The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has softened a
requirement that all U.S. citizens who travel abroad and all visitors to the
U.S. will need to hold a passport in the future.
The final stage of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative,
involving land and sea crossings, was originally supposed to be implemented by
Jan. 31, 2008 but was delayed until at least June due to long waits for
passports and the objections of state and provincial governments and local
governments on both sides of the border.
As well, the Department of Homeland Security confirmed last
week that it will now allow travelers to use enhanced driver’s licences at land
border crossings, once they are available.
“Next year, we’ll be implementing a rule in stages that will
require not a passport, but either a passport, a PASS card, a Nexus card, or an
enhanced driver’s license to cross the land border,” said Michael Chertoff,
Homeland Security Secretary.
The enhanced driver’s licences will include standardized
security features and can be scanned to provide personal information such as
citizenship and criminal records. The exact parameters still need to be
approved by the DHS and participating governments, but the Insurance
Corporation of B.C. confirmed that it is already working on the program for
“Where things are at currently is that ICBC is working with the
province, and we’re still waiting for final approval to launch enhanced
driver’s licenses,” said ICBC spokesperson Doug Henderson. “That will depend on
reaching an agreement with the U.S. government as to what the licenses would
look like, but right now we’re still targeting early 2008 to launch the first
phase where we would issue a number of enhanced licences.”
ICBC has also not finalized details on costs for the enhanced
driver’s licences, but all jurisdictions are expecting that there will be
additional fees for the licences on top of regular fees.
The government of Manitoba also confirmed last week that it
would be producing the licenses by fall of 2008 at the latest, and other
provincial governments are expected to announce their own plans shortly.
As of Jan. 1, 2008, any child under 15 entering the United
States must have parental consent a certified copy of their birth certificate.
Teens 16 to 18 travelling with groups and teams, will require copies of their
birth certificates and adult supervision.
The full WHTI requirements are expected to go into effect this
summer, with 60 days notice. That includes the provision to allow Canadians to
use enhanced driver’s licenses.
Americans returning home by land or sea will not be required to have a passport or enhanced driver’s license until June of 2009, but will require other photo ID and proof of citizenship in the meantime.