The US Department of State announced a plan called the "Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative," designed to enhance border security, which will require people traveling between the United States and the Caribbean, Bermuda, Panama, Mexico and Canada to have a passport to enter or re-enter the United States. Citizens of the United States, Canada, Mexico and Bermuda will be affected.
Currently, passports are recommended, but not required, for travel to and from the destinations above. The new requirements are expected to be rolled out in phases according to the following schedule:
Beginning December 31, 2005, a passport will be required for all air and sea travel between the United States and the Caribbean, Bermuda, Central and South America. All foreign nationals from these areas, and US citizens returning from these areas, will be required to show a passport to enter the United States.
Beginning December 31, 2006, a passport will be required for all air and sea travel to or from Mexico and Canada. Canadian and Mexican citizens, and US citizens returning from Canada or Mexico, will be required to present a passport to enter or re-enter the United States.
Beginning December 31, 2007, a passport will be required for all air, sea or land travel to and from the above-mentioned destinations.
There are groups lobbying to change this time line or the requirements, and there's a possibility that could happen, but it's becoming more likely that these new requirements will go into effect as planned. It's also likely that international frequent travelers holding Sentri, Nexus or Fast Cards, or Border Crossing Cards, may not need passports, but no final decision has been made.
You are encouraged to start the passport application process now, to avoid delays that may occur as applications increase.
You can learn more about the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative on the US Department of State's Web site.
For answers to frequently asked questions, click here.
For information about obtaining or renewing a passport as a US citizen, click here.
For information about obtaining or renewing a passport as a Canadian citizen, click here to visit Passport Canada.
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