Passport Card Update

Beginning January 31st, 2008, U.S. citizens will be required to show their birth certificates or other documents that prove citizenship, along with their driver’s licenses, to cross the border back into this country if they don’t have passports.

The modifications are step one closer to the new rules to tighten border security and require a passport or passcard to cross land borders. The State Department and Homeland Security have not issued the rules for the issuance of passport cards. The passport card will be issued to reduce the cost and complexity for residents in border states who cross the border regularly.

The State Department plans to begin processing applications for the wallet cards by the spring. The delays on the passport card and the stricter requirements at land border crossings are likely to cause traffic jams at ports of entry along the U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada.

Many people who regularly cross the border by showing a driver’s license and saying “yes” when Customs and Border Patrol agents ask if they are U.S. citizens are not aware of new rules.

300 million people cross the land borders annually. Congress moved back the deadline requiring passports or passport cards at all land borders until June 2009. Officials in charge of issuing passport cards announced plans for the driver’s license-like card in early 2006, and said the card would be ready for distribution by the end of that year. Now, almost two years later, the State Department is still working on the final regulations for the card, which is expected to cost $20 plus a $25 processing fee — about half of the $97 cost of a regular passport, making the smaller card a cheaper and easier alternative for many border residents.

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