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May Day Holiday Closures 1 May 13

Posted by Jonathan V. Phillips in Embassy Consulate Closure, traveler advise.
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May Day has long been a traditional holiday in Europe, but the current May Day holiday, International Workers’ Day, has its roots in the not-so-distant past. The Second International, an organization of socialist and worker parties from around the world, met in Paris in 1889 and declared May 1st International Workers’ Day. The holiday commemorates the workers’ fight for an eight hour work day and the memory of the “martyrs” of the 1886 Haymarket Square massacre in Chicago, in which dozens of unarmed people were killed at the hands of the Chicago Police during a labor demonstration. This event in Chicago galvanized worker parties around the world and reinforced the concept of an international struggle shared by all workers.

Today International Workers’ Day is one of the largest secular holidays celebrated around the world. This holiday is officially observed by dozens of countries, including China, Russia and the former Soviet nations, the majority of European Union nations such as France and Germany, India, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Brazil and Venezuela, and is unofficially observed on every populated continent.

The second week of May holds another major international holiday, Victory Day. Victory Day is a holiday that celebrates the victory over fascist Germany by the Allied forces in 1945. The day marks the unconditional surrender of the German Third Reich to the Allies on May 8, but because Moscow is so far East it was already May 9. The holiday is celebrated by Europeans from London to Moscow. France and the United Kingdom celebrate the holiday on May 8, while Belgium and the Netherlands observe Victory Day on May 5. For Russia and the former Soviet nations of Armenia, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan, the May 9 Victory Day is a particularly important holiday, as the Soviet Union endured enormous losses during World War II. The Soviet Red Army incurred over 8 million deaths, and the nation as a whole had over 13 million civilian deaths. The effects of the conflict are evident even today; statistics show that every family in the Soviet Union lost a member in the conflict. Victory Day is celebrated with commencements at cemeteries, military parades, and is a unifying holiday for all citizens of the former Soviet Union. All of their consulates will be closed on Monday, May 9 in honor of the holiday.

Guangzhou, China May Add 72 Hour Transit Without Visa 11 April 13

Posted by Summer Jenkins in traveler advise, Visa News.
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Officials from China Southern Airlines have recently announced that negotiations are underway to allow foreign travelers a 72 hour transit without visa stopover in Guangzhou.  Although the policy has not yet been officially confirmed, it is expected that it will go into effect late this year.

Currently, tourists and business travelers from 45 nations, including the United States, are allowed a visa-free stay of up to 72 hours in Beijing and Shanghai if they hold ongoing air tickets to a third country.  This policy went into effect on January 1 of this year; please see our earlier article for complete details.  Guangzhou is expected to follow the same rules as Beijing and Shanghai.

G3 will continue to monitor the progress of the transit without visa policy and will provide updates as they become available.

 

The Skinny on Airplane Seats : Sites to compare seat sizes 21 January 13

Posted by Jonathan V. Phillips in traveler advise.
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As anyone who travels can tell you, not all airlines are the same. From in flight amenities to quality of crew service, the overall quality of a flight varies even between different flights from the same airline. One of the most basic qualities of any flight is the seat which you are assigned. It’s where you will spend your time journeying and in many cases will set the tone for how you arrive at your destination.

The quality of experience offered by commercial airline seats has been declining over the past 50 years. With airlines narrowing the width of the seats to fit in extra passengers in each row, passengers are being squeezed in to accommodate more people. The airline’s justification for the squeeze is cost, demanding that they maximize the amount of sell able space on the plane. The systematic reduction of seat size has some seats as narrow as 17” wide. When put up against the average seat in a movie theater, which is 23”, the narrowness of these skinny seats is apparent. But the width of the seat cushion is just one part of the overall seat width experience. The arm rest, which the proverbial front line between adjacent passengers has been reduced as well. The over all effect has been a loss of space and a tighter ride for passengers, riding elbow to elbow.

