Schenectady County

Passport rules keep post offices busy

The Cerrone children of Ballston Lake may not need passports when they go on a Caribbean cruise this
Schenectady Post Office Retail and Sales Associate John Buell, left, photographs Marcia Berrian of Middleburgh for her new passport application on Saturday.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Schenectady Post Office Retail and Sales Associate John Buell, left, photographs Marcia Berrian of Middleburgh for her new passport application on Saturday.

The Cerrone children of Ballston Lake may not need passports when they go on a Caribbean cruise this summer.

Or maybe they will.

Either way, their parents aren’t taking any chances.

“They keep changing [the date the new regulations will take effect]. It’s just time to get the passport,” said John Cerrone. He and his wife, Beth, have passports, but their children, Leah, 11, and Kristian, 9, do not.

The family visited the Malta post office Saturday morning to apply for the children’s passports, which require parental authorization if youngsters are under age 14.

On Thursday, new regulations will require U.S. citizens returning from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda by land or sea to present both an identifying document, such as a driver’s license, and a document that proves citizenship, such as a birth certificate. Children ages 18 and under must bring at least a citizenship document.

Those who fly between countries already are required to carry a passport. That change went into effect in January 2007.

At a later, unspecified date, U.S. citizens will be required to carry a passport or a new passport card to cross the border of those countries by land or sea, according to the U.S. Department of State’s Web site. Applications for the new passport cards will be available starting Friday, and the U.S. Department of State expects the cards to be mailed to applicants this spring, according to its Web site.

The new cards were developed as a less expensive, more portable alternative to passports for people living in border communities like in upstate New York. They will stay valid for 10 years for adults and five years for children age 15 and younger, just like passports. Adults who already have a passport can renew and obtain the card for $20. First-time applicants pay $45 for adults and $35 for children.

The cards will contain a radio chip that will link the card to a record stored in a secure government database, but the chip itself contains no information, according to the State Department’s Web site.

The new regulations mean more people are obtaining passports, and post offices that process the applications and take passport photos are becoming busier, said Maureen Marion, spokeswoman for the postal service. Most of the 9,000 passport acceptance sites around the country are post offices, she said.

Area post offices that accept passport applications held special passport days on weekends last winter and they were popular, Marion said.

And since post offices are open Saturdays and some evenings, they are a convenient place to obtain passports — much better than a government office that’s only open during business hours, Cerrone said.

“It’s great that the post offices are doing this. They’re finally accommodating the work schedules of the Americans,” he said.

Marcia Berrian agreed.

“I work during the week, so this is one place that I can come to get it,” said the Middleburgh woman as she stood in line at the downtown Schenectady post office Saturday morning.

Berrian works in downtown Schenectady, but because of the typically long lines at the post office during her lunch break, she wouldn’t consider obtaining the passport then.

She’s heading on a Canadian cruise this fall and applied for her first passport.

Some of the Capital Region post offices that process passports include Altamont, Malta, Delmar, Clifton Park, Rexford, Schenectady Main, Niskayuna, Saratoga Springs and Fulton.

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