The U.S. Department of State issued the following Travel Alert on June 9, 2011:
This Travel Alert updates the Travel Alert for Japan dated May 16, 2011. This Travel Alert expires on August 15, 2011.
Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant
While the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi plant remains serious and dynamic, the health and safety risks to land areas which are outside a 50-mile radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are low and do not pose significant risks to U.S. citizens.
Out of an abundance of caution, we continue to recommend that U.S. citizens avoid travel to destinations within the 50-mile evacuation zone of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. U.S. citizens who are still within this zone should evacuate or shelter in place.
On May 16, the U.S. Government updated its recommendation for the principal transport routes between Tokyo and Sendai that run through the 50-mile evacuation zone. These transport routes are currently open to public use. The U.S. Government believes the health and safety risks associated with using these transport routes are low, and that it is safe for U.S. citizens to use the Tohoku Shinkansen railway and Tohoku Expressway to transit through the area. This guidance is based on measurements taken by U.S. Government scientists; more information may be found at the Department of Energy website, http://blog.energy.gov/content/situation-japan/. This updated guidance on the main railway and expressway routes corresponds to that issued by Japanese authorities.
The U.S. Government also advises that ships operating near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant should follow the U.S. Coast Guard’s recommendations. Information may be found at the U.S. Coast Guard’s website: http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/
Risk of Aftershocks
Japan is one of the most seismically active areas in the world. Aftershocks following an earthquake of this magnitude can be expected to continue for more than a year. Identifying potential hazards ahead of time and advance planning can reduce the dangers of serious injury or loss of life from an earthquake. See the Embassy Website for detailed information on earthquake safety:
American Citizen Services
U.S. citizens in Japan are encouraged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). U.S. citizens without internet access may enroll directly at the U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulates. By enrolling, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy/Consulates to contact them in case of emergency.
For the latest U.S. Government information on the situation in Japan, please visit the Embassy website at http://japan.usembassy.gov. Updated information on travel and security in Japan may also be obtained from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1 -202-501-4444. For further information, please consult the Country Specific Information for Japan, as well as the Worldwide Caution.
For any emergencies involving U.S. citizens, please contact the American Citizens Services (ACS) Unit of either the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo or one of the U.S. Consulates in Japan listed below:
U.S. Embassy in Tokyo
American Citizen Services
1-10-5 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-8420
After Hours: 03-3224-5000
The U.S. Embassy serves U.S. citizens in Tokyo, Chiba, Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki, Kanagawa, Nagano, Niigata, Saitama, Shizuoka, Tochigi, Yamagata and Yamanashi.
Osaka-Kobe: 11-5, Nishitenma 2-chome, Kita-ku, Osaka 530-8543; Tel: 06- 6315-5912, Fax: 06-6315-5914; serving Americans in Osaka, Tel: 06-6315-5912, Fax: 06- 6315-5914; serving U.S. citizens in Osaka, Aichi, Ehime, Fukui, Gifu, Hiroshima, Hyogo, Ishikawa, Kagawa, Kochi, Kyoto, Mie, Nara, Okayama, Shimane, Shiga, Tokushima, Tottori, Toyama, and Wakayama prefectures.
Nagoya: Nagoya International Center Bldg. 6th floor, 1-47-1 Nagano, Nakamura-ku, Nagoya 450-0001; Tel (052) 581-4501, Fax: (052) 581-3190; providing emergency consular services only (including death and arrest cases) for Americans living in Aichi, Gifu, and Mie prefectures.
Fukuoka: 5-26, Ohori 2-chome, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka 810-0052; Tel: 092-751-9331, Fax: 092-713-9222; serving U.S. citizens in Fukuoka, Kagoshima, Kumamoto, Miyazaki, Nagasaki, Oita, Saga and Yamaguchi prefectures.
Sapporo: Kita 1-jo, Nishi 28-chome, Chuo-ku, Sapporo 064-0821; Tel: 011- 641-1115, Fax: 011-643-1283; serving U.S. citizens in Akita, Aomori, Hokkaido, Iwate and Miyagi prefectures.
