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Passports now needed to return from Mexico, Canada
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Americans planning a summer vacation to the Caribbean islands, Bermuda, Canada, or Mexico now might need to make a stop at their local passport office before hitting the road.
New U.S. Department of Homeland Security regulations, which went into effect on Monday, require all American citizens, regardless of age, to have a passport or passport card to gain reentry into the United States from several foreign countries that did not previously require such documentation.
“When coming home from these destinations, travelers used to be able to use different forms of ID such as voter registration cards and birth certificates to get back into the United States,” said Matt Skryja, AAA Northern California spokesperson, “but those are no longer accepted”
Passport books are $100 for citizens age 16 or older, or $85 for those under age 16. The new passport card, which features an embedded radio frequency identification chip which syncs with government databases, is available for just $45 for those 16 or older, or $35 for those under 16, but is not valid for air travel.
Those applying for a U.S. Passport must present evidence of U.S. citizenship, valid identification, a completed application form, and two identical passport photos, which are required to meet certain State Department criteria.
Stanislaus County passport offices are reporting only a slight uptick in local passport applications since the new regulations were announced, but the effects of increased demand nationwide are placing a strain on the Department of State, which processes and distributes passports.
According to Cathi Erbe with the Modesto City Clerk’s Office, one of only two authorized passport offices in Stanislaus County, someone who applies for a passport today can expect to receive their travel documents in four to six weeks. Expedited applications, which cost an additional $60, reduce that processing time to two to three weeks.
“There is a bit longer wait than usual,” said Stanislaus County Clerk-Recorder Lee Lundrigan, who manages the other passport office in the county. “Over the last month or so there have been more applications for passports.”
Lundrigan credited the federal government and local passport officials for conducting outreach over the past year warning of the new regulations, so as to avoid excessive wait times as travelers scramble to obtain passports at the last second.
Last year this time, when passports became a requirement for international air travel, the sudden rush for the documents overwhelmed the State Department, creating unreasonable waiting periods.
“This is a big improvement,” Lundrigan said. “Last year this time, the wait for a passport was around two months.”
For more information on obtaining a passport, visit or call the Stanislaus County Clerk-Recorder’s Office at 525-5250.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.