Summer is the time of year when many Utahns head out to destinations around the world for vacation. However, planning a vacation can require more than booking flights and hotels; it can mean assuring you have the required documentation for everyone in your group, such as a passport.
With recent changes in the passport and travel laws, and with the yearly peak period for passport applications now in full swing, many Utahns are heading to county clerk offices.
With a high demand and inquiries for passports, county clerks are working to manage those needs, while still attending to their other duties, including elections and marriage licenses. In order to meet this demand, some county clerks have had to designate certain hours for processing passport applications.
The recent changes to passport laws, which were implemented by the federal government in January, have generated many questions for Utahns planning to travel abroad. Each county wants to assure every Utah resident is up to date with these changes, which were part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). U.S. citizens are required to have a passport, passport card, or a WHTI-compliant document when traveling outside of the U.S.
Those traveling to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean or Bermuda now must carry a passport. However, due to the passport requirements of continental travel, which went into effect in February 2008, people have had the opportunity to apply for a new, limited-use, and wallet-size passport card, which are only valid for land and sea travel between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean region, and Bermuda.
County clerk offices here in Utah have already seen a drastic increase in applications. We spoke with various county clerks and many of them have seen more people preparing for travel this summer and are either applying for their first passport or applying for their children's passports. Most of the offices expect the number to double the numbers from previous years due to the federal changes.
There are many ways for Utahns to assure that they are properly prepared for travel, which will not only help the county clerks, but will also assure that travelers receive their passport in a timely manner. County clerks recommend the following tips to upcoming travelers:
Tips for passport applicants:
Remember to apply for your passport well in advance. The average waiting period is 4-6 weeks, and during travel seasons, it could take up to 10 weeks.
Be ready to gather and submit all required items for processing (identification, fee payment, etc.). Check with your local county clerk for a list of specific requirements.
Cruises often require passports (sometimes in the event of an emergency).
Familiarize yourself with local laws and customs. Remember, when in a foreign country, you are subject to the laws of the country.
Make two photocopies of your passport identification page. Leave one at home. Carry the other in your luggage (Not with your passport).
Leave a copy of your itinerary with family or friends at home.
If you get in serious trouble or if your passport is lost/stolen, call the nearest U.S. Consulate.
For more information on applying for a passport, or to locate and contact your county clerk's office, visit www.uacnet.org.
Utah Association of Counties (UAC) is a unifying voice for all of the 29 counties in Utah. The purpose of the UAC is to improve the operation of Utah's county governments and, thereby the services counties provide to their residents.
Whether working to provide animal services, recreation facilities or services for the senior population, each of the counties provide crucial resources for maintaining a positive quality of life in Utah. For more information about UAC, visit www.uacnet.org