Naha: 2-1-1 Toyama, Urasoe City, Okinawa 901-2104; Phone: 098.876.4211, Fax: 098.876.4243, DSN: 645-7323; serving U.S. citizens in Okinawa and the Amami Oshima Island group
Today, the U.S. State Department issued a new travel warning covering Mexico. It is one of the longest and most detailed we have seen. The State Department has added a number of states to the areas that may be unsafe for travelers interested in visiting Mexico. The complete text of the message is provided below.
We have added highlights to help you find the areas and cities mentioned as dangerous. We would like to assert, as does the State Department, that millions of travelers safeky visit Mexico every year and the government of Mexico takes significant precautions to protect these visitors. However, the situation in Mexico appears to be deteriorating and travelers intending to visit Mexico should exhibit significant caution during their travels.
State Department Travel Warning Starts Here
This information is current as of today, Fri May 07 07:55:51 2010.
May 06, 2010
The Department of State has issued this Travel Warning to inform U.S. citizens traveling to and living in Mexico about the security situation in Mexico, and to advise that the authorized departure of family members of U.S. government personnel from U.S. Consulates in the northern Mexico border cities of Tijuana, Nogales, Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, Monterrey and Matamoros has been extended. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning for Mexico dated April 12, 2010 to note the extension of authorized departure and to update guidance on security conditions and crime.
Millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year. This includes tens of thousands who cross the border every day for study, tourism or business and at least one million U.S. citizens who live in Mexico. The Mexican government makes a considerable effort to protect U.S. citizens and other visitors to major tourist destinations. Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime reported in the border region and in areas along major drug trafficking routes. Nevertheless, crime and violence are serious problems. While most victims of violence are Mexican citizens associated with criminal activity, the security situation poses serious risks for U.S. citizens as well.
It is imperative that U.S. citizens understand the risks involved in travel to Mexico, how best to avoid dangerous situations, and who to contact if one becomes a victim of crime or violence. Common-sense precautions such as visiting only legitimate business and tourist areas during daylight hours, and avoiding areas where criminal activity might occur, can help ensure that travel to Mexico is safe and enjoyable. U.S. citizen victims of crime in Mexico are urged to contact the consular section of the nearest U.S. Consulate or Embassy for advice and assistance. Contact information is provided at the end of this message.
Since 2006, the Mexican government has engaged in an extensive effort to combat drug-trafficking organizations (DTOs). Mexican DTOs, meanwhile, have been engaged in a vicious struggle with each other for control of trafficking routes. In order to combat violence, the government of Mexico has deployed military troops throughout the country. U.S. citizens should expect to encounter military and other law enforcement checkpoints when traveling in Mexico and are urged to cooperate fully. In confrontations with the Mexican army and police, DTOs have employed automatic weapons and grenades. In some cases, assailants have worn full or partial police or military uniforms and have used vehicles that resemble police vehicles. According to published reports, 22,700 people have been killed in narcotics-related violence since 2006. The great majority of those killed have been members of DTOs. However, innocent bystanders have been killed in shootouts between DTOs and Mexican law enforcement.
Recent violent attacks and persistent security concerns have prompted the U.S. Embassy to urge U.S. citizens to defer unnecessary travel to Michoacán and Tamaulipas, to parts of Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Durango, and Coahuila, (see details below) and to advise U.S. citizens residing or traveling in those areas to exercise extreme caution.
Violence Along the U.S.-Mexico Border
Much of the country’s narcotics-related violence has occurred in the northern border region. For example, since 2006, three times as many people have been murdered in Ciudad Juarez, in the state of Chihuahua, across from El Paso, Texas, than in any other city in Mexico. More than half of all Americans killed in Mexico in FY 2009 whose deaths were reported to the U.S. Embassy were killed in the border cities of Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana.
Since 2006, large firefights have taken place in towns and cities in many parts of Mexico, often in broad daylight on streets and other public venues. Such firefights have occurred mostly in northern Mexico, including Ciudad Juarez, Tijuana, Chihuahua City, Nogales, Nuevo Laredo, Piedras Negras, Reynosa, Matamoros and Monterrey. During some of these incidents, U.S. citizens have been trapped and temporarily prevented from leaving the area.
