Travelers seek help navigating passport rules, renewals

Q&A

August 26, 2007|By San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News

Our passports expire in March. Does the passport backlog also affect renewals?

Yes, renewals are also affected by the backlog, so you should apply soon (go to travel.state.gov and click on "Passports" to find the appropriate form). Many countries require that a passport be valid for at least six months beyond a person's travel dates, and often the only way to find out which ones have this rule is by calling their embassy or consulate.

How long will you have to wait to get your passport renewed? Steve Royster, a spokesman for the Bureau of Consular Affairs, e-mailed us: "Our current guideline is 10-12 weeks, but we are committed to reducing that to eight weeks by the end of September."

Our passports expired 10 to 15 years ago. Do we need new ones, or can we renew them?

The U.S. State Department says you can apply for a renewal if you received your passport in the past 15 years, you were at least 16 years old when it was issued, you have not changed your name and your current passport is not damaged.

You can renew by mail. Go to travel.state.gov and click on "Passports," then "Get or renew a passport." You can download the application and mail it in.

You'll need to include your most recent passport, two passport photos and a $67 fee.

Do I or don't I need a passport to travel into Canada by car? I've heard different things from travel agents.

You can still enter Canada or Mexico by car using only your driver's license, but it's a good idea to have backup identification such as a birth certificate. Congress took action this year to delay any such passport requirement for drivers until June 2009.

Passports already had been required for air travel to those countries, but that rule has been relaxed because of a backlog of passport applications. The temporary change is in effect until Sept. 30, and those travelers will receive additional security screening.

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