Border talk

By Almer Elzink, Cortez Paradise Magazine.

Many people heading to Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean now travel with just a driver’s license for identification. Under the new rule, named the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), U.S. citizens traveling by air, land or sea will be required to present a valid passport upon their return. While air travelers already need the document, land or sea travelers have until January 1st, 2008 to obtain theirs.

As federal officials try to bring the process of identification into the digital age by incorporating cutting – edge technology, the new initiative strengthens border security by designating verifiable secure documents to quickly reliably and accurately indentify a traveler.

Since there are currently over 8,000 different state and local entities in the United States that issue birth certificates and driver’s licenses still enabling passing the land ports of entry, it is difficult to quickly verify authenticity of the documents. Just one document to check should make inspection easier and more efficient for both inspectors and travelers.

To facilitate the frequent travel of those who living in U.S. border communities and U.S. residents who don’t want to pay $97 for a passport, the Department of State also is proposing by the end of 2007 to introduce a “PASSport Card” that would work like a passport. The proposed wallet-sized card would cost $10 for children and $20 for adults, but is only good for those traveling by land or sea to Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean.

Even though your driver’s license will no longer be sufficient soon, some exemptions may apply . It is also anticipated that the following documents will continue to be acceptable for their current travel issues under the Initiative: SENTRI, NEXUS, FAST, and the U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Document.

We would encourage all U.S. citizens to obtain the appropriate documents before they travel. A study showed that over half traveling to Mexico have one already, and for the ones that don’t: there is really no reason for concern. A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and leave most foreign countries, and it is fairly easy to get one.

For more information, visit the State Department’s web site, http://travel.state.gov, or call the U.S National Passport Information Center: (877) 4USA-PPT. U.S. citizens living outside the U.S. should contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Source:

U.S. Department of State.

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