The situation in northern Mexico remains fluid; the location and timing of future armed engagements cannot be predicted. U.S. citizens are urged to exercise extreme caution when traveling throughout the region, particularly in those areas specifically mentioned in this Travel Warning.
In recent months, DTOs have used stolen trucks to block major highways and thus prevent the military from responding to criminal activity, most notably in the area around Monterrey. Also in Monterrey, DTOs have kidnapped guests out of reputable hotels in the downtown area, blocking off adjoining streets to prevent law enforcement response. DTOs have also attacked Mexican government facilities such as military barracks and a customs and immigration post.
U.S. citizens should defer non-essential travel to Ciudad Juarez and to the Guadalupe Bravo area southeast of Ciudad Juarez. U.S. citizens should also defer travel to the northwest quarter of the state of Chihuahua, including the city of Nuevas Casas Grandes and surrounding communities. From the United States, these areas are often reached through the Columbus, NM and Fabens and Fort Hancock, TX ports-of-entry. In both areas, American citizens have been victims of drug related violence.
The Consular agency in Reynosa, Tamaulipas was closed temporarily in February 2010 in response to firefights between police and DTOs and between DTOs. In April 2010, a grenade thrown into the Consulate compound at 11:00 PM caused damage to the U.S. Consulate General in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. The Consulate General in Nuevo Laredo and the Consular Agency in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, were closed for one day as a result. The Consulate General in Nuevo Laredo prohibits employees from entering the entertainment zone in Nuevo Laredo known as “Boys Town” because of concerns about violent crime in that area.
Between 2006 and 2009, the number of narcotics-related murders in the state of Durango increased ten-fold. The cities of Durango and Gomez Palacio, and the area known as “La Laguna” in the state of Coahuila, which includes the city of Torreon, have experienced sharp increases in violence. In late 2009 and early 2010, four visiting U.S. citizens were murdered in Gomez Palacio, Durango. These are among several unsolved murders in the state of Durango that have been cause for particular concern.
Travelers on the highways between Monterrey and the United States (notably through Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros) have been targeted for robbery that has resulted in violence and have also been caught in incidents of gunfire between criminals and Mexican law enforcement. Criminals have followed and harassed U.S. citizens traveling in their vehicles in border areas including Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, and Tijuana. U.S. citizens traveling by road to and from the U.S. border through Nuevo Leon, Coahuila, Durango, and Sinaloa should be especially vigilant. Criminals appear to especially target SUVs and full-size pick-up trucks for theft and car-jacking along these routes. DTOs have also erected unauthorized checkpoints on roads and killed motorists who have not stopped at them.
The situation in the state of Chihuahua, specifically Ciudad Juarez, is of special concern. Mexican authorities report that more than 2,600 people were killed in Ciudad Juarez in 2009. Three persons associated with the Consulate General were murdered in March, 2010. U.S. citizens should pay close attention to their surroundings while traveling in Ciudad Juarez, avoid isolated locations during late night and early morning hours, and remain alert to news reports.
There have been recent incidents of serious narcotics-related violence in the vicinity of the Copper Canyon in Chihuahua.
Crime and Violence Throughout Mexico
Although narcotics-related crime is a particular concern along Mexico’s northern border, violence has occurred throughout the country, including in areas frequented by American tourists. U.S. citizens traveling in Mexico should exercise caution in unfamiliar areas and be aware of their surroundings at all times. Bystanders have been injured or killed in violent attacks in cities across the country, demonstrating the heightened risk of violence in public places. In recent years, dozens of U.S. citizens living in Mexico have been kidnapped and most of their cases remain unsolved.
One of Mexico’s most powerful DTOs is based in the state of Sinaloa. Since 2006, more homicides have occurred in the state’s capital city of Culiacan than in any other city in Mexico, with the exception of Ciudad Juarez. Furthermore, the city of Mazatlan has experienced a recent increase in violent crime, with more murders in the first quarter of 2010 than in all of 2009. U.S. citizens should defer unnecessary travel to Culiacan and exercise extreme caution when visiting the rest of the state.
The state of Michoacán is home to another of Mexico’s most dangerous DTOs, “La Familia”. In April 2010, the Secretary for Public Security for Michoacán was shot in a DTO ambush. Security incidents have also occurred in and around the State’s world famous butterfly sanctuaries. In 2008, a grenade attack on a public gathering in Morelia, the state capital, killed eight people. U.S. citizens should exercise extreme caution when traveling in Michoacán, especially outside major tourist areas.
