New passport requirement kicks in June 1

Washington – Following a series of delays prompted by backlogs
of passport applicants, a new rule that will affect travelers to
Canada lakes this summer is set to take effect.

Another phase of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative will
kick in June 1, when the WHTI’s “Land and Sea” begins for those
coming into (or returning to) the United States from Canada,
Mexico, and the Caribbean. The rule requires those entering the
United States have a passport, the new passport card, or a valid
“frequent traveler program” card.

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officials don’t expect any
further delays in implementation of the land and sea
requirements.

“Nobody’s given us any indication of otherwise,” said Chris
Misson, a public information officer at the CBP office in Pembina,
N.D. While CBP is a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland
Security, Misson said passport documents are issued by the U.S.
State Department.

Officials had hoped to implement the land and sea rule earlier,
but a surge in passport demand led to delays in their issuance, and
in some cases, botched trips and public outcry. At the same time,
Congress sought to offer travelers a cheaper alternative.

That ushered in the new “passport card,” an option for some
travelers. Production of the card began July 14 last year,
according to the State Department. The passport card “is only valid
for re-entry into the United States at land border crossings and
sea ports of entry from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean region, and
Bermuda,” according to the department.

While the passport card limits travelers’ options, it’s the much
cheaper form of documentation. For those age 16 and older, a
passport book (the conventional passport, which is in most cases
valid for 10 years) costs $100. The passport card costs $45. For
those under age 16, the book costs $85; the card costs $35. There’s
also an option – that comes with an added cost – to expedite
issuance of a passport book. The passport card also is valid for 10
years.

Citizens can apply for the passport book or card at: www.travel.state.gov. To apply
for the other frequent traveler cards, visit www.cbp.gov. Also, information about
passports is available through the U.S. Postal Service at its 9,000
locations nationwide.

Frequent traveler programs include SENTRI, NEXUS, and FAST.
Commuters and commercial truck drivers are examples of those who
might utilize the programs. Just a few states offer state-issued
“enhanced driver’s licenses.”

The WHTI includes “standardized, secure travel documents
recommended by the 9/11 Commission and required by law in 2004.”
The intent is to “enable U.S. Customs and Border Protection
officers to more quickly, reliably, and accurately identify and
process travelers.”

The goal, according to the CBP, is to “strengthen border
security while facilitating entry into the United States for U.S.
citizens and legitimate international travelers, making the process
more convenient and efficient.”

The CBP says since 2005 it has intercepted more than 129,000
fraudulent documents and caught more than 118,000 people making
false verbal claims of United States citizenship or presenting
false documents.

Misson said it appears travelers crossing the border from Canada
now appear to be aware of the upcoming new requirements. He said he
doesn’t anticipate much confusion.

“We’ve put out enough literature,” he said of CBP’s attempts to
educate travelers.

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