The US Center for Disease Control indicates that 30% of US adults are categorically obese. So while the seats on the plane the plane are getting narrower, the people in those seats are now wider on the average. The reduction of the seat and traveler’s assigned space has been a source of conflict for many years. With no FAA mandate to the airlines on this issue of travelers to large for their shrinking seats, the individuate carriers are responsible for formulating and executing policy in these matters. Most airlines now have rules that require a “traveler of size” to purchase a second seat to accommodate their size. A traveler of size is usually defined as a passenger who will not fit in the 17” seat with the arm rests down. These rules are usually on a case by case basis, not clearly published and ultimately are not enforced equally.

Both sides of the obese traveler issue raise valid arguments. On one hand, ostracizing a passenger because of their weight can be traumatic, humiliating experience and ultimately creates a public conflict. The other side of the coin has passengers, who are already feeling the squeeze of their narrow seat, infringed upon by someone who is spilling over the boundaries of the arm rest. I’ve been on flights and seated next to people who couldn’t put the arm rest down because of their size. Should I be entitled to a discount for the inconvenience of having to pay for someone else’s body mass to ride in my seat? And why should I have to be the one who confronts the large passenger on this issue? Clearly there is a better solution here than having everyone being an uncomfortable situation for hours.

There is another fact besides the seat cushion size and armrest width that contribute to the general quality of a flight, and that is the seat pitch. Seat pitch is basically how close you are to the seat in front and behind you. It is the proverbial measure of leg room. The amount of pitch given to the seat rows varies between the airlines. It also varies between individual flights on the same airline. The numbers usually run from 28” at the tight end to the luxurious 38”. Being over 6 foot tall, a seat with good leg room is the difference between a cramped up knee and a good flight. On flights where the pitch is simply to tight, don’t expect to recline if you are seated in front of me. My legs simply won’t allow it and I extend the same courtesy to person behind me by not reclining further into their limited space.

I propose a solution for the sake of argument It addresses the issue and takes into account the arguments of the airlines and the passengers squeezed into spaces that don’t fit them. Airlines should provide seats that are wider to accommodate the reality of body shapes. Regardless of whose responsibility obesity is, the fact is Americans and many others are wider than they were on the average. Using the narrowest seat possible is simply not an option for a large number of air travelers. The second part is to create fares based on how much mass and volume is required to transport an individual and their luggage. The space agencies run calculations based on total tonnage for figuring the amount of fuel required for a mission, the airlines could take a lesson from this mentality. I propose fares based on a calculation of the traveler’s total mass ( body weight and luggage) plus the total amount of square volume of the body and bags .

The airline seat issue is a hot topic. With little leadership from the FAA on the issue, passengers are left with few tools to ensure they have adequate space for their body on an airplane. The good news is that there are ways to verify what you are getting into before you purchase a ticket or board the plane. There are websites that allow the flying public to check the size and pitch of their seat. They are searchable by flight and airline and give the dimensions of the seats aboard the plane.  These sites also provide excellent reviews of other aspects of commercial air travel as well. If the air plane seat is an issue these website can help you make an educated decision on your next ticket purchase.

http://www.airlinequality.com/

http://www.airlinequality.com/

http://seatexpert.com/

http://www.seatmaestro.com/

Real ID DHS Update 4 January 13

Posted by Jonathan V. Phillips in Passport, Passport Card, Real Id, traveler advise.
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As the January 15 deadline for the implementation of the provisions of the 2005 Real ID Bill nears, the Department of Homeland Security has reiterated their intention to enforce it.  For domestic air travel, this means a photo id is required to board a plane. The Real ID Bill outlined the criteria for acceptable photo ids and demanded the states issue driver’s licenses compliant to those standards.

Many states have delayed updating their ids and some have even implemented legal barriers to making their issued driver’s licenses and state id’s compliant with the new federal standards. As of January 2013, the DHS has determined only 13 states to be in compliance with the provisions of the  Real ID statute. We have an earlier entry that details which states are in compliance and which are not.