U.S. citizens should also exercise extreme caution when traveling in the northwestern part of the state of Guerrero, which likewise has a strong DTO presence. U.S. citizens should not take the dangerous, isolated road through Ciudad Altamirano to the beach resorts of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo. The popular beach resort of Acapulco has been affected by narcotics-related violence. In April 2010, three innocent bystanders were killed in a shootout between Mexican police and DTO members during broad daylight in one of the city’s main tourist areas. Also that month, numerous incidents of narcotics-related violence occurred in the city of Cuernavaca, in the State of Morelos, a popular destination for American language students.
U.S. citizens traveling to towns and villages with large indigenous communities located predominantly but not exclusively in southern Mexico, should be aware that land disputes between residents and between residents and local authorities have led to violence. In April 2010, two members of a non-governmental aid organization, one of whom was a foreign citizen, were murdered near the village of San Juan Capola in Oaxaca.
U.S. citizens who believe they are being targeted for kidnapping or other crimes should notify Mexican law enforcement officials and the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City or the nearest U.S. consulate as soon as possible. Any U.S. visitor who suspects they are a target should consider returning to the United States immediately. U.S. citizens should be aware that many cases of violent crime are never resolved by Mexican law enforcement, and the U.S. government has no authority to investigate crimes committed in Mexico.
U.S. citizens should make every attempt to travel on main roads during daylight hours, particularly the toll (“cuota”) roads, which generally are more secure. When warranted, the U.S. Embassy and consulates advise their employees as well as private U.S. citizens to avoid certain areas, abstain from driving on certain roads because of dangerous conditions or criminal activity, or recommend driving during daylight hours only. When this happens, the Embassy or the affected consulate will alert the local U.S. citizen Warden network and post the information on their respective websites, indicating the nature of the concern and the expected time period for which the restriction will remain in place.
U.S. citizen visitors are encouraged to stay in the well-known tourist areas. Travelers should leave their itinerary with a friend or family member not traveling with them, avoid traveling alone, and check with their cellular provider prior to departure to confirm that their cell phone is capable of roaming on GSM or 3G international networks. Cell phone coverage in isolated parts of Mexico, for example, the Copper Canyon, is spotty or non-existent.
Do not display expensive-looking jewelry, large amounts of money, or other valuable items. Travelers to remote or isolated venues should be aware that they may be distant from appropriate medical, law enforcement, and consular services in an emergency situation.
U.S. citizens applying for passports or requesting other fee-based services from consulates or the Embassy are encouraged to make arrangements to pay for those services using a non-cash method. U.S. citizens should be alert for credit card fraud, especially outside major commercial establishments.
American employees of the U.S. Embassy are prohibited from hailing taxis on the street in Mexico City because of frequent robberies. American citizens are urged to only use taxis associated with the organized taxi stands (“sitios”) that are common throughout Mexico.
U.S. citizens should be alert to pickpockets and general street crime throughout Mexico, but especially in large cities. Between FY 2006 and FY 2009 the number of U.S. passports reported stolen in Mexico rose from 184 to 288.
Demonstrations and Large Public Gatherings
Demonstrations occur frequently throughout Mexico and usually are peaceful. However, even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate to violence unexpectedly. Violent demonstrations have resulted in deaths, including that of an American citizen in Oaxaca in 2006. During demonstrations or law enforcement operations, U.S. citizens are advised to remain in their homes or hotels, avoid large crowds, and avoid the downtown and surrounding areas.
Demonstrators in Mexico may block traffic on roads, including major arteries, or take control of toll-booths on highways. U.S. citizens should avoid confrontations in such situations.
Since the timing and routes of scheduled marches and demonstrations are always subject to change, U.S. citizens should monitor local media sources for new developments and exercise extreme caution while within the vicinity of protests.
The Mexican Constitution prohibits political activities by foreigners, and such actions may result in detention and/or deportation. U.S. citizens are therefore advised to avoid participating in demonstrations or other activities that might be deemed political by Mexican authorities. As is always the case in any large gathering, U.S. citizens should remain alert to their surroundings.
