adults and $35 for minors under age 16.
In addition to passports, travelers should be aware that an International Driving Permit (IDP) is recommended and may be required for those planning to drive in foreign countries where English is not the official language. The IDP serves as a translation of the traveler’s driver’s license and must be carried along with the traveler’s valid U.S. driver’s license and passport.
International Driving Permits are available for $15 exclusively through AAA and the American Automobile Touring Alliance, which are the only organizations authorized by the U.S. government to issue IDPs. They can be processed while the traveler waits in the Auto Club office, and are available both to members and non-members. To obtain an IDP, the traveler must pay the $15 fee, fill out an application, bring along a valid U.S. driver’s license, and bring two passport-sized photos or have them taken at the Auto Club at a cost of $8 for members and $15 for non-members.
In addition to passport photos and applications, travelers can obtain a wide range of needed services at the Auto Club, including international driving permits, Mexico auto insurance, and travel insurance. AAA Travel professionals are available to help both members and non-members plan domestic and international tours and cruises at no additional charge, as well as other services such as car rentals and hotel bookings. Members receive special discounts or benefits on selected travel packages, and complimentary AAA maps and TourBooks.
For more information on international travel, consumers can review passport information at AAA.com, contact a AAA Travel professional or visit the State Department Web site, http://www.travel.state.gov/.