As a result of the backlash the DHS has now issued a revised statement regarding the enforcement of the Real ID law. The agency is giving a deferment to the states  and has allocated over 200 million dollars in grant money for states to update their current id systems to the new standards. The DHS statement does not address the issue created by the states that have passed legislation prohibiting compliance with the federal statute. That situation will probably be arbitrated in the Supreme Court.

The DHS plans to announce in the fall of 2013 when state driver’s licences will need to meet the Real Id criteria. In the mean time, if you have id that is not technically compliant, you will still be able to board a plane in the US. For travelers, this means that the TSA will accept their existing driver’s licences, most likely for the duration of 2013. 

There are other forms of ID that are issued to the standards of the Real ID law besides a state issued driver’s license. Passports and passport cards and most military IDs are considered Real IDs. It is recommended that if you come from a state that does not issue a Real ID driver’s licence, to get a passport or passport card for flying  purposes. We have an earlier article on the advantages of a passport card for travel. These ids are especially useful in cases where the travelers are minors, and don’t have a driver’s license.

Real ID implementation continues to evolve. The DHS has acquiesced on it’s enforcement by delaying the role out date twice. Now it says it is going ahead with the law but has issued deferments for ids that are not compliant.  It remains to be seen what the outcome will be for the states that refuse to be compliant with the standards of their driver’s licences. The issue will most likely be resolved in the courts. In the meantime, the January 15 deadline is coming due and the law will go into effect, albeit in a limited, watered down manner that seems to invalidate the rationale behind the statute. Readers can expect and update as more information becomes available and the policy gets implemented at airports across the country.

China Shanghai Beijing 72 Hours TWOV 45 Nationalities 14 December 12

Posted by Jonathan V. Phillips in traveler advise, Visa News.
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beijingcapitalairport

China’s State Bureau  has recently amended it’s rules for entry. Effective 1 January 2013 travelers from 45 countries, including the USA, Canada and most of the EU, will be permitted to enter China for a 72 hour period with out the prerequisite visa. The new policy applies to travelers both business and tourist, who are enroute to another destination and are merely transiting through China. Travelers should have proof of an onward destination in the form of a plane ticket or visa.

Visa free entry is only available in two cities, Beijing and Shanghai and is restricted to air travelers only. In Shanghai, Hongqiao and Pudong airports will be allowing visitors in Beijing only Beijing Capital International Airport will have the new TWOV policy. Special accommodations like lines and lounge areas are being created at these airports to facilitate the quick processing of qualified travelers. The 72 hour period begins once the passport has been stamped and the traveler is officially admitted into China.

The move is seen to be an economic one. Hoping to stimulate economic zones of Shanghai and Beijing ‘the new rules are attempting to capitalize on tourist revenue that would not ordinarily pass through China or could not leave the airport because of visa issues. Tour operators in China are creating special 72 hour tour packages, including late nigh cinema (most international planes arrive at  night in China) highlight city tours and hotel packages.The current number of foreign visitors to Beijing is 5 million per year. The number is expected to double in three years after the TWOV policy comes into effect.

The new China TWOV rules are not with out restrictions.

  • Must be transit: The policy is for travelers going through China to get to another place. The next destination must not be the one you entered China from.
  • Not for flight crews: Crew personal will still be required a visas to China regardless of the duration of their stay. The new entry rule is effecting transit travel only and flight crews are not considered in transit.
  • Can not leave city: Travelers who enter Beijing or Shanghai under these new visa free rules are not permitted to go out side of  the city limits. Going outside of the city limits will be considered a visa violation and China is warning that violators will be banned from entering China in the future. Travelers must exit the same city from which they entered China from.
  • Police Registration: The rules say individuals should register with the police with in 24 hours of your entry into China. We recommend checking with your hotel or operator as they might have this registration done as part of their service.
  • No Pets: Pets are not permitted into China during the 72 visa free period. Pets brought into China will be kept in quarantine during that period with the exception of utility animals like guide dogs.
  • Don’t Overstay:Travelers who are not able to leave China during their 72 hour period due to illness or other reason, need to visa the Municipal Public Security Bureau and apply for a limited stay visa.

