Do You Need A Passport to Fly In The New Year?

This is the numero uno question that I get from clients and random people across the country.

TSA signaled earlier this earlier that it would stop taking driver’s licenses and ID documents from several states. This commotion is mainly due to the REAL ID Act, which was passed by Congress in 2005, and prohibits federal agencies from accepting licenses and identification cards for official purposes from states that do not meet heightened security standards. 

The TSA announced earlier this year that starting January 22, 2018, residents from Kentucky, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Maine, Montana, South Carolina, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Washington state would need another government-issued ID, such as a passport, to fly. However, the hard deadline has been rolled back to October 1, 2020 for the non-compliant states.

The good news is that if you have an ID from a non-compliant state, TSA will continue to accept it to board a domestic flight and to enter certain federal facilities until October 1, 2020. After that date, a REAL ID or other federally accepted ID will be required. California residents can obtain a REAL ID license at the DMV starting January 22, 2018. Further instructions for that are available here

Transitions

Sather Gate

This summer I received a wonderful and surprising opportunity to move back to the East Bay, California. And unsurprisingly, I took it.

I will be working at the University of California, Berkeley Law School’s community clinic, the East Bay Community Law Center as an attorney and clinical instructor, where I will head up the historic and unprecedented Undocumented Student Program. At the clinic, I will provide free legal services to hundreds of undocumented students at UC Berkeley, their family members and the East Bay community at large. I will also supervise students at the clinic, through their experiential learning program.

I love the East Bay, and Berkeley is my favourite city in the United States. I can trace my political leanings back to UC Berkeley’s unprecedented BAUD program back in 2001 when I was in high school, so I am ecstatic to be back where it all began, helping members of my community.

Thank you to everyone, especially my wife and mom, who helped me get to this point in my life.

Lessons from Traveling Abroad

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You just received a green card, or advance parole, and want to travel internationally?

First of all, congratulations are in order!

If this is your first time traveling abroad in a while, here are some things you should do or bring before your trip.

SAFETY PRECAUTIONS

1. Obtain a money belt that straps to your body to store your cash, passport and valuables.

2. Carry travel insurance if your regular health insurance doesn’t cover you while abroad. Travel insurance is also useful if your baggage is lost or delayed, and provides reimbursement on prepaid reservations if your trip is canceled, interrupted or delayed.

3. Make a copy of your passport, and leave it in the safety of your attorney or a friend.

4. Register with your country’s embassy. If there is a problem in the country while you are traveling abroad, this would make it easier for the embassy to contact you, and get you out of harm’s way.

5. Do not forget to renew your prescriptions, and take some over the counter medications with you. For example, I do not travel abroad without my allergy medication, regular pain killers, and antibiotics.

FINANCIAL

6. Call your bank provider and place travel alerts on your credit and debit cards. You do not want the bank to think there is fraud on your account while you are traveling abroad, and then lock your account as a precautionary measure.

7. Carry several types of currency: local cash, traveller’s cheques, some U.S. dollars to convert if you spot a deal, credit cards that have no foreign transaction fees abroad, debit cards to withdraw money from an ATM without fees or have the fees reimbursed such as Charles Schwab. Also, you can get cash advance from your Discover Card while traveling.

8. Check the country’s entrance/exit fees. Some countries require travelers to pay in order to enter or leave the country. These fees are not included in the price of your airline ticket, and can range from $25 to $200.

9. Buy some local currency before you head out: You can also ask your local U.S. bank for some foreign currency, but note that they do not usually give you the best conversion rates. Research the best conversion rate for the country you are visiting, and convert your currency there.

COMMUNICATION

10. Get a phone or data plan that works internationally. You do not want to be stuck with those hefty AT&T or Verizon bills. If you want to be incommunicado, look into shutting off your data roaming, and use Viber abroad in case you do need to reach your family or your attorney.

11. Do not forget a power strip and plug adapter. You will need these while traveling, and in many countries, your electronics would need an international friendly adapter to work.

16. Use an app such as Tripit to organize your travel. I travel frequently and Tripit is my to-go app for storing my flight information, and itinerary. It also helps your friends and family figure out where you are on any given day (if you invite them to view your travel plans).

TRAVEL DOCUMENTS

12. If you plan to travel a lot, you may want to invest in Global Entry to avoid long lines at airports and have TSA precheck privilege. Better yet, some credit cards provide a reimbursement for this fee, so you may want to look into this.

13. Visiting a foreign country may be as easy as going to Canada and flashing your green card. But some countries, such as Australia, may require you to obtain a visa, even though you have a green card or advance parole. Check the visa requirements of the countries you plan to visit ahead of time, so you can get all your ducks in a row.

14. Layovers: Layovers offer a great way to see several countries on one trip, but need to be planned accordingly. If you have long layovers in countries other than your final destination, you should find out whether you can get a transit pass or require a visa to explore those countries.

The materials available at this web site are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of and access to this Web site or any of the e-mail links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship between Prerna Lal, and the user.

 

Happy New Year from Canada!

Niagara Falls
I saw the majestic Niagara Falls for New Year in Ontario, Canada.
It was cold, wet, and dreary, but so worth it.
The Niagara Falls are on the list of 29 places people must see in the U.S. before they die.
2014 was a great year. I acquired license to practice law, received lawful permanent resident status, traveled to Fiji, Canada and Australia, launched a professional career as an attorney, and bought a new home.
My New Year’s resolution is to acquire several new citizenships, or at least ability to reside in various different places.
On that note, I must implore my readers to check out Canada’s new Express Entry system for skilled immigrants initiated by its Conservative government. It looks quite promising. If the U.S. had something similar, it would solve most problems plaguing its employment-based immigration system.
Got any new resolutions?

The Glorious Journey Home – Part 3 (Pacific Harbour)

Like someone who has had too little of something too good, I’m savoring these posts because I don’t want it to ever end. That would mean it exists no more. I believe in savoring these moments because at the end of the day, it is all I have left of the place I call home.

From the Coral Coast, we planned to go to Suva. However, in between the Coral Coast and Suva lays the gorgeous Pacific Harbour. I want to own a little piece of this someday, but maybe I should settle for Natadola Beach Estates. In any case, we could not afford to miss this increasingly developed jewel on Viti Levu. So we decided to book a zip-line adventure though Zip Fiji.

An Indian taxi driver picked us from Tambua Sands Resort to drive us all the way past Navua to the Zip-line. He was chatty, and we talked about Fiji, my life in the U.S. as a lawyer, and politics in Fiji. He was incredibly happy with the military dictatorship, which had ensured that his daughter could compete with Fijians on the same playing field, since the government had done away with hiring preferences. He was going to cast his vote for Frank Bainimarama in the upcoming elections. I suspect the majority of poor Indians in Fiji felt the same way. Note: Frank won the elections by a landslide, no surprise.

It took us more than an hour to get to village. We were the only people who showed up at the hour, so the staff paid extra attention to us. I am really afraid of heights, but after the first few lines, the fear faded away, and we had a genuinely fun time with the genuinely fun, professional staff.

Ziplining in Fiji with Prerna Lal and Lindsay Schubiner from Prerna Lal on Vimeo.

A little known secret: Zip Fiji has great deals for locals, and they have a more gorgeous Zip-line adventure through the Sleeping Giant gardens in Lautoka. Check it out!