November 22nd, 2006 14:26 EST
January 23, 2007 All Air Travelers To U.S. Will Need a Passport
Washington -- As of January 23, 2007, citizens of the United States, Canada, Mexico and Bermuda must show valid passports when traveling to the United States by air from any part of the Western Hemisphere, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of State announced November 22.
The new passport requirement is the first phase of a joint initiative by the Homeland Security and State departments called the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. The second phase of the initiative will address travel to the United States by land or sea.
“This initiative strengthens our border security by designating verifiable, secure documents that may be used at our air ports of entry,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff in a statement outlining the new rule.
The new passport requirement was among the recommendations made by the commission that investigated the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. The U.S. Congress subsequently mandated these recommendations in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 by requiring the departments of Homeland Security and State to develop and implement a plan to require all travelers to present documents showing their identity and citizenship when entering the United States. Implementation of the change in travel document requirements follows a lengthy period during which the public has had the opportunity to comment and Homeland Security has conducted a detailed assessment of the impact of changes in travel document requirements.
Exceptions to the new passport rule for air travelers involve special categories of travelers, such as U.S. military personnel on official orders or U.S. merchant mariners using the Merchant Mariner Document (MMD). Another exception applies to holders of the NEXUS Air card when it is used in conjunction with the NEXUS program, a limited-enrollment program for qualifying U.S. and Canadian citizens and permanent residents.
Lawful permanent residents of the United States will continue to be able to use their Alien Registration Card (Form I-551) or other valid evidence of permanent residence status to apply for entry, according to Homeland Security, but children who are U.S. citizens will need to obtain a passport even if their parents are Green Card holders.
In making the announcement concerning air travelers, the Department of Homeland Security also said that it will publish at a later date a proposed rule for travelers entering the United States through land and sea border crossings. “As early as January 1, 2008, U.S. citizens traveling between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Bermuda by land or sea will be required to present a valid U.S. passport or other documents as determined by the Department of Homeland Security,” Homeland Security said.
A fact sheet on the new passport requirement is available on the State Department Web site.
For more information on how the new requirement might affect special categories of air travelers, see Frequently Asked Questions on the Homeland Security Web site or Frequently Asked Questions on the State Department Web site.
Further information for travelers is available at www.dhs.gov or travel.state.gov.
(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)