Today’s Editorial, August 4: Passport deadline a detriment

If you’re visiting our country, welcome.

If you’re visiting our country and you’re from the United States we welcome you too, and we hope you have a passport.

If not, you could find yourself not being able to return to this paradise we love to call home.

The United States Government wants all US citizens travelling to the Caribbean to have passports by the first of January.

That means you need to start the process of obtaining a passport as soon as you return home from your vacation.

The United States Passport Service processes over seven million passports each year. There are 15 national offices around the country. Sheer volume alone does not allow the Passport Service to process the applications quickly, let alone within a week or so, which many of its customers demand.

On average it takes 25 days for the US to process a passport once it’s been received at a processing office.

Many of us who live here have already told our friends and families in the US about the new rule and have insisted that they go ahead and get passports so they can visit anytime.

Our US visitors have a friend in the Cayman Islands who is trying to get the passport rule changed.

Tourism Minister Charles Clifford has met with some heavy hitters in the US government to try to convince them to move the 1 January, 2007, date to 1 January, 2008, or even later.

While they’ve made no promises to him, he is optimistic as he was pivotal in getting the original date of 1 January, 2006, extended by a year.

The US plans to force residents travelling to the Caribbean to have passports by 1 January, 2007, is problematic for several reasons.

We depend on air and sea travel to economically sustain our tourism product.

The date doesn’t give the travel industry either here or in the US time to educate travellers about the passport issues. Too, if someone from the US who doesn’t hold a passport has already booked a holiday to the Cayman Islands for 2007, they could be looking at an unpleasant experience of not being able to join us in paradise.

To top it off, the new rules require that children also have passports.

US travellers to the Cayman Islands have been lulled into a sense of ease when travelling here in the past because they could wake up one morning and decide to visit here using their birth certificate as an official travel document.

We need our US visitors to maintain the ability to visit us whenever they wish.

The US passport policy has the potential of doing much financial damage to the Cayman Islands economy.

We hope those who met with Minister Clifford understand the dire need to extend the deadline.

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