US Relaxes Some PassportUS Relaxes Some Passport Rules

WASHINGTON ~ The US State Department has announced it is temporarily easing restrictions imposed this year that require Americans to have passports to travel to Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Bermuda.

“Longer-than-expected processing times for passport applications in the face of record-breaking demand” led to the changes that will remain in effect through September 30, reversing a requirement enacted in January of this year as part of a 2004 terror prevention act, a statement said.

The requirement led to a massive backlog of passport applications ahead of the summer travel season, with applications surging 33 percent over the same period last year, the State Department said after earlier putting the figure at 37 percent.

The office “set new records in March and April, issuing more than three million passports to Americans planning international travel,” the statement said, adding that extra staff were being hired to cope with the overload.

US travelers to those locations must still be able to show proof that they have applied for a passport, even if it has not yet arrived, as well as government-issued picture identification.

Americans heading to other foreign locations must continue to show a valid passport, and the rule change does not apply to travelers coming into the United States.

An estimated 78 million Americans, or 25 percent of the population, currently hold passports.

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