Passport planning tips for summer international travel

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — With summer just around the corner, some El Pasoans may be already thinking ahead or planning a vacation outside the United States. However, with COVID-19 still lingering, it’s important to plan ahead.

Normally, El Pasoans would go downtown and enter the Anson Mills building to apply for a passport. Now, appointments are required due to COVID-19. However, there are some things everyone should know before planning a vacation getaway or if there’s a need to travel overseas immediately.

“Obviously under COVID, things have changed for all of us,” said Santiago Burciaga, Assistant Director of the El Paso Passport Agency.

Changes at the El Paso Passport Agency include tightening the window for emergency travel.

“So here at the agency, we accept applicants that are traveling within 72 hours,” Burciaga said.

The agency advised those applying for passports to plan ahead of time before any international travels.

“There’s a lot of passport applications we’re still working on. Our commitment has always been to get them out as fast as possible. Right now with our resources we have, we’re able to do that in 10 to 12 weeks and 4 to 6 weeks for expedited processing,” Burciaga explained.

KTSM 9 News asked El Pasoans on social media if they’ve faced any slowdowns getting their passport amid the pandemic. Some say they’ve had no troubles. Meanwhile, one mother shared she had to go to Las Cruces for her 2-year-old’s passport, saying it “probably won’t get here in time for a Mexico beach trip.”

Officials at the agency said it’s important to keep in mind the difference in minors’ passports.

“One of the biggest mistakes that we as parents make is that our children’s passports under the age of 16 are only valid for 5 years,” Burciaga shared. “It’s very frequent whenever we’re going to start traveling and then we look at our kid’s passports and then ‘oops.’ You realize they’re under a 5-year passport, they’re expired and we’re not. We need a passport so make sure you look at those dates.”

Another tip includes keeping in mind the difference between passport books and passport cards.

“A passport book has wings, and the card doesn’t. So you can fly with your passport book internationally. You can’t fly internationally with your card,” Burciaga said.

The agency said it’s also very important to check in with travel advisories to see which countries differ depending on their status of coronavirus measures.

For more information regarding passport applications, click here or call 1-877-487-2778.

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