Friday, April 24, 2009

Don’t Leave Home Without It!

Effective June 1, 2009, the WHTI (Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative) will require all persons to present a valid passport when entering the United States by land or sea. The documentation requirements for air travel have been in effect since January 2007.

The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) requires U.S. and Canadian travelers to present a passport or other document that shows identity and citizenship when entering the U.S. The goal of WHTI is to facilitate entry for U.S. citizens and legitimate foreign visitors, while strengthening U.S. border security. Standard documents will allow the Department of Homeland Security to quickly and accurately identify parties entering the U.S. Military personnel traveling under orders may present photo id and orders. Family members must present a passport (with the exception of children 15 and younger arriving by land or sea). If traveling from outside the Western Hemisphere, all U.S. citizens MUST present a passport, including children and infants.

On June 1, 2009, U.S. citizens returning home from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean or Bermuda, by land or sea, will be required to present one of the travel documents listed below. Many of these documents are already available, and obtaining one now will ensure that you are ready on June 1, 2009, when they will be required.

U.S. Passport – This internationally recognized travel document verifies a person’s identity and nationality. It is accepted for travel by air, land and sea. The cost is $100 for persons age 16 and older, valid for 10 years for adults and issued by the U.S. Department of State.

U.S. Passport Card – This new, limited-use travel document fits in your wallet and costs less than a U.S. Passport. It is only valid for travel by land and sea. The cost is $45 for persons age 16 & older, valid for 10 years for adults and issued by the U.S. Department of State.

Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL) – Several states and Canadian provinces/territories are issuing this driver’s license or identification document that shows identity and citizenship. It is specifically designed for cross-border travel into the U.S. by land or sea. Currently, New York, Vermont and Washington issue the EDL.

Trusted Traveler Program Cards – NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST enrollment cards can speed entry into the U.S. and are issued only to pre-approved, low-risk travelers. The cards are valid for use at land crossings or sea ports; the NEXUS card can be used in airports with a NEXUS kiosk. Each card is issued by CBP and valid for 5 years. Costs range form $50 to $122.

Special Groups – Specially designated groups have different requirements. These groups include children, Native Americans, cruise ship passengers, U.S. lawful permanent residents, ferries and small boats and boaters.

With the new requirements taking effect at the start of prime travel time, it is anticipated that summer trips across the border may decrease as a result of the new requirements. Coupled with the slow economy, the financial impact is likely to be felt the most by popular tourist areas on either side the Canadian border. Don’t take the chance that your summer vacation could be ruined. Apply for the proper documents today!

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