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Have debt? Can’t travel

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People who owe child support will find their travel options outside the United States blocked until they pay up.

Beginning Jan. 23, U.S. citizens traveling by air between the United States and Mexico, Canada, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda will need a valid passport.

Previously, all travelers could flash a driver’s license or birth certificate to take trips between the U.S. and Mexico or Canada.

The change in travel document requirements is a result of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission and which Congress passed into law in 2004.

The minimum amount for which passports can be denied is $2,500, recently lowered from $5,000, says Edgar Vasquez, a spokesperson with the U.S. State Department.

The logic seems to be that if child support scofflaws can afford to travel, they can afford to catch up on back support owed.

Passengers on any commercial flight will be required to have them. That includes flights to the Sonoran cities of Hermosillo, Guaymas, Obregon, Puerto Peñasco and Nogales, although the last two currently have no commercial service.

Things will get worse for folks in arrears in the coming years. Passport requirements to re-enter the country by land from Mexico or Canada will become effective by Jan. 1, 2008.

“This new law makes me think that I want to pay off what I owe if I want to keep making trips to Mexico,” says one Phoenix debtor in the hole about $15,000  who requested anonymity.

For more information, go to the U.S. Department of State passport Web site: http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html

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