July 10, 2010 in City

Accent on cost

The high cost of traveling out of the country is about to get more expensive as passport fees take a hike
The Spokesman-Review
 

Passport fees will jump dramatically on Tuesday, so if you’re planning on traveling outside the United States soon, apply now to save money. The increase hits every kind of passport product – the traditional passport books, plus extra pages for frequent travelers; passport cards; and passport renewals.

Passport books are necessary for air travel from any foreign country. Passport cards may be used only for entering the states through land borders (Mexico and Canada) or sea ports-of-entry from destinations such as the Caribbean and Bermuda. For example, someone may apply for a passport card if they travel frequently by car to Canada for business. However, if individuals need to travel by air from any foreign country back to the States, they must have a passport book.

Background: Passport fees are set by the State Department, and the fees are based on the cost of services, said Teresa Bobotek, a department spokeswoman in Seattle. Services that affect fees include assistance abroad during arrests, financial and medical emergencies, and natural disasters, according to the department.

There are two parts to a passport application fee: the passport fee, which goes to the State Department, and the facility fee, which goes to the processor. The increase will occur in the passport fee, while the application fee remains $25. An adult passport now will cost $135, $25 of which goes to the processor, such as a post office branch.

What changes: Fees for an adult passport book will jump $35 for first-time applicants, and $20 for those under 16. Some people buy a book and a card – the cost of that combination goes up $45 – but they pay the $25 facility fee only once. Additional pages, which have been free, will cost $82. Processors also may charge a $15 fee for snapping a photo. Applicants may bring in their own photos as long as they meet federal guidelines, found at www.travel.state.gov. The fee for expedited processing remains $60.

Tip for frequent travelers: For people who travel frequently, rather than pay for additional pages, request a 52-page passport. Travelers can do this by attaching a note with their application, Bobotek said.

To apply: Every out-of-country traveler, regardless of age, needs a passport and must apply in person. For children 15 and younger, both parents or legal guardians must be present when applying. Applicants must bring an application, available online or at any post office branch; proof of citizenship, such as a certified birth document (photocopies are not accepted); and identification, such as a driver’s license or official photo ID.

Revenue down: Generally, the number of passports processed and the revenue generated from them has decreased. Lisa Nystuen, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service in Spokane, and Bobotek attribute the decline in applicants to the recession. In June, passport revenue locally was down 23 percent compared with June 2009, Nystuen said.


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