Increased wait time leads to temporary
postponement of new air, land travel rules
By Tim SpielmanAssociate Editor
Washington – Hunters and anglers fretting the upcoming
requirement of a passport for land and sea travel into Canada (as
well as Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda) have been granted extra
time in obtaining the proper documentation.
Under pressure from members of Congress and with a growing
backlog of current passport applications, the Bush administration
announced that a plan to require all travelers, U.S. citizens, and
foreign nationals to present a passport (or other secure document)
when re-entering the U.S. would be delayed at least six months.
‘We are not going to drop the ax (as planned) on Jan. 1, 2008,’
said Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff in
a statement. ‘We’ve come to understand that it’s important to build
flexibility in our systems.’
The requirement of passports for land and sea travels will be
delayed at least six months, DHS officials said, adding that they
will serve 60 days notice before the requirement takes effect.
However, the administration announced several changes will begin
in January 2008 as part of a ‘transition’ period.
‘Beginning Jan. 31, 2008, DHS plans to begin initial elements of
WHTI implementation (the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, the
plan to carry out a post 9/11 terrorism prevention bill) at land
and sea ports by ending the routine practice of accepting oral
declarations alone,’ according to a DHS press release.
‘At that point, U.S. and Canadian citizens will need to present
either a WHTI-compliant document or a government-issued photo ID,
such as a driver’s license, plus proof of citizenship, such as a
birth certificate,’ the release states. New rules also will take
effect for children.
Full implementation of the passport requirement will take place
later, according to the DHS. ‘The implementation date will be
determined based on a number of factors Š,’ according to the DHS.
‘DHS and (Department of State) expect the date of full WHTI
implementation to be in the summer of 2008.’
The WHTI was mandated by Congress in the Intelligence Reform and
Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which was based on a report from
the 9/11 Commission.
Effects on Canada
Already, tourist attractions, including angling in northwestern
Ontario, have noticed a decline in popularity among U.S. sportsmen.
Much of that is due to confusion about the requirements, according
to Jerry Cariou, executive director for the Sunset Country Travel
Much of the confusion is due to passport requirements for air
travelers – a rule that kicked in earlier this year. It’s also a
rule that’s recently been amended.
‘We’ve seen a big impact,’ Cariou said. ‘We’re very
The air travel rule that took effect in January this year
required passports for all air travelers from the U.S. re-entering
the country. But the limited passport agencies in the country
weren’t able to process passport applications in a timely manner,
leading to delays and ruined travel plans.
The waiting time for passports increased from about six weeks to
more than three months.
The Department of State states on its website that for the first
seven months of Fiscal Year 2007 (October through April), the
department issued 8.6 million passports, a 33-percent increase from
the same period last year, and more than were issued in any single
full year before 2003.
So, earlier this month, the DHS announced ‘that U.S. citizens
traveling to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda who have
applied but not yet received passports can nevertheless temporarily
enter and depart from the U.S. by air with a government-issued
photo identification and Department of State official proof of
application for a passport, through Sept. 30, 2007.’
According to government estimates, about 6 million Americans
will need formal documents to travel to the Caribbean, Canada, and
Mexico by air or sea. The estimated need for land crossings is more
than four times that – 27 million Americans during the next five
years. Those numbers do not include the regular year-to-year demand
But Cariou says it’s not – at this point – those who require
passports who’ve limited visits to Canada. Of greater concern
currently are ‘day-trippers’ and ‘overnighters,’ those who travel
by boat or auto to Canada to fish, hunt, or otherwise tour parts of
Travel business to Northwest Ontario (overnighters) has dipped 8
to 10 percent, according to Cariou, while southern Ontario, such as
Windsor (near Detroit) and Niagara Falls (across the river from New
York) have experienced about a 40-percent reduction in tourism
Many travelers fail to realize they don’t yet need passports to
drive or boat into Canada, he said – that things are the same as
they have been, but will change in the future.
‘People are making decisions, thinking they need passports this
year,’ he said. ‘It’s affecting travel Š mostly through
misunderstandings. I don’t think the (Department of Homeland
Security) has gotten the word out to the American public.’
Cariou does, however, recommend those who are planning a future
trip to Canada apply now for a passport, because at some point, it
or one of the other accepted secure documents will be needed for
passage between the countries.
The U.S. House, prior to the Bush administration announcement,
had voted that the passport requirement for air and sea travel be
delayed 17 months, until 2009. A similar provision is being
considered in the Senate.
Rep. Thomas Reynolds, a New York Republican, called the DHS’s
call for flexibility in implementations ‘more of the same
‘They ask us to get this right. Frankly, these two agencies (DHS
and State) haven’t earned the trust of this Congress or the
American people,’ he said.
For more passport information, visit the Department of State
website at http://travel.state.gov.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.