Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The US Passport Card – Why can’t the U.S. Federal government do ANYTHING in a timely fashion?

(I wrote a short post about US Passport Cards earlier. But as I read more about it, I started to get really annoyed about the way the government has handled it. The result of my rant is below.)

If you need to make frequent land crossings between the U.S. and Canada or Mexico, the U.S. Passport Card could work for you. It really is a great idea. And as is typical with so many things proposed by the U.S. Federal government, it is being implemented late.

Efforts have increased since 911 to make U.S. borders more secure. These very same efforts have made it difficult for Mexicans and Canadians, who often have legitimate requirements for frequent visits to the U.S., to make quick and smooth transitions through border control.

Because of how easy it is to obtain fraudulent drivers’ licenses, a new policy was developed out of a desire to reduce reliance on the licenses for entry into this. The first phase of the new rule went into effect Dec 31, 2005, which required all U.S. citizens, traveling by air or sea, to or from the Caribbean, as well as Central and South America, to have passports.

The result of this ruling caused, literally, a months’ long backlog to obtain a U.S. passport. The Department of State was totally unprepared for the volume of applications. Even when it became apparent that the State Department was woefully understaffed, it still took an inordinate amount of time to hire and train additional staff to shorten the wait time from an unacceptable 4-6 months.

The next phase, which would apply these documentation rules to all air and sea travel to or from Mexico and Canada, began a year later. And the last phase, which affects the most people, took effect on Dec. 31, 2007, applying the requirement to all air, sea and land border crossings with Mexico and Canada.

Many border communities requested an alternative to a traditional passport. In response, the Department of State announced a proposal for developing a card-format passport for travel between the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda. It would be a limited use wallet-sized card that would cost significantly less than a traditional passport. The media note for this card was released October 17, 2006.

Now, fast forward (if such a term is at all possible when referring to the United States government) and applications are finally, now, being taken for this card. Production is projected to start next month. That is June 2008 for a policy that was implemented LAST December. If a passport card will work for you, better get in line fast.

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