DHS, State publish final travel documents rule
The Homeland Security and State departments issued a final rule on document requirements for U.S. citizens and nonimmigrant citizens of Canada, Bermuda and Mexico who seek to gain entry to the United States at a land or sea port.
The final rule for the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), issued March 27, will become effective June 1, 2009, which gives travelers more than a year to prepare. Still, officials anticipate it will require some time and effort to help travelers understand what the changes mean.
During the next 14 months, DHS and State will work with the Canadian government on a public campaign to inform affected groups, especially those in border communities, about the changes.
The March 27 final rule represents the second phase of implementing WHTI, which was a recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. Congress recently delayed the deadline for implementing the land and sea portions of WHTI to June 1, 2009, as part of the fiscal 2008 DHS budget agreement. Appropriators approved $225 million for for State and DHS to advance the project.
Since Jan. 23, 2007, travelers who are covered under the WHTI program have been required to carry a passport, with limited exceptions.
As of Jan. 31 of this year, border crossers have been required to present citizenship or identification documents when entering the United States by land or sea. Previously some U.S. and Canadian citizens had been allowed to prove their citizenship by oral declaration.
DHS also announced on March 27 that it considers the state of Washington's enhanced driver's license document secure.
Under the March 27 final rule, U.S. citizens entering the United States by land or sea will need one of the following:
• A U.S. passport.
• A U.S. passport card.
• A valid trusted-traveler card.
• A. valid Merchant Mariner Document.
Canadians will need one of the following:
• A Canadian passport.
• A valid trusted-traveler program card.
Mexicans will need one of the following:
• A Mexican passport.
• A valid Border Crossing Card, in some cases.
Bermudians will need one of the following:
• A Bermuda or United Kingdom passport.
Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.