U.S. citizens are urged to monitor local media for information about fast-breaking situations that could affect their security.
U.S. citizens are encouraged to review the U.S. Embassy’s Mexico Security Update. The update contains information about recent security incidents in Mexico that could affect the safety of the traveling public.
For more detailed information on staying safe in Mexico, please see the Mexico Country Specific Information. Information on security and travel to popular tourist destinations is also provided in the publication: “Spring Break in Mexico- Know Before You Go!!”
For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s internet web site at http://travel.state.gov/ where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, and Travel Alerts can be found. Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada, or, for callers from Mexico, a regular toll line at 001-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). American citizens traveling or residing overseas are encouraged to register with the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate on the State Department’s travel registration website at https://travelregistration.state.gov/.
For any emergencies involving U.S. citizens in Mexico, please contact the U.S. Embassy or the closest U.S. Consulate. The numbers provided below for the Embassy and Consulates are available around the clock. The U.S. Embassy is located in Mexico City at Paseo de la Reforma 305, Colonia Cuauhtemoc, telephone from the United States: 011-52-55-5080-2000; telephone within Mexico City: 5080-2000; telephone long distance within Mexico 01-55-5080-2000. You may also contact the Embassy by e-mail at: ACSMexicoCity@state.gov The Embassy’s internet address is http://www.usembassy-mexico.gov/.
Consulates (with consular districts):
Ciudad Juarez (Chihuahua): Paseo de la Victoria 3650, tel. (011)(52)(656) 227-3000. http://ciudadjuarez.usconsulate.gov/.
Guadalajara (Nayarit, Jalisco, Aguas Calientes, and Colima): Progreso 175, telephone (011)(52)(333) 268-2100. http://guadalajara.usconsulate.gov/.
Hermosillo (Sinaloa and the southern part of the state of Sonora): Avenida Monterrey 141, telephone (011)(52)(662) 289-3500. http://hermosillo.usconsulate.gov/.
Matamoros (the southern part of Tamaulipas with the exception of the city of Tampico): Avenida Primera 2002, telephone (011)(52)(868) 812-4402. http://matamoros.usconsulate.gov/.
Merida (Campeche, Yucatan, and Quintana Roo): Calle 60 no. 338-K x 29 y 31, Col. Alcala Martin, Merida, Yucatan, Mexico 97050, telephone (011)(52)(999) 942-5700 or 202-250-3711 (U.S. number). http://merida.usconsulate.gov/.
Monterrey (Nuevo Leon, Durango, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi, and the southern part of Coahuila): Avenida Constitucion 411 Poniente, telephone (011)(52)(818) 047-3100. http://monterrey.usconsulate.gov/.
Nogales (the northern part of Sonora): Calle San Jose, Nogales, Sonora, telephone (011)(52)(631) 311-8150. http://nogales.usconsulate.gov/.
Nuevo Laredo (the northern part of Coahuila and the northwestern part of Tamaulipas): Calle Allende 3330, col. Jardin, telephone (011)(52)(867) 714-0512. http://nuevolaredo.usconsulate.gov/.
Tijuana (Baja California Norte and Baja California Sur): Tapachula 96, telephone (011)(52)(664) 622-7400. http://tijuana.usconsulate.gov/service.html.
All other Mexican states, and the Federal District of Mexico City, are part of the Embassy’s consular district.
Acapulco: Hotel Continental Emporio, Costera Miguel Aleman 121 – local 14, telephone (011)(52)(744) 484-0300 or (011)(52)(744) 469-0556.
Cabo San Lucas: Blvd. Marina local c-4, Plaza Nautica, col. Centro, telephone (011)(52)(624) 143-3566.
Cancún: Plaza Caracol two, second level, no. 320-323, Boulevard Kukulcan, km. 8.5, Zona Hotelera, telephone (011)(52)(998) 883-0272 or, 202-640-2511 (a U.S. number).
Ciudad Acuña: Closed until further notice.
Cozumel: Plaza Villa Mar en el Centro, Plaza Principal, (Parque Juárez between Melgar and 5th ave.) 2nd floor, locales #8 and 9, telephone (011)(52)(987) 872-4574 or, 202-459-4661 (a U.S. number).
Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo: Hotel Fontan, Blvd. Ixtapa, telephone (011)(52)(755) 553-2100.
Mazatlán: Playa Gaviotas #202, Zona Dorada, telephone (011)(52)(669) 916-5889.
Oaxaca: Macedonio Alcalá no. 407, interior 20, telephone (011)(52)(951) 514-3054, (011) (52)(951) 516-2853.
Piedras Negras: Abasolo #211, Zona Centro, Piedras Negras, Coah., Tel. (011)(52)(878) 782-5586.
Playa del Carmen: “The Palapa,” Calle 1 Sur, between Avenida 15 and Avenida 20, telephone (011)(52)(984) 873-0303 or 202-370-6708(a U.S. number).
Puerto Vallarta: Paradise Plaza, Paseo de los Cocoteros #1, Local #4, Interior #17, Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit, telephone (011)(52)(322) 222-0069.
Reynosa: Calle Monterrey #390, Esq. Sinaloa, Colonia Rodríguez, telephone: (011)(52)(899) 923 – 9331.
San Luis Potosí: Edificio “Las Terrazas”, Avenida Venustiano Carranza 2076-41, Col. Polanco, telephone: (011)(52)(444) 811-7802/7803.
San Miguel de Allende: Dr. Hernandez Macias #72, telephone (011)(52)(415) 152-2357 or (011)(52)(415) 152-0068.
The State Department has proposed new passport fees. You can read the entire text of the announcement here.
The paragraphs below highlight the price increases being considered.
“The proposed rule for the new passport fees was published in the Federal Register on February 9, 2010 (Public Notice 6887, Federal Register, February 9, 2010, Volume 75, No. 26, beginning at page 6321). Publication of the proposed rule in the Federal Register will be followed by a public comment period of at least 30 days. The public will be notified of the date the new fees will go into effect.
View the proposed rule and submit your comment
The proposed schedule of fees for passport application services is as follows:
Total Cost: $135 for a first-time U.S. Passport Book for adults (age 16 and over)
Total Cost: $110 for U.S. Passport Book renewal (age 16 and over only)
Total Cost: $105 for a U.S. Passport Book for minors (under age 16)
Total Cost: $55 for a first-time U.S. Passport Card for adults (age 16 and over)
Total Cost: $30 for a U.S. Passport Card for adults (age 16 and over) who currently hold a fully valid U.S. Passport
Total Cost: $40 for a U.S. Passport Card for minors (under age 16)
Total Cost: $82 for additional visa pages
The fee for expedited service will remain $60.
The proposed passport “Schedule of Fees” is based on a Cost of Service Study conducted in June 2009. It’s the most detailed study the Department of State has ever conducted of its for-fee services, and represents a cost correction from the last update of the Schedule of Fees four years ago. ”
For a more informative statement on these fees, see this article from CNN.
We are not sure that CNN is correct in their analysis, as they indicate that the current fee for a first time applicant’s Passport Book is $100. However, the current fee for a U.S. Passport Book is $95 plus a $25 execution fee for a total cost of $120. The statement from the State Department on the proposed fees indicates a “Total cost” for a Passport Book under the proposed fee structure would be $135, so the increase could be $15 (over the present total cost), if the definition for “Total Cost”, as used by the State Department, includes the execution fee. We will clafify this for you when more detail is available.
There are other aspects of the proposed price increases that are draconian. As you might suspect, some of our team are among the small group who from time to time need to have pages added to their passports, since we travel a lot. In the past, we could have these pages added for free. Under the new rules is will cost $82 for this service. Wouldn’t it be easier to provide the option of a larger number of pages when the passport is issued? Oh, well, we are sure that is an argument we will not win.
The Department of State issued this press release today regarding passports and passport processing time. If you plan to travel abroad next spring and do not yet have your passport APPLY NOW.
Here is the text of the document from the Department of State
In January 2007, the air phase of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative came into effect. Americans complied in record-breaking unanticipated numbers, and our delivery system was unable to guarantee the same level of service we previously had maintained. In order to process the extraordinary demand, the State Department temporarily detailed close to 500 additional employees to the effort and simultaneously began a robust hiring program. Four hundred new employees have come on board since last May, and we are committed to continue to hire staff as needed.
