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Passport changes go in effect

For those planning on taking a road trip or cruise outside the country, plan ahead.

New travel regulations from the United States Department of State requiring all citizens re-entering the U.S. to present a valid passport took effect Monday.

Previously, citizens could present any document establishing identification and citizenship, such as a driver’s license and a birth certificate.

“This has been out there for over a year,” said Ruth Nagy, managing director for AAA central. “It’s one of those things that everyone knew was coming.”

The new regulation is a part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative resulting from the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 and covers Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean nations.

Despite the economic recession, Nagy said she does not think the travel industry will be affected.

“From a traveling standpoint, it’s really not having a huge impact,” she said. “It’s nothing that’s going to stop people from traveling internationally.”

Steve Call, an instructor of travel, hospitality, business management and recreation at Ohio University Southern said he thinks the new rules will have a positive effect.

“I think it will simplify matters for people who do want to travel internationally,” he said. “By standardizing the form of travel documentation it makes it easier for everyone involved. In the past, there’s just been too many gray areas.”

To obtain a passport for the first time, a passport application must be filled out, citizenship and identification must be verified and a fee must be paid. Call recommends planning a trip 6 to 12 months in advance for an international trip, depending on the complexity.

For those travelers who just want to take a trip by car, Nagy recommends getting a passport card, a cheaper passport that can only be used for land travel.

“If all they typically do is that trip across to Canada or a few weekends in Canada, a passport card might be the better choice,” she said.

However, Call said that at $10 a year for 10 years, a passport book is one of the best deals the government offers.

Ironton residents can apply for a passport at the U.S. Post Office at 214 N. Fourth St. between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday thru Friday and between 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday. A passport book costs a total of $100 and a card costs a total of $45.

Applicants can bring a photo or have one taken by the post office.

More information can be found at http://travel.state.gov.