On Dec. 31, 2006, new national regulations went into effect across the United States, barring any air travel from Canada, Mexico, South America and the Caribbean to the United States without a U.S. passport. This is regardless of U.S. citizenship and personal identification.
The use of passports is nothing new to cross-continental travelers, for whom such a document has been required since the late 18th century. However, this is the first time that the United States has required citizens to carry passports when traveling within North and South America and the surrounding islands.
Senior Waleed Mahmood, a communication major at Geneseo and a Pakistani national applying for U.S. citizenship, is highly critical of the new regulations. "The United States government is only making it more difficult for itself. International and personal freedoms should grow. Instead, we are just cutting ourselves off from the greater world because of fear." Yet, despite some concerns of isolationism, the new border regulations passed the Senate without significant opposition.
Would-be travelers are urged to visit the U.S. State Department's Web site (http://travel.state.gov) which includes helpful information on requirements for obtaining a passport. Applicants are required to bring two personal photographs, proof of U.S. citizenship and a valid photo identification such as a driver's license. Lastly, applicants must come in person when applying for the first time, if their expired passport has been lost, stolen or is otherwise not in their possession, if their passport was issued to them before they turned 16, or if their passport was issued more than 15 years ago.
There are more than 9,000 passport acceptance facilities scattered across the United States, and two such offices are located right in the village of Geneseo. Dr. Stephen Burwood, assistant provost of International Affairs, often reminds students of this. "We have one on each end of Main Street: the County Courthouse can issue a passport, as well as the post office." Burwood is keenly aware of the confusion that accompanies dealing with changing border policies. "Whenever a student successfully enters one of our Study Abroad programs, we tell them to get a passport. It's best to apply for a passport six to eight weeks before departure, and we encourage students to do it as soon as possible."
Born in Exeter, England, Burwood first came to the United States as part of a study abroad program over 20 years ago. He stated that international study has surged in the 30 years, and does not expect that the new regulations will affect this trend. "Statistics have shown that people have adjusted well to the new regulations and have taken the simple steps it requires in order to obtain a passport."
Still, the real test of the new border regulations will come at the end of this year, when on Dec. 31, 2007, it will become illegal to travel by land or sea to Mexico and Canada without having a passport. This will include students making daytrips to Niagara Falls or spending weekends in Toronto.