Visas are still required to China for most travelers. Information on obtaining a visa to China prior to departure is available on the G3 forms page. Here is a list of the available types and categories of Chinese visas.

  • F Visa: For travelers who are invited to China for visit, research, lecture, business, scientific-technological and culture exchanges or short-term advanced studies or intern practice for a period of no more than six months.
  • L Visa: For travelers who are coming to China for tourist purposes, family visiting or other personal affairs.
  • Z Visa: For travelers who are to taking up a post or employment in China, and their accompanying family members.
  • X Visa: For travelers who are coming to China for the purpose of study, advanced studies or intern practice for a period of six months or above.
  • C Visa: For crewmembers on international aviation, navigation and land transportation missions and their family members accompanying them.
  • J-1 Visa: For resident journalists.
  • J-2 Visa: For short term journalists.
  • G Visa: For transit
  • D Visa: Residency visas.

We are monitoring the role out of the program and will be providing updates as they develop. If you enter China through this visa free process, we are interested in hearing about your experiences.

Questions about China visas can be addressed to the G3 Country Information Coordinator.

Russian Embassy Winter Holiday Schedule 28 November 12

Posted by Jonathan V. Phillips in Embassy Consulate Closure, traveler advise, Visa News.
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Russian Embassy  Holiday Schedule 2013

 

It is time to start planning your visa to Russia if you want to leave with in the next two months.The New Year’s holiday, Orthodox Christmas and the Old New Year Celebration see a seasonal shutdown of the Russian government.The first few weeks in January has official business in Russia come to virtual stand still. This means every thing pertaining to the processing of visas stops for nearly ten days.

Since these holidays fall on different days of the week every year, the way the Russian government takes the holiday is dynamic from year to year. Forecasting the exact dates of the closures becomes an annual event that heralds the coming of the holiday season in Russia. Experience tells that the holiday can be suddenly extended with a situations like  the Foreign Ministry closed and the embassy open and the embassy closing  and the Foreign Ministry open on certain days. Careful planning by a visa expert is essential for travelers to Russia with departure dates in January and February.

Russian Visa Closure Dates:

Although not an official holiday in Russia, there will be no Russian visas processed on Western Christmas, the 25th of December.

New Year’s 2013 is on a Tuesday. The Embassy and the Russian Foreign Ministry will be closed from Monday the 31st of December through the 8th of January. Visa and invitation processing will resume on Wednesday, the 9th of January, 2013.

Old New Years is Monday the 14th January. It is undetermined at this point whether or not the Foreign Ministry or the Embassy will take the holiday. This is usually announced in the week after Orthodox Christmas if there will be a closure.

Vladimir Putin has in the past, extended the holiday by proclamation. It is unclear at this point if this will happen again this year.  These proclamations can sometimes have the Foreign Ministry in Russia  closed, effecting business invitation approvals, but the Russian Consular offices in the US are open. G3 will communicate any additional Holiday closures as soon as they are officially announced or we anticipate it.

Effect on Russian Business Invitations and Visas:

Because of the two step nature of the Russian visa process, Russian business visas travelers have to be especially conscious of their processing schedule and departure. dates during this time. Since,the first part of the visa process is the invitation, the time required by the Russian Foreign Ministry to approve any new invitation will increase. The second part being  the time the embassy takes to make the visa, once they have the approved invitation or telex authorization back from Moscow.

The January holiday schedule can cause huge delays for travelers trying to get to Russia. Travelers are advised to take this holiday schedule into account when figuring out their processing times and make adjustments if necessary  Nobody wants a passport locked in the consulate while it’s closed for ten days.

