State Dept. Issues Travel Documentation Reminder
The Department of State issued a reminder that effective January 23, 2007, all persons traveling by air between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean region must present a passport or other valid travel document to enter or re-enter the U.S. Beginning January 31, 2008, U.S. and Canadian citizens need to present either a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI)-compliant document, or a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, plus proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate.
At a later date, to be determined, the Departments of State and Homeland Security will implement the full requirements of the land and sea phase of WHTI. Proposed rules require most U.S. citizens entering the U.S. at sea or land ports of entry to have either a U.S. passport; a U.S. passport card; a trusted traveler card such as NEXUS, FAST, or SENTRI; a valid Merchant Mariner Document (MMD) when traveling in conjunction with official maritime business; or a valid U.S. Military identification card when traveling on official orders. Members of the U.S. Armed Forces on active duty traveling on orders are exempt from the passport requirement. The passport requirement does not apply to U.S. citizens traveling to or returning directly from a U.S. territory.
U.S. citizens may begin applying in advance for the new, limited-use, wallet-size passport card beginning February 1, 2008. The Department said it expects that the cards will be available and mailed to applicants in spring 2008. When available, it will only be valid for land and sea travel between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean region, and Bermuda.
A related 23-page letter on the WHTI from Richard Stana, Director of Homeland Security and Justice Issues for the Government Accountability Office, to the House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism, is available. Among other things, Mr. Stana noted that the GAO “acknowledge[s] that DHS has taken a number of actions to prepare for testing and deploying technologies and managing the implementation of other WHTI activities. However, as key elements of planning for program management and execution remain uncertain, we continue to believe that DHS faces challenges deploying technology, and staffing and training officers to use it.”