WHAT IS A PASSPORT AND HOW DO I GET ONE?
A passport is a document issued by a government which certifies the carrier's identity and nationality.
There are two kinds of passports available for U.S. citizens: a passport book and a passport card. Either a passport book or a passport card is required for travel in and out of the United States, but they are not interchangeable for all situations.
A passport book is required for all international air travel. It may also be used for all international sea and land travel. It is a small booklet which includes the bearer's photograph, identifying information, nationality, and includes pages for admittance stamps and visas from foreign countries. It is valid for 10 years for adults and 5 years for minors under 16. Each person traveling must have their own passport; children cannot be covered on their parents' passport.
A U.S. passport card is a wallet-sized travel document that can be used to enter the United States from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda at land border crossings or sea ports of entry. It is valid for 10 years for adults and 5 years for minors under 16. It cannot be used for international air travel. Persons holding a passport book may also apply for a passport card. According to the Department of State website, "The passport card is designed for the specific needs of the northern and southern border resident communities and is not a globally interoperable travel document, as is the traditional passport book. While the passport card has limited use, the passport book will remain the premier internationally accepted travel document."
In Shasta County you may apply for a passport at the County Clerk's office.
For current costs, forms, and requirements, see
IF I'VE GOT A PASSPORT, WHY DO I NEED A VISA?
A visa is a document from another country giving permission for the carrier to enter that country. It is a page that will be embedded in your passport, so you must have a valid passport before applying for a visa.
As of this writing, most Western European nations do not require a visa for United States citizens, but other popular destinations do, such as Australia and India. Currently most African nations, as well as those of the former Soviet Union, require visas of U.S. citizens wishing to travel there.
Before you make travel plans, check for the latest requirements at
WHEN YOU GET THERE
Each country has its own entry requirements and it is incumbent upon each traveler to find out about entry restrictions and apply for any visas or other documents before leaving the United States. While it would be nice if your airline or travel agent advised you, it is ultimately the responsibility of travelers to make sure they have all necessary documents before departing.
It should also be noted that even with a valid passport and visa in hand, a traveler may be barred from entering a country. Canada will not allow entrance to Americans convicted of a DUI or other felonies (in Canada, DUI is a felony and punishable by up to five years in prison). The United Kingdom can and will bar anyone it deems "not conducive to the public good," including Martha Stewart, Louis Farrakhan, and Snoop Dogg. And lack of a return ticket, lack of proof of sufficient means of support, looking "scruffy," or lack of "sufficient ties" to one's homeland may cause a country to deny entrance. If this should occur, the traveler will be deported at his own expense, and will have a record with Border Control.
Barbara Rice is a native Igonian. Upon discovering the Beatles at age 9, she picked up an atlas and figured out how far England was and how long it would take to get there (5,371 miles, 12 hours). Though gainfully employed, she regards work as a necessary evil to finance vacations. In her spare time she looks up cheap airfares and daydreams about her next trip. She never did meet Sir Paul, but she knows where his office is.