Not Enough Time? Consider Going as a Tourist :

Travelers to Russia should note that G3 can obtain tourist vouchers even when the government in Russia is closed. This visa support is different from the  business invitation support in that these vouchers, as they are known, don’t require governmental approval and can be issued in as quickly as 24 hours in some cases. If time is essential, a tourist visa could be the solution for some business travelers who do not have enough time to get an approved business invitation before the closure or wait for the government to reopen.

Expert Advise :

It is our experience that the Russian Winter Holiday closures creates inconveniences for many travelers each year. In many cases visas that would not ordinarily have to be rushed have to be expedited to accommodate the Russian schedule. This time of year sees many multiple entry, one year invitation requests, that take 21 business days to be approved,  changed to expedited single or double entry requests in order to meet a departure date.

G3 maintains an expert staff that is able to figure out the best solutions and advise on your trip to Russia. Russian visa questions can be addressed to the G3 Russian Country Information Codinator, Issaia Aponte, at the New York Office or to the Russia team email.

Myanmar: The Next Destination 16 November 12

Posted by Jonathan V. Phillips in traveler advise.
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Burma, officially named the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, is a nation reintegrating itself into the world economy. Since the 2010 elections, the country has undergone a series of economic and political reforms that have moved it from its 40+ year pariah nation status to an emerging democracy and tourist destination in South East Asia.

Secretary of State Clinton’s visit in November 2011 to Myanmar was a first for a US Secretary of State, and  paved the way for the upcoming state visit from President Obama this month. US relations with Myanmar have not had such a positive tone since the Second World War. The visit to Myanmar by the President is also a first for the US, and underscores the importance of the country has for US foreign policy in the region. Tourists are now discovering Myanmar as a top destination for culture and history.

The name Burma refers to the Bamar majority ethnic group, but the country officially recognizes over a dozen distinct cultural groups. Myanmar’s earliest inhabitants were ethnically and culturally linked with Tibet. These links  can still be seen today in the Burmese script, a form of Sanskrit, and  80 % of the population identifies as Buddhist. A regional superpower back in the 16th century, its borders extended to Tibet and incorporated modern day Thailand.  Myanmar’s culture and cuisine is a distinctive mix of Indian and regional South East Asian.

Myanmar is actively encouraging tourism, showcasing its coastline, ancient history, diverse culture and pristine interior jungles for ecotourism.  Although the capital of the country was moved in 2005 and renamed to Naypyidaw, meaning the City of the Kings, Yangon (also called Rangoon) remains the most important entry point for travelers. Many international carriers already fly in to Yangon, with many more adding new routes this October.

Visas to Myanmar

US citizens, as well as citizens of most other countries, must have a visa in advance to enter Myanmar.  Visas are issued by the Embassy in Washington, DC and by the Consulate General in New York City; the Embassy will accept applications from residents of any state except New York, New Jersey or Connecticut, which must process through the New York Consulate.  Processing times are extremely long; even the most urgent requests can take more than two business weeks to be processed.  If you have any questions about visa to Myanmar, please contact G3’s Washington or New York offices for assistance. A list of requirements four tourist and business travelers can be found on the forms page of the G3 website.

Touring Myanmar

Interest in the south east Asian jewel is growing as Myanmar transitions into the world economy and as relations with the United States continue to improve on social and economic levels. Many people are adding Myanmar as a destination in conjunction with trips to already popular destinations like  Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand.

Tourist infrastructure continues to develop as the government invests in its tourism industry. New hotels are being built, road infrastructure is improving and there is now competition with tour bus operators. A good source for information on hotels in Myanmar as well as general tourist information and travel tips is located at the guide for Myanmar.

Established Tour Companies in the US

Using an established reputable tour company is recommended mode of travel for tourist trips to developing nations like Myanmar. The organized nature of this type of travel is appealing to those who don’t want the worries of individual travel.   These tour companies have already established relationships with Myanmar tour guides and hotels and can provide tourists with an outstanding itinerary of select destinations and attractions.  G3 Visas and Passports recommends the following companies for travelers wanting  to explore Myanmar.

