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Passport requests increase with new law

| January 25, 2007 11:00 PM

By GWEN ALBERS Western News Reporter

Requests for passport photos have nearly doubled at For His Glory Photography in Libby.

A law that went into effect on Tuesday, Jan. 23, requiring a passport for air travel to places like Canada is part of the reason, said Roxanne Escudero, owner of the studio at 114 W. Third St.

"I think people just want to beat the rush and have them," Escudero said. "I'm also doing a lot for a church taking a mission trip to Mexico next summer."

Any U.S. citizen traveling by air between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda is now required to present a passport.

As early as Jan. 1, 2008, the same may hold true for anyone driving or taking a boat between the same countries.

At the Lincoln County Courthouse, some days are busier than others when it comes to passport requests, said District Clerk of Court Nadine Pival.

"Some days we have more than others," Pival said. "This month we've had quite a few more. I've even been getting calls at home."

A passport, which is an internationally recognized travel document that verifies one's identity, is $97 plus the cost of the photo, Pival said. It takes six to eight weeks to receive a passport.

A passport is required to enter and leave most foreign countries. For many years, U.S. citizens and some citizens of other countries in the Western Hemisphere including Canada and Mexico have not been required to present a passport to enter the United States. A verbal declaration of citizenship, or other document such as a birth certificate or driver's license was good enough.

What's known as the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative was established with the new requirements in hopes of strengthening border security into the United States.

Passport applicants must have two photographs, proof of U.S. citizenship, and a photo identification such as a driver's license.

At Express Photo at 820 Main Ave. in Libby, owner Bud Journey also has seen requests for passport photos double.

"Everyone thinks you have to have them," Journey said. "Libby always has a surprising number of passport photos. People in this little town travel quite a bit."

Copy This Send That at 918 Idaho Ave. has seen about a 10 percent increase in passport photos.

"It certainly has been on people's minds," said owner Paul Neils. "People are coming in because they are concerned."