December 28, 2007
The United States Congress has passed a Federal budget that pushes back by a year passport requirements for Americans on the borders of Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.
“The passport requirement is the wrong answer to the wrong question,” said Vermont Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy. “It creates major hassles for law-abiding citizens and communities all across the longest peaceful border in the world,” he added.
“It adds nothing to our security while costing Vermont and our national economy billions in lost commerce,” he continued. If the budget bill, passed by the U.S. Congress, is approved by President George W. Bush, Americans re-entering the country by land will not need a passport until mid-2009, a year later than planned.
A provision of the major end-of-year budget bill pushes back the plan by the Department of Homeland Security that required passports from border crossers from Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean as a way of strengthening national security.
Leahy said he expected Bush to sign the bill, despite the administration’s insistence on carrying out the passport requirement next summer.
The State Department and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have also reminded American travellers that, as of January 31, 2008, all adult travellers will be required to present proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, and proof of identity, such as a driver’s licence, when entering the United States through land and seaports.
The departments said in a statement that the change is a “necessary step to prepare travellers and ease the transition to the future requirements of the WHTI (Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative)”.
“WHTI proposes to establish documentation requirements for travellers entering the United States who were previously exempt, including citizens of the U.S., Canada and Bermuda,” they said.
Currently, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers may accept oral declarations of citizenship from U.S. and Canadian citizens seeking entry into the United States through a land or sea border.
However, the departments warned that, as of January 31, 2008, “oral declarations of citizenship alone will no longer be accepted.
“U.S. and Canadian citizens, aged 19 and older, will need to present a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s licence, along with proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or naturalisation certificate,” the statement said.
“Children, aged 18 and under, will only be required to present proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate,” it added.