Passports Requirements Change October 1st
A critical deadline is approaching that will affect Oklahomans traveling by air within the Western Hemisphere. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that anyone leaving the U.S. on or after October 1st will be required to show their passport to reenter the country. The Department of State (DOS) is about to end the temporary Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) accommodation that allowed travelers to only show proof that they had applied for a passport, even if one had not been issued to them. This accommodation is ending very soon.
In previous years, travelers reentering the U.S. after flying in from bordering countries in the Western Hemisphere were granted entry to the country after showing a form of identification, such as a driver's license or birth certificate. But, this procedure changed after the laws implemented by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 came into effect on January 23rd of this year. The new requirements stipulated that all U.S. citizens traveling by air must have a passport to enter the United States if they are arriving from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean or Bermuda.
In February of this year, U.S. passport agencies began to feel the strain of the changes as an even larger number of passport requests were submitted. As a result, thousands of Oklahomans found themselves on the verge of international travel, but without the necessary passports. Between February and mid-July of this year, my office was approached by thousands of residents of the Fourth District who desperately needed assistance getting their passports located, processed and delivered. By working with United States passport agency officials, we were able to get the necessary documents for couples to go on their honeymoons, youth groups to take their mission trips and families to go on their summer vacations. It was an amazing team effort, and I am proud of the work that went into making sure that so many Oklahomans were able to get to their travel destinations.
And, to further assist travelers from Oklahoma’s Fourth Congressional District, it is important to highlight new changes that are taking place when applying for a passport. The latest update from the DOS recommends that individuals submit their requests for passports between 10 and 12 weeks before flying on a trip. If you are traveling in the future, please take note of the new policies and prepare accordingly for the procedures that will be in place after the temporary WHTI accommodations come to an end October 1st. If you are planning to fly within the Western Hemisphere, make sure and submit your passport application early so that you will have the documents ready before the trip.
In the meantime, my office is prepared for a possible new wave of passport status inquires and to meet that need I have posted a website form located in the "services" section of my website (www.house.gov/cole) that can be used to send a request to my office for a passport follow-up. Also, please do not hesitate to call any of my offices if I can assist you to locate your passport submission. I want to make sure that Oklahomans get the documents they need in a timely manner so they can enjoy a great vacation experience.