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Newest update: Nov-27-2006
"The Department of Homeland Security issued its formal announcement on
Wednesday stating the necessity of having a passport to enter the US by
air from any part of the Western Hemisphere will begin on January 23,
2007. Secretary Michael Chertoff said "The ability to misuse travel
documents to enter this country opens the door for a terrorist to carry
out an attack. We cannot continue to allow loopholes that could facilitate
access to the United States through false claims of citizenship or fake
identities. This initiative strengthens our border security by designing
verifiable secure documents that may be used at our air ports of entry."
He also said this date was the final one. The final date for having to
have a passport to enter the country by land or sea remains at June 1,
2008, however that date could be moved up to January 1, 2008."
Initiative Designed to Expedite Travel in the Western Hemisphere While
Washington, D.C. – The Departments of Homeland Security and State formally
submitted the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative proposal for public
comment. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative will require all U.S.
citizens, citizens of the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda, and
citizens of Canada and Mexico to have a passport or other accepted secure
document that establishes the bearer’s identity and nationality to enter or
re-enter the United States by January 1, 2008.
The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 mandated that
the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of
State, develop and implement a plan to require U.S. citizens and foreign
nationals to present a passport, or other secure document when entering the
In the proposed implementation plan, the Initiative will be rolled out in
phases, providing as much advance notice as possible to the affected public
to enable them to meet the terms of the new guidelines. The proposed
timeline will be as follows:
In the proposed implementation plan, the requirements outlined above will
be rolled out in the following phases:
On January 8, 2007, ALL persons, including U.S. citizens, traveling by air
between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America,
the Caribbean, and Bermuda will be required to present a valid passport,
Air NEXUS card, or U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Document.
- As early as January 1, 2008, ALL persons, including U.S. citizens,
traveling between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America,
the Caribbean, and Bermuda by land or sea (including ferries), may be
required to present a valid passport or other documents as determined by
the Department of Homeland Security. While recent legislative changes
permit a later deadline, the Departments of State and Homeland Security
are working to meet all requirements as soon as possible. Ample advance
notice will be provided to enable the public to obtain passports or
passport cards for land/sea entries.
In April 2005, the Departments of State (State) and Homeland Security
(DHS) announced a proposed plan to be implemented in three phases beginning
on December 31, 2005 for the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. After
further review and considering the delay in publishing the public notice in
the Federal Register, State and DHS recognized that implementing the
December 31, 2005, phase would be problematic for travelers. This new
timeline will simplify the implementation and provide a longer lead-time for
travelers to come into compliance with the requirements.
As previously noted, the passport will be the document of choice for travel
within the Western Hemisphere or re-entry. However, another document that we
anticipate will be acceptable under the travel initiative is the Border
Crossing Card, (BCC – or “laser visa”). Currently, the BCC serves in lieu of
a passport and a visa for citizens of Mexico traveling to the U.S. from
contiguous territory. Other documents that we are considering for acceptance
under this initiative are the Customs and Border Protection Secure
Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI), NEXUS and Free
and Secure Trade (FAST) program cards.
No currently existing documents other than the BCC, SENTRI, NEXUS or FAST
cards are under active consideration as substitutes for the passport.
However, DHS and State are reviewing new technological developments
regarding options for secure travel documents. Acceptable documents must
establish the citizenship and identity of the bearer, and include
significant security features. Ultimately, all documents used for travel to
the U.S. are expected to include biometrics that can be used to authenticate
the document and verify identity.
To provide vital information to the general public, the Departments of
Homeland Security and State are issuing an Advance Notice of Proposed
Rulemaking (ANPRM) on the plan to the public and requesting input and/or
comment on the suggested documents and possible alternative documents that
can meet the statutory requirements. A more formal rulemaking will be issued
later this year following review of those comments to implement the first
phase of the initiative. This rulemaking will take into account comments
received from the ANPRM as well as soliciting further comments on the
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