Pictured: OFELIA GARCIA HUNTER

District Clerk R. David Guerrero changes the sign at the front desk to correspond to the new passport application and fee changes starting today.

Passport cards available at district clerk's office

Ofelia Garcia Hunter, Alice Echo-News Journal

New passport applications and fees go into effect today, and individuals can apply for a new passport card for ground travel, District Clerk R. David Guerrero announced.

The fee for a passport book has increased from $97 to $100 and the new passport card is $45 for adults and $35 for children 15 years and under.

Beginning today, individuals can apply for a new passport card instead of the regular passport book for ground travel only.

"If you are just going into the border towns, then a passport card is sufficient," Guerrero said.

The passport card is the size of an ID card.

Guerrero said the new passport cards begin processing in May.

Passport requirements to apply include a birth certificate, two color passport photos, a valid ID such as a driver's license, school ID or military ID, and the fee paid by check or money order to the U.S. Department of State.

Guerrero said the processing time for regular passports is four to six weeks, but lately it has been quicker because the office in Houston has increased its staff.

"They have doubled the amount of employees in Houston and some people are getting them in three weeks," he said.

Once the application is complete, it is sent to Philadelphia for screening and then to Houston for processing, Guerrero said.

Individuals may also pay an extra $60 that covers an expedited fee to quicken the application process.

Guerrero said his office filled out 881 applications in 2007. He said because of the demand along the border towns, his office has seen an increase of residents from the Valley and Laredo.

"The people have been coming in steadily," he said. "We expect those numbers to increase."