State Department Revises Passport Deadlines -- Again!

October 18, 2006
Passport Delay Announcement Confuses -- Here's The Scoop (October 4)
U.S. Extends Passport Deadline Again (September 7)
Latest Passport Extension is Boost for Short Cruise Travelers! (July 30)

Just when it looked like the passport deadline extension for cruisers traveling to Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean -- originally slated for January 8, 2007 and then moved to June 1, 2009 -- was a done deal, comes word from the State Department that, er, it's not. Sort of.

Yes, this just in: In an announcement dated today, the U.S. Department of State now says that the timeline has possibly [emphasis ours] been rejiggered. We think.

Since this issue has been so confusing and so bizarrely handled from the get-go, we'll just quote from their statement: "It is anticipated that on January 1, 2008, U.S. citizens traveling between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Bermuda by land or sea [emphasis theirs] (including ferries), may be required to present a valid U.S. passport or other documents as determined by the Department of Homeland Security."

The announcement goes on to further confuse and complicate the issue: "While recent legislature changes may permit a later deadline, both the Departments of State and Homeland Security are working to put all requirements in place by the original deadline."

We ask: which is the original deadline? The January 8, 2007 requirement? Or the extensive extension -- announced in early October -- that said that cruise travelers heading to those regions could now have until June 1, 2009?

And further, today's announcement reports, "Advance notice will be provided to enable the public to meet the land/sea border announcement." Whew. That's a relief.

We're not the only ones confused. So too are the cruise lines, which are reporting a range of versions of what is required. Holland America has noted the June 1, 2009 extension; Carnival and Princess are sticking with January 8, 2007.

Mind you, there's no change to the requirement for folks traveling by air to foreign locales, who need to have passports on hand. That stays at January 8, 2007.

Our call to the U.S. State Department's public affairs folks has not yet been returned, but we'll keep you posted. Also feel free to check out its Web site.

--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor