Spring break in Mexico or Canada? Pack your passport

Erik Ebsen

Erik Ebsen

Travelers, including students, looking to leave the U.S. will soon need passports to get into Mexico or Canada.

The change is taking place in two steps. All U.S. citizens traveling by air into another country must have passports after Jan. 23, 2007. Citizens traveling by land or sea will not be required to carry a passport until Jan. 1, 2008, according to U.S. Department of State Web site.

That means travelers can still drive across the Canadian or Mexican border in 2007 without a passport. This year’s spring breakers only need a passport if they fly.

But once the requirement takes full effect, U.S. border officials will ask everyone entering the country to show a passport, citizens included, said Karl Schmidt, SDSU director of international affairs.

“If you travel outside the U.S., you need a passport,” he said.

Passports are available through the U.S. Post Office. The Brookings office offers applications from 10 a.m. to noon, and 2 to 4 p.m. Applicants must compete the form and supply a small photo.

Currently travelers only need a birth certificate and marriage license to enter Canada or Mexico.

Those countries haven’t announced any changes in travel policies-only the U.S. has. So while Americans may not be asked for passports upon entering Canada or Mexico, they will be upon re-entering the U.S.

Travelers taking day trips off of cruise ships are excluded from the passport requirement, said Lisa Hurd, a postal clerk at the Brookings Post Office

Schmidt called the requirement a U.S. security issue. Hurd blamed the change on terrorism.

The U.S. wants more documentation from travelers entering the nation, to prove “you are who you say you are,” she said.

Karen Gores is a travel agent for Village Travel in Brookings. She doesn’t believe the requirement will change how Americans travel, despite the added expense of a passport.

“People are always going to travel,” Gores said.

Village Travel has always recommended passports, she said, because they’re more convenient than other forms of documentation. Agents always advise travelers about their destinations.

“We encourage people to get passports,” Gores said.