Odysseys Unlimited  A leader in small group travel, Odysseys Unlimited is an experienced operator with a sterling reputation for service and outstanding tours. They have created custom tours for some of America’s most prestigious institutions. Here is a listing of their current tours to Myanmar.

Asia Transpacific Journeys (ATJ) Since 1987 ATJ has been organizing small group and custom tours to Asia. They specialize in cultural travel to Asia. Here is a listing of ATJ’s tours to Myanmar.

Passports

There are a few items regarding US passports that international travelers should be aware of. The first is that your passport is not valid for travel six months prior to the printed expiry date, and adequate visa pages are need in order to obtain a visa to Myanmar. G3 can obtain passport renewals have additional  visa pages placed in your passport. Visit the passport services page or contact passports@g3visas.com for more information.

Image from Odysseys Unlimited Tours

Everything you need to know about Real ID 6 November 12

Posted by Jonathan V. Phillips in Passport, Passport Card, traveler advise.
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Real ID

Real ID is legislation passed by Congress and  signed into law by President Bush in 2005. The legislation is officially known as the REAL ID Act of 2005. Officially, it is Division B of an act of the United States Congress titled Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief. Basically, the law stipulates that entry on to domestic flights as well as federal installations and other secure locations requiring an ID to enter, is dependent on the individual possessing and demonstrating a photo ID that is up to the standards and specifications outlined in the statute. It provides a timetable for the states to implement these standards on their driver’s licenses and ID cards. For those that like to look at the actual text of the statute, the Department of Homeland Security, who has regulatory authority over the law, has it online for your reading pleasure.

The deadline for compliance is coming. Beginning on fifteenth of January 2013, an ID that is compliant with the Real ID guidelines will be required of passengers as a prerequisite to boarding  domestic flights in the US. Although the DHS has extended the deadline in the past, they have indicated that there are committed to the January date and that will be no more extensions. On January 15 agents of the TSA will be enforcing the law at airports around the country.

The Real ID Act lists the forms of ID that are considered in compliance and hence acceptable for entrance onto an airplane. The TSA, who will be checking the ids at airports has a list of what they will accept.

List of TSA Acceptable Real IDs

  • a U.S. passport,
  • a U.S. passport card,
  • a DHS “Trusted Traveler” cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST),
  • a U.S. Military ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents, and DOD civilians),
  • a U.S. Permanent Resident Card,
  • a Border Crossing Card
  • a DHS-designated enhanced driver’s license
  • a Drivers Licenses or other state photo identity cards issued by Department of Motor Vehicles (beginning January 15, 2013, these must be Real ID compliant licenses)
  • a Native American Tribal Photo ID
  • an airline or airport-issued ID (if issued under a TSA-approved security plan)
  • a valid foreign government-issued passport
  • a Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) card
  • a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC)

Passports and Passport Cards

It is no surprise  that a passport is the first item mentioned  on the DHS list of acceptable IDs. Being not just a federally issued identity document, a passport is also a citizenship document. IDs issued from the individual states have to meet the criteria laid out by the federal government in order to be accepted as a valid real ID, whereas a passport is issued by the federal government through the Department of State and actually sets the standard for secure identification.

Most people know what a passport is but are unaware of the existence or the specifics surrounding the US passport card. Passport cards are a relatively new form of federal identification that can be used in place of a passport for international travel in certain cases.  The State Department Passport Card FAQ answers most of the questions regarding what it takes to get one, and when you can use one to travel internationally and other attributes of the new form of federal ID.

Information on the issuance of expedited passports and passport cards is available through the passport section of the g3visas.com website. Applicants can apply for new passports, add pages to filled booklets and  renew expiring ones  in 24 hours, if required.

