Monday, January 22, 2007

New Rules Kick-in for Western Hemisphere Travel

RFID Law Journal
Newsletter No. 37
January 22, 2007

On Tuesday January 23, 2007, Canadian, Mexican and Bermuda citizens traveling by air, along with U.S. citizens, into the U.S. must, subject to few exceptions, provide border officials with a passport to gain entrance into the United States. This rule will bring our North American neighbors under the same rules applicable to all other worldwide travelers. In January, 2008 and June, 2009, the rules will expand to include land and sea entry, with the potential of clogging the borders.

Up until now, these Western Hemisphere neighbors typically were required only to display a birth certificate or driver’s license to gain entry into the U.S., but these more stringent rules were implemented following recommendations by the 9/11 Commission. The exception is the NEXUS Air card issued to frequent travelers and active members of the U.S. military. DHS is also considering the PASS Card as an alternative to the passport. A PASS Card is significantly less expensive than a passport, but it wouldn’t be accepted for other worldwide travel.

The new rule isn’t expected to materially impact business travelers, who usually carry a passport, but there is some concern that it could disrupt travel among ‘snow birds’ (e.g., the tens of thousands of Canadians who visit Florida and other sunny destinations each winter). It’s plausible that some jurisdictions, such as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, will enjoy an incremental windfall because they’re exempted from the new rules.

While it’s certainly possible that the new rules may deter travel among some travelers, it could cause more American citizens over the longer term to procure and hold passports. At present, only 73 million citizens hold valid passports. If the supposition is correct, then the new rules will, in part, further enable e-passport deployment over the long haul.

You are invited to learn more at the State Department’s link:

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