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With More Changes Afoot, Residents Urged to Get Passports


With More Changes Afoot, Residents Urged to Get Passports
Jan. 16, 2008 — With entry requirements continuing to change, Lt. Gov. Gregory Francis is urging residents to get passports now.
"We're encouraging people to get them sooner rather than later," Celeste Lawrence, spokeswoman at the Lieutenant Governor's Office, said.
That's because more confusion is about to unfold. Last year's changes aggravated many U.S. citizens as they tried to figure out the new Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative implemented in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
When the dust settled, it turned out that U.S. citizens did not need a passport to fly to or between the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. mainland. Instead, they could get by with identification such as a birth certificate and photo identification.
Now that that matter's been laid to rest, the federal government is about to release another set of new regulations that call for proper identification for land and sea travel by Jan. 31. According to the U.S. State Department's website, all adult travelers will be required to present proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, and proof of identity, such as a driver’s license, when entering the United States through land and sea ports of entry.
Children ages 18 and under will only be required to present proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate. Previously, oral declarations were accepted for adults and children, the website indicated.
However, this identification regulation will change and by June 2009, a passport will be needed for a road trip through Canada, Mexico and the U.S. mainland since you won't be able to get across the border without it.
At issue for U.S. Virgin Islands residents are trips to the British Virgin Islands. According to BVI Customs Ofc. Maudlyn Richards, in the absence of a passport, U.S. citizens need an original or notarized copy of their birth certificate and at least one piece of photo identification such as a driver's license if traveling between the BVI and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Richards said that if you're a green card holder living in the U.S. Virgin Islands, you can visit the BVI with your green card and a valid passport from your country of origin.
"And I emphasize the word 'valid,'" she said.
If you're visiting from, say, St. Kitts, for example, but don't have a green card, you can still visit the BVI with your valid passport and a ticket to your return country. In this example, that would be St. Kitts.
A passport is needed for air travel to the BVI, but for those sailing there or island-hopping from the U.S. Virgin Islands, a passport or an original or notarized copy of your birth certificate and at least one photo identification are needed.
Thoroughly confused? Take Francis' advice and just get a passport.
However, according to various published reports on travel-oriented websites, the U.S. State Department expects another set of passport issuing delays similar to the one that happened last year when the passport rule first started. Not only were new passport applicants caught up in the mess, but those unfortunate folks who needed to renew their passports during that particular time frame spent many weeks waiting.
To get your initial passport, you must visit the passport office at the Lieutenant Governor's offices on St. Thomas and St. Croix. A passport agent is at the St. John Administrator's office from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Passports may be renewed by mail. For those under 16, and the charge is $82. Renewals run $67.
Applications for initial passports and renewals are available at travel.state.gov.
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