Passportsnow a must at border

Published on Thu, Jan 25, 2007 by eg Olson

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Passports now a must at border

By Meg Olson

Any plans to get away from the winter weather on a Mexican getaway just got a little trickier.

As of Tuesday, January 23, all passengers arriving in the U.S. by air, including U.S. citizens will need a passport or another on a very short list of accepted secure travel documents: an Air Nexus card, U.S. Coast Guard issued merchant mariner document, or an alien registration card.

The new document requirement is part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, the Bush administration’s plan to implement a 2004 congressional mandate establishing a requirement for all travelers to carry secure citizenship indentification documents to verify their identity.

“It’s gone very smoothly,” said U.S. Customs and Border Protection representative Mike Milne. Milne said since monitoring air travelers arriving in the U.S. since November, 97 percent of Canadians were already traveling with passports and over 90 percent of U.S. citizens.
A greater challenge Milne said, will come when the passport requirement is to be rolled out at land and sea ports, scheduled for as early as January 2008 and no later than June of 2009.

“This was a piece of cake compared to what we’re looking at next year,” he said, explaining that there are 87 million arrivals to the U.S. by air every year, compared with 330 million by land and sea.

A new PASS card being developed by the U.S. Department of State and Congress has made its availability a condition of implementing the passport rule at land and sea ports.

The new wallet-sized card is expected to be less expensive that the passport, which costs $197 and is valid for 10 years.