WASHINGTON – The decision by the U.S. State and Homeland Security departments to permit some international summer travel without a passport will relieve strains on Middle Tennessee travelers, according to U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon.
"The rule change will help many Middle Tennesseans with summer travel plans, but it is of little comfort to those who already have had their travel disrupted because of the State Department's backlog," said Gordon.
In response to massive delays at passport processing centers, the departments Friday lifted the passport requirement for citizens traveling between the U.S. and Bermuda, Canada, the Caribbean or Mexico.
Through Sep. 30, a traveler without a passport instead will be able to present a government-issued photo ID and a State Department document showing that a passport application is in process.
"Travelers must still apply for a passport, but they will be able to travel this summer while the application is pending," said Gordon.
The change suspends a requirement that took effect in January requiring all air travelers to present a passport when traveling between the U.S. and any country within the Western Hemisphere. Previously, passports were not required for citizens traveling between the U.S. and Bermuda, Canada, the Caribbean or Mexico.
According to the State Department's New Orleans Passport Agency, 2.27 million passport applications were pending at centers across the nation at the end of April. At the same time in 2006, there were only about 1 million applications pending.
"Passport applications are taking as long as three months to process," Gordon said. "This rule change will be a relief for summer travelers, but anyone with international travel plans this year should apply for a passport sooner rather than later."
Fees for a first-time passport application total $97 for adults and $82 for children under age 16. Passport renewals are $67 each. Expedited passport service will add $60 more per passport.