Passport applications are currently taking between four and six weeks for routine service, and three weeks for expedited service. Fall is traditionally our low demand season, so we urge prospective applicants to apply now. January historically marks the beginning of our busy season, and demand may cause us to amend our website to reflect a possibly longer processing time. Readers are urged to check http://travel.state.gov (TSG) regularly, or apply now if contemplating international travel.
Should you have additional questions after visiting TSG, please contact the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778).
PASSPORT FACTS: WHAT YOU NEED TO TRAVEL
All persons traveling by air between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean region are now required to present one of the following documents to enter or re-enter the United States:
· A valid passport;
· DHS-issued (SENTRI, NEXUS, FAST); OR
· A U.S. Coast Guard Mariner Document.
For U.S. Armed Forces on active duty, traveling on official orders, no passport is required.
See http://travel.state.gov for full details.
Further information on port of entry procedures and requirements is available www.dhs.gov.
Get Your Passport NOW!
· If planning or even considering international trips, don’t wait – apply for a passport NOW!
· Historically, we receive fewer passport applications during the fall – making it the best time to apply.
· We are currently processing routine applications within four to six weeks.
For the latest information on obtaining a U.S. passport, we urge you to regularly visit our web site: http://travel.state.gov
One of the common problems in running websites is trying to keep your links up-to-date. Our travel site www.ThereArePlaces.com has over 33,000 links. Yes, most of them are internal, but we check all of them on a specific schedule. All too often we find broken links but they are a very small percentage of the total.
What’s our biggest link problem? The United States Government – that’s the culprit! More specifically the U.S. Department of State.
We provide links to the U.S. Embassy in every country that we cover. We generally include relevant addresses, telephone numbers and URLs, so that travelers can scan the Embassy’s web site in advance of their travel to find out if there are any local issues that might be of interest to them. Although it is rare for a traveler to need the help of the US Consul while on vacation, having the contact number is a good thing to note, just in case the unexpected happens.
We update our information about embassies and changes in visa requirements based on Consular Information sheets that the Department of State issues on a varying schedule. Updates to Consular Information sheets generally occur when there is a substantive change to some factual information about the country. In addition, most countries are updated by State on a six or twelve month schedule. We are on a list generator that automatically supplies us with update to the sheets when issued. At that point, we update our pages on travel information with any relevant changes and initiate a search for other information that may have changed.
It seems that U.S. embassies change their URL’s more frequently than one would assume. Often, the embassy URL in the new Consular Sheet is wrong (we test them and any email addresses provided).This then generates a circular search, since the information on the Department of State website is based on the —-Consular Information sheets. In turn, this leads to a Google search for the U.S. Embassy in____ that we follow until we find a working link. Other URL errors on these sheets are common.
Just to see what could be done about this, we emailed State and pointed out the URL error in a Consular sheet for country X. We gave them the working URL and suggested that they correct in on the most recent Consular Information sheet. After several days we received a reply that they did not have anyone available to confirm our correction and could not change the sheet. Don’t you just love governments?
How about an example? If you go the State Department’s travel section and look for the most recent Consular Information sheet for Malta http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_963.html, you will find a note that indicates that this information on the sheet is current as of today Mon Mar 05 22:38:18 2007. Next, on the actual Information sheet for Malta you will see the date the report was prepared.
The very first link is to the Department of States’ Background Notes on Malta, unfortunately, as of tonight, the link is broken.
If you go to the second paragraph (Entry and Exit Requirements) you will see a link to what is purported to be the Embassy of Malta. The link is as follows: http://foreign.gov.mt.ORG/ministry/missions/washington2.htm . It leads to a SedoParking.com spam page for Mt.org – “…your gateway to the best sites on the Internet for Montana!”
Further down the page the link to a site on Road Safety in Malta is broken (www.mta.co.mt).
The Consular Sheets are often a good information source for travelers, but all too often we have found that the links they contain don’t work for one reason or another. If you only publish them when something changes, or as part of an annual updating schedule, it is easy to see why links go bad. On the other hand, one would think that the U.S. Government could do better when it is attempting to inform its citizens.