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2008-01-31

Get your passports & cards from district clerk

By Judith Pannebaker

As part of a Homeland Security initiative, the United States government has decreed that, as of Friday, Feb. 1, travelers crossing into Canada and Mexico by foot or vehicle must present “passport cards” at the border crossing, according to Bandera County District Clerk Tammy Kneuper.

Of course, any edict from the federal government comes with a built-in Catch-22 - this one being passport cards, although required by Feb. 1, will not be issued until later this spring.

To make border crossings easier, travelers without valid passports are advised to bring with them proof of citizenship such as a birth certificate or equivalent document until a passport card can be issued.

Flying to either of the contiguous countries still requires a passport, and by next summer, passports will be required to drive or walk across borders with Canada and Mexico, Kneuper said.

“The federal government is sending this information to us in bits and pieces,” she told the court.

Application fee for passport cards for those ages 16 and over is $20 with an execution fee of $25; application fees for passports for those ages 16 and older is $75 with an execution fee of $25. Application fees for passport cards and passports for those ages 15 and under are $10 and $60, respectively. Execution fees remain the same.

However, only one administrative fee will be charged for citizens who apply for both documents at the same time.

Referencing an on-going “tempest in a teapot” in Kendall County, Bandera County Judge Evans asked Kneuper if she intended to continue processing passport applications.

“Absolutely,” she said. “If everything is in order and the people aren’t ‘chatty,’ a passport only takes 10 minutes to process. The application fees added $60,000 to county coffers last year. We have people from Houston and a lot of snow birds who apply for their passports here because there are no lines.” The county receives all adminitrative fees for document processing, she said.

Kendall County District Clerk Shirley Stehling recently stopped processing passport applications because of staff time involved. Accordingly, Kendall County Commissioners reduced her personnel, which, in turn, led Stehling to tender her resignation after a 38-year career with the county.

Kneuper’s response, however, was to urge anyone from surrounding counties to apply for their passports in Bandera County. “Send ‘em my way,” she said. “This is of great benefit to the county.”

To prove her point, Kneuper told the court she was going to explore offering to take passport pictures, adding, “That could be another source of revenue for the county.”