Get your passport now: feds want to jack up fees into the triple digits

passportGiven our limitations in vacation time and geography, it's already hard enough to get Americans to venture out and see the rest of the big, wide world.

The State Department apparently isn't concerned about helping us integrate into the global village, though, because it's on the verge of pulling the trigger on giant passport fee hikes that far outstrip the rate of inflation.

If the fees go through, first-timers will pay $135 to get their passports, up from $100, and kids will pay $105, up from $85.

Renewals will cost $110 (instead of the current $75), and Passport Cards, which are good for non-air travel, will rise by 50%, from $20 to $30 if you already have a passport book, and to $55 from $45 if you don't.

If you just want to add pages to your passport, which is completely free now, the government will start charging you a scalding $85 -- more than a whole new passport costs right now on renewal.

The public has until March 11 to oppose the new fees. You can do that by submitting your comments on this form or by e-mailing fees@state.gov with the subject line RIM (1400-AC58).

Part of the problem, or so the State Department says, is that the addition of new security features such as RFID chips have upped the cost of making passports. That they have hiked the cost by 35% is certainly up for debate, but there's no debating that the '00s saw the addition of many new layers of "homeland security" bureaucracy that must be fed somehow.

High passport fees don't just keep us at home. They discourage international relationships in general. CNN quoted New York Representative Brian Higgins as saying, "We need to literally and figuratively build bridges that encourage cross border tourism, commerce and economic opportunity and this move would do just the opposite."

The head of Niagara Falls tourism was "shocked" at the move, telling CNN: ""It's very difficult to get our American visitors across the border for so many reasons right now. This is certainly not good news for people in the U.S. who may not be able to afford a passport and it's certainly not good news for tourism destinations."

The right to travel is a precious one that many national governments deny its citizens by law. Americans have that right, but because of where our nation is positioned on the globe, largely separated from the rest of the planet's population centers by seas, the ability to go abroad is already so expensive that millions of Americans are unable to do it. Hiking passport fees will just elevate the obstacle between the common man and his God-given right to free movement.

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