Passports and visas became requirements for foreigners traveling in the United States in 1918. Since then, the laws, restrictions, requirements, expenses, and the amount of time put into acquiring and maintaining a valid passport and visa have grown to an extremely challenging point. Traveling in and out of the United States is becoming more difficult. The difficulties of obtaining a passport and a visa prevent people from reaping the benefits of travel.
A common challenge people face when dealing with the process of buying a passport and visa is time. The time it takes to receive a passport after the long complicated registering process can be from 6-10 weeks. This creates challenges right and left, and anybody who wants or needs it any quicker can receive it maybe two weeks earlier; but of course they just need to pay another sum of $60-$70 dollars more.
Alex Brown, a Mill Valley local; working in the Mill Valley public library is a frequent traveler. She is constantly in and out of Mexico. Having a friend with a Mexican citizenship she crosses the border once or twice a month. She states in a personal interview on May 9, 2010, “Before the passport laws were changed in 2008 or 2009 I didn’t even need to bring my passport with me crossing the Mexican border.” Later she talks about how the traveling has become more recently, “The Mexican border is extremely lax, going back into the U.S. is such a hassle; driving through San Diego it can sometimes take you five hours. They pull you over to ask questions, identification, drivers license.” Alex now uses a border fast pass just to avoid the constant struggle that comes with returning back into the U.S.
On top of the passport struggle, there is an emigration issue that Alex addressed in her personal interview. The lack of passport ownership has a great deal to do with time and money, but I wouldn’t be surprised if just knowing the difficulties of emigration was a large factor in the lack of passport owning Americans as well. There are numerous reasons why every U.S. citizen should be entitled to the ownership of a passport and visa and have are capable to get a hold of them easily as well.
Although the government has been addressing this particular problem with the passport system by creating the new border “fast pass,” it qualifies only for land crossing such as Canada and Mexico. The process to own a fast pass is even more complicated and expensive than a regular passport but afterwards traveling across these particular land borders is quicker and easier. Even though this seems like a step further in the advancement of passport and visa ownership I believe that these fast passes are really another way to keep the business flowing in and out of the states. In CQ Weekly Liriel Higa states in her Narrowing the Highway to America’s Neighbors article, “U.S. citizens made more than 130 million trips across the borders with Canada and Mexico last year. The stakes are high for companies that depend on routine border crossings…” Higa then points out potential risk about America’s economy if passports continue to be this much of an issue, “Requiring a passport of everyone who crosses the border may have the wider adverse economic effect of slowing the removal of trade barriers begun more than a decade ago by the North American Free trade agreement…”
Money is a significant factor into the recent challenges in obtaining a modern day passport as well. Passports began being purchased for a somewhat decent rate of $60-80 before this generation with a renewal rate of about $60 and that was hard enough for the more financially challenged citizens. Sometime between 2008 and 2009 the price increased all the way up to $97 to purchase and renew and other sources, such as Howard LaFranchi from EBSCO host recorded that the cost of your first passport has skyrocketed to a whopping $135, (not including getting the 2 year or 10 year renewal depending on whether you’re an adult or a minor.) To the successful wealthy American this may not seem like such a large amount of money, but to the average everyday American struggling in our up and down economy this can seem like an exuberant finance which compared to making a living and providing food for the family might not seem like such a critical item to invest in.