Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi urges county residents who are planning to visit a foreign country in the next few months to apply for their passports as soon as possible before higher federal fees for passports take effect on Tuesday, July 13.

"I urge everyone traveling or planning to travel in the near future to visit our offices in Westfield or Elizabeth in the next few days to take advantage of the current federal passport fees before new increased fees go into effect on July 13," said Ms. Rajoppi. "These new fees are a result of a State Department increase and do not represent any increase in the County Clerk's fees."

On Tuesday, July 13, new fees for the U.S. Passport Book, the Passport Card, and other passport services will take effect. The new federal fee for an adult passport book (age 16 and older) will be $110 - an increase of $35 over the current price. Passport books for children under age 16 will be $80 - an increase of $20. The new fee for an adult passport card will be $30 - an increase of $10. Passport cards for children will be $15 - an increase of $5 over the current price. Each passport transaction includes a $25 facility fee payable to Union County. This fee is not being increased.

Passport application forms may be obtained at the County Clerk's main office in the Union County Courthouse at 2 Broad Street in Elizabeth or at the County Clerk's office annex at 300 North Avenue East in Westfield. Applications for passports and related information also can be found online at http://www.ucnj.org/ctyclerk/passport.html

"Our Elizabeth office opens at 7:30 a.m. weekdays and it has experienced, helpful, English and Spanish-speaking staff ready to assist you in any way we can," Rajoppi said. "Our Westfield office has convenient Saturday hours and evening hours during the week."

The Westfield Annex is the only County Clerk's office in the state that is open during evening hours. The Westfield Annex is open from 8:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays; from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; and on Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The telephone number at the Westfield Annex is 908-654-9859.

The Elizabeth office is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The telephone number in Elizabeth is 908-527-4966. Clients are asked to arrive at least 15 minutes prior to closing time to allow for staff assistance with the passport process.

Travelers to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and countries in the Caribbean also must have a valid passport to enter or depart from the United States.

"Even if your passport is still valid, some countries require passports to be valid for an additional six months after your visit," Rajoppi added. "This is an entry requirement in some countries, so it is important to call the country's embassy or check their website to look for specific passport expiration requirements before you travel."

For more information about obtaining a U.S. passport, please call (908) 527-4966.