Passport questions and inquiries into  professional passport expedite services can be directed to passports@g3visas.com .

Real ID Drivers Licenses, What You Need to Get One

The DHS has published the criteria for the states that define what documents applicants will need provide to the state DMV in order to have these IDs and driver’s licenses  considered as valid “real IDs” and hence in compliance with the law and valid for travel. Applicants for Real ID compliant IDs will have to prove they are eligible for one. They will have to submit to their DMV  official documents to satisfy each of the following four categories,

  • Identity and Date of Birth
  • Lawful Status in the United States
  • Social Security Card
  • State Residency and Current Address

Proof of Identity, Date of Birth and Lawful Status

This proof comes in the form of one of the following,

For US Citizens:

  • a valid US passport or passport card,
  • a certified copy or original US birth certificate. These documents include official, certificates issued by any US state also including Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa or the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Hospital issued birth certificates are not acceptable and Puerto Rican certificates must be certified on or after 1 July 2010,
  • a State Department issued Consular Report of Birth Abroad (form FS 240, FS 545 or DS 1350),
  • an original Certificate of Naturalization (form N 550, N 570, or N 578),
  • an original Certificate of Citizenship (form N 560, N 561 or N 645).

For Non US:

  • a valid Permanent Residence Card (I 551),
  • a non US passport stamped “ Processed for I 551“,
  • a valid Employment Authorization Document (I 766),
  • a Record of Arrival and Departure (I 94) with attached photo and stamped ” Temporary Proof of Lawful Permanent Resident“,
  • a Record of Arrival and Departure (I 94) with attached photo and stamped either “Refugee“, “Parolee” or “Asylee“,
  • an unexpired, valid, non US passport accompanied by an approved I 94 showing latest entry into the United States,
  • a Travel Document indicating Permit to Re-enter ( I 327),
  • A Refugee Travel Document ( I 571),

Poof of Social Security Number

Your social security number must be verified. Proof comes in the form of an original of one of the following,

  • an original social security card,
  • a W-2 form,
  • a Social Security Administration Form 1099,
  • a Non-Social Security Administration Form 1099,
  • a Pay stub with your name and Social Security number on it.

Temporary foreign nationals who are not authorized for employment will have to verify their US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) number instead.

Proof of State Residency and Current Address

Your address in the state where you are applying for a license must be verified. Proof of address varies between the states but must jurisdictions are requiring two items for this category. Two of the following from the list should be presented as evidence,

  • a voter identification card,
  • a vehicle registration,
  • a utility bill,
  • a statement from a financial institution,
  • a rental or lease agreement,
  • a paycheck or pay stub from an employer in the state,
  • an enrollment document from a school in the state,
  • a homestead filling,
  • a military tax exemption in the state.

Existing, state issued, non-Real ID compliant driver’s licenses are not acceptable as evidence of residency and current address.

Minors will have a consent form signed by a parent, guardian or custodian  that will be sufficient in most states to satisfy the state residency and address verification requirement.

Applicants with Temporary Lawful Status

Foreigners with temporary Lawful status in the US can also be issued Real ID compliant driver’s licenses.  These licenses are stamped “Limited Term” and are valid for the period of Lawful stay, not to exceed two years. For applicant’s whose Lawful stay status is not defined or has an expiration day, their Real ID compliant driver’s licenses will be valid for no longer than a one year period.

State DMV Links

Since the responsibility  of issuing driver’s licenses is a state power, each state, although acting under the same federal real id guidelines, will have their own procedures.  The CSDL , a pro Real ID lobby group, has a list of the state DMV’s websites to verify the specific driver’s license requirements per state.

States React to Real ID

Even if you want to apply for a Real ID compliant driver’s license, you might not be able to get one. Depending on which state you reside in, the reaction to the Real ID law from the states has been mixed and varied.  Some states have embraced  the legislation and have made their driver’s licenses and ID cards compliant with the DHS guidelines, some states have  implemented some but not all of  the provisions in the guidelines, while some states have simply rejected the law and have passed legislation forbidding state compliance with the DHS guidelines. So, depending on your state of residence, your state issued ID or driver’s license may or not be valid for entry onto a plane or federal building requiring an ID.

