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Published on Tuesday, October 3, 2006

US Congress avoids major crisis over passport issue

A crisis may have been avoided when the US Congress agreed to extend the deadline for passports for visitors from the Western Hemisphere, a move termed a great victory by heavy-lobbying tourism representatives.

“A major crisis has been averted,” said Jim Santini, legislative counsel for the National Tour Association (NTA). “This is a great victory for North American tourism.

After intensive lobbying, Congress extended the deadline from Jan. 1, 2008 to June 1, 2009 when passports must be presented by travelers from Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean.

“This action recognizes the need to provide a common sense extension of the current deadline and to continue our pursuit of the often difficult balance between securing our borders and free and open commerce,” said Jonathan Tisch, chairman of the Travel Business Roundtable and CEO of Loews Hotels.

The move also provides “additional time to fully educate travelers here in the US and neighboring countries on this change of law,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the Travel Industry Association (TIA).

He said the extension would help homeland security while at the same time preserve access to the US for tens of millions of cruise and land visitors.

The extra time will give officials a chance to study an economical alternative to a passport called a PASScard, he added.

Officials of the cruise industry were particularly concerned about the action because it would require American cruisers to carry a passport on Caribbean, Mexican and Canadian cruises.

The Bush Administration last year announced plans for what is now called the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. These new requirements were expected to be in place by Jan. 1, 2008, and were called for in legislation approved in 2004 by Congress.

Since that time NTA and its industry partners have been challenging the passport mandate. The industry has been citing disruption to cross-border travel in return for negligible security gain.

NTA and the other industry groups also cited possible major disruptions in student travel because many of them are unlikely to have passports, with the cost prohibitive for many young travelers.

Report by David Wilkening

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  • Smart citizens

    Reading the comments I've got the feeling that US-citizens seem to be much smarter than the Congress!

    By Volker GRAFE, Wednesday, October 25, 2006

  • What Crisis

    There was no crisis to avoid, except the fact that the govt. would not be able to handle the influx of apps. The terrorists are coming thru Canada and Mexico. Hello... Passports should of been manditory the day after 9/11.

    By karen ries, Friday, October 6, 2006

  • No delay for passports!

    Delaying the requirement will not change anything. Travelers who were waiting util the last minute this year will wait until the last minute again. An alternative is not necessary. The rest of the world uses passports..so should Americans. If you can afford to travel, you can afford a passport.

    By Jennifer Klempner, Friday, October 6, 2006

  • Make up your minds

    By constantly changing the date passports are required all they do is cause confusion. If this is it then "stick to their guns" and be done with it. Stop making us look like we can't make up our minds and are a bunch of wishy-washy individuals.

    By Diane Garrison, Thursday, October 5, 2006

  • affordable, universal, secure

    The notion passports are cost prohibitive is a wreckless joke of a comment. At a cost of $8-15 a year, who can afford to travel outside the country, but not afford that? Passports should be the National ID and fingerprints should be required when applying to help protect all Americans.

    By S Evenson, Wednesday, October 4, 2006

  • Clients won't be happy!

    Our clients that had to get passports for their trips next year are going to be very upset that they had to pay $95 for a passport they were told they had to have. I wish they would make up their minds and stick to it. Ginger Mittelstaedt Free Spirit Travel WI

    By Ginger Mittelstaedt, Tuesday, October 3, 2006

  • What % have a passport?

    What percentage of Americans have a passport?

    By Armond Noble, Tuesday, October 3, 2006

  • passport delayed for land and sea only

    I believe the extension only affects those arriving by sea or crossing by land. All air passengers will still need passports 8JAN07.

    By Helene Sotsky, Tuesday, October 3, 2006

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