Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Travel Documents: Get it Right

Travel Documents . . . .  Get it wrong and you can't imagine the hassle to which you are opening yourself.  Don't be like the Chicago Couple that got to Mexico and were sent right back to Chicago because one had a passport (and could have stayed) and the other had a "Passport Card" and could not use it to enter the country.

"But," you say, "there are so many of them. There is my Driver's License or state issued official ID; there is by Birth Certificate; there is a passport and a passport card; and, who knows what else. (Hint: your travel agent knows what else).

Your travel Agent knows the documentation you need for whatever your travel plans may be. So my very first piece of advice is to work with your travel agent as you plan your travel. Travel agents generally are knowledgeable about the government requirements for travel and who may travel and where they my travel. 

Let me begin by suggesting you start with the basics. The basic travel document for a U.S. citizen traveling abroad and more and more here at home is a U.S. Passport. Consequently, we here at Texas Cruise and Travel recommend that all our clients obtain a U.S. Passport.  

This document is acceptable identification for all kinds of travel both inside and outside of the United States. This is Americas basic travel documentation for its citizens and is recognized as such internationally.  A U.S. Passport is good for ten (10) years from date of issue and should be renewed at least 6 months prior to its expiration date. Passports are available through the U.S. State Department and certain Consulates and the process can be initiated online and completed via the United Sates Postal Service.  The cost is $110 per passport and requires a government defined photo as well as the appropriate paperwork.  Most people will also be required to submit an original certified copy of their birth certificate. Check the United States Department of State website for latest information on obtaining and maintaining a U.S.A. Passport. 

If you have a trip planned you might try using a Passport/Visa expediting service. This is a company that takes your documents and literally walks them through the process. This is not a free service and can be pricey depending on many factors. It is, however, an option for those who need their passport now and can't walk it through themselves.  

For persons who are only going to use their federally issued ID for cruises or travel to certain preapproved regions or countries and who are not going to be traveling by air the Passport Card is a less expensive option. The United States State Department warns that:

"The U.S. Passport Card can be used to enter the United States from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda at land border crossings or sea ports-of-entry and is more convenient and less expensive than a passport book. The passport card cannot be used for international travel by air." 

So, if you plan to travel to Mexico or Canada by land (non-air) transportation (walking, car, bus, train etc) or to the Caribbean or Bermuda by ship this may be your choice for a Federal identification document. It is intended primarily for people who go back and forth from the United States and either Mexico and Canada on a regular basis by land and for people cruising the Caribbean but returning to their port of embarkation. It has other specialized uses.  

You should note that if you travel by land to any of the authorized destination  on a Passport Card ID and have an emergency that requires flying home you may need to visit the U.S. Consulate or Embassy and you will face a long delay returning home.  We do not recommend this form of documentation because of it's limited use. Unless you have family in Canada or Mexico and you travel only by land we recommend paying a few dollars more and get a passport. 

You should also keep in mind that many countries require you to obtain a Visa to enter the country. That is why I suggest you work with your Travel Agent when making travel plans that include leaving United States territorial jurisdiction.

By the way, if you travel frequently we also suggest that you speak with your travel agent about obtaining a TSA Pre® status or obtaining a Global Entry Card.