The ACLU , a vocal opponent of Real ID on the State level, provides a state by state status of Anti- Real Id legislation on their anti Real ID website.

Current status of Real ID Compliance by State & Territory

REAL ID  Status State / Territory
Submitted full compliance certification packages to DHS1 Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, South Dakota, Tennessee. (5)
Self-certified: Issuing materially compliant licenses (meeting the first 18 benchmarks) +  the gold star compliance mark Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Utah (4)
Self-certified: Issuing materially compliant licenses (meeting the first 18 benchmarks) Arkansas, District of Columbia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Jersey. (7)
Committed to meeting material compliance but require more time Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Nebraska, Ohio, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming. (12)
Certifiable Enhanced Driver’s License programs New York, Michigan, Vermont, Washington. (4)
Committed to meeting 15 of 18 benchmarks Arizona, California, Georgia, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, U.S. Virgin Islands (12)
Will not meet four or more benchmarks in the next 12 months Alaska, American Samoa, Guam, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Northern Marianas Islands2 (12)
1 According to DHS, other states have assured DHS that once DHS proves its willingness to certify states’ compliance packages, they will take the extra steps to assemble and submit the required packages.2 Montana, Oklahoma, and Washington have laws preventing REAL ID implementation, although Washington state has tried to repeal the law, and does have an Enhanced Driver License. Montana has strict issuing standards but they are not intended to be in line with REAL ID.

An online list of minimum standards for Real Driver’s Licenses and acceptable Identification cards is available from the USCIS.

Real ID Conclusion,  Traveler Recommendation

The statistics very on the exact number, but evidence points to the US having a surprising low rate of passports issued to it’s citizens in comparison to passport issuance rates from other countries. The past arguments defending the relatively low number of  US passports in circulation relative to population, range from the historical fact that US citizens haven’t been required to have passports for many international destinations and the US being so large, that most travel is domestic, not requiring  passport, are no longer valid. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), which is in effect, requires a passport for reentry into the US by persons arriving by plane. This law not only applies to Non US travelers by  also to US citizens entering back into the US as well. Additionally, the new Real ID legislation not only demands an id to enter a plane, it defines rigorous criteria on what IDs will meet the standard of a Real ID.

Real ID is the law and is going to be enforced in January 2013. Regardless of what state you are from and when your driver’s license was issued, a valid passport or an equivalent passport card will satisfy the requirements for a Real ID. Acquisition of these documents is a routine procedure for G3’s processional passport associates. There is no excuse not to have one or both.

It is understandable not to want to take your passport on a domestic flight for a number of reasons. The passport card is a great alternative to a passport or state issued compliant driver’s license and is also a good back up ID when you need one. This federal ID is a card the same size as a driver’s license or credit card, can fit your wallet and meets all the DHS standards of a Real ID. Passport cards are also a good idea for minors traveling via air  inside the US, as these travelers usually don’t have any state issued, photo identification documents, as most of them aren’t eligible for driver’s license; even if they are from a state that issues compliant IDs. Passport cards provide minors and adults with an easy form of ID that meets the standards of a compliant Real ID.

Regardless of what form of ID you have you are going to be required to show a Real ID before you board a plane.  It remains to be seen what will happen to travelers who have misplaced, lost or have had their ID stolen while traveling. Having multiple forms of IDs, such as a compliant driver’s license, passport, or passport  card provides a back up if you misplace your ID while traveling. Savvy travelers know from experience to have a back plan in case of emergency. A passport and passport card can provide that Plan B coverage if your driver’s license is lost or, in the case of residents of Alaska, American Samoa, Guam, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Northern Marianas Islands, not valid for travel.