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New passport rules change to enter U.S.

ANDREWS AFB, Md. -- All persons, including U.S. citizens, traveling by air between the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda are required to present a valid passport, Air NEXUS card, Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Document or a Form I-551, Alien Registration Card, as of Jan. 23, if applicable, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. 

These changes were mandated by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 and Congress amended portions of the Act in 2006. 

"The new plan requires all travelers, including foreign nationals and U.S. citizens, to present a passport or a combination of approved documents that confirm identity and citizenship prior to entering the United States," said Tech. Sgt. Michael Towne, 316th Antiterrorism Office NCOIC. "This new change is a part of the recommendation of the Sept. 11 commission and strengthens U.S. boarder security. In a nutshell, the Department of Homeland Defense will now have secure and reliable documentation that accurately identifies travelers. The problem in the past was many forms of identification, such as driver's license, state identification cards and birth certificates, have been forged with relative ease. Passports have built in safeguards and are standardized for better scrutiny." 

According to the department, the new requirement doesn't exclude children and infants who are required to have their own passports when entering the United States by air.
"There are a few exceptions to the program," said Sergeant Towne. The passport requirement doesn't apply to U.S. citizens traveling to or returning directly from a U.S. territory and Active Duty members are exempt. The new change doesn't affect those arriving to the U.S. via seaports or land borders; that will come later. Legislation could take place as early as Jan. 1, 2008. 

"My advice is to be ready for change," said Sergeant Towne. "Whether you think you need a passport or not, now is the time to ensure you and your family have one for future use. Having a U.S. passport at any overseas location is a recommended personal protective measure in lieu of using a military identification card." 

Passport applications are available at post offices. For more information about the passport process, call 800-ASK-USPS or visit http://www.usps.com /passports.
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