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Caribbean Passport Information

Don't forget that passport

By Lisa Mullins Bishop, Caribbean Edge Staff Writer

If you are planning a trip to the Caribbean later this year, make sure you pack a valid U.S. passport. Effective December 31, 2005, all U.S. citizens returning from the Caribbean, Bermuda, and Central and South America must show a valid U.S. passport to re-enter the United States. This is a significant change from past policy where no passport was needed to re-enter the U.S. or to enter some Caribbean countries.

This change is mandated by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 1994. According to Homeland Security Acting Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security, Randy Beardsworth, "Our goal is to strengthen border security and expedite entry into the United States for U.S. citizens and legitimate foreign visitors. By ensuring that travelers possess secure documents, such as the passport, Homeland Security will be able to conduct more effective and efficient interviews at our borders."

Travelers to Mexico are not affected under this phase, but will be required to show a passport upon re-entry to the United States effective December 31, 2006.

If you don't have a passport, keep in mind it takes 6-8 weeks to process a passport, and the busiest season for issuing this document is from January to June. For information on applying for a passport, visit the Department of State web site at http://www.travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html.

So if you will be visiting the Caribbean or Bermuda this holiday season, don't forget your passport.

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