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Need to get away? You may need to have a passport ready

People traveling to Canada, Mexico, Central or South America, the Caribbean or Bermuda this spring may now need a passport to travel, something that wasn’t always required in the past. Since acquiring a passport can take as many as eight weeks, those traveling for spring break may need to act quickly.
According to the U.S. Dept. of State, as of Jan. 23, anyone traveling to those areas by air may be required to present a valid passport upon entry back into the United States. As early as Jan. 1, 2008, persons traveling to those areas by land or sea may be required to present a valid passport.
The Harrison Circuit Court Clerk’s office accepted applications for 285 passports last year. They just accepted 65 more last month due to the new passport restrictions that began two weeks ago.
‘We’re definitely going to top (285) this year,’ Circuit Clerk Sherry Brown said.
Brown said passports can be applied for at the clerk’s office, a service she implemented in May 2005.
‘It’s been a benefit to the public not to travel as far,’ Brown said.
Before, the nearest place to apply for a passport was Washington or Floyd counties.
The application fees are $97 for a person 16 and older, and $82 for a person under 16. Included in that fee is an application execution fee of $30 for each passport, which goes directly to the agency accepting the applications. That fee is set by the U.S. Dept. of State.
Since the clerk’s office began accepting passport applications, the office has generated more than $10,000 for the county’s general fund. Before, Washington and Floyd counties would have gotten that money.
Applications can be picked up in the clerk’s office; a portion of the application can be filled out at home. There is a section that must be filled out at the clerk’s office.
A person applying for a passport must show proof of citizenship and proof of identity. They must submit two recent color photographs that meet certain requirements. Photographs must be taken on a light, white or off-white background. More requirements are listed on the application, including a diagram showing size requirements for passport photographs.
Brown said the Wal-Mart Portrait Studio and the UPS Store in Corydon both take passport photographs. However, she said she has received a few photographs with a black background that were taken at Wal-Mart.
Both Wal-Mart and the UPS Store say a person will have their photographs back the same day they are taken. Wal-Mart charges $10.47 for the set of photographs.
Mary Stange, owner of the local UPS Store, said her store charges $12.95 for passport photographs, which are taken and developed instantly in the store. Depending on how busy the store is, Stange said, a person is usually out in 10 minutes. Stange also said they always use a white background.
Passports can be processed faster if a person uses an expedited service. The service takes two weeks but costs $157 for a person 16 and older and $142 for a person under 16.
The new passport requirements do no apply to U.S. citizens traveling to or returning directly from a U.S. territory (Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Swains Island and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands).
The new restrictions came after The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 required the Dept. of Homeland Security and Dept. of State to develop and implement a plan to require all travelers ‘ U.S. citizens and foreign nationals alike ‘ to present a passport or other document, or a combination of documents, that prove identity and citizenship when entering the United States.
More than 70 million U.S. citizens hold valid passports, an estimated quarter of the eligible population. The number of passport applications and issuances continues to grow. In fiscal year 2006, the U.S. Dept. of State issued more than 12.1 million passports.