New Border Crossing Procedures Begin on January 31, 2008; U.S. Passport Cards Introduced
Beginning January 31, 2008, those who wish to enter the U.S. through land and sea ports will be asked to present documents evidencing citizenship and identity, such as a birth certificate (proof of citizenship) and a driver's license (proof of identity). This change in procedure will have the greatest impact on U.S. and Canadian citizens, who have previously been permitted entry into the U.S. solely by oral declaration. The new regulation also impacts all citizens of Bermuda, who have previously been exempt from document requirements at the point of entry.
Travelers entering the U.S. by air, Mexican citizens, lawful permanent residents, and most non-immigrants will not be affected by this change, as they have been required to provide identification at the border in the past. All existing nonimmigrant visa and passport requirements will remain in effect for these individuals.
After January 31, U.S. and Canadian citizens who are 19 years of age and older must present a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver's license, in order to verify identity, along with a birth certificate or naturalization certificate in order to verify citizenship. U.S. and Canadian citizens who are 18 years old and younger will only be required to present proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or naturalization certificate. Passports and trusted traveler program cards, such as NEXUS, SENTRI, and FAST will continue to be accepted when entering the U.S.
The Department of State is also introducing a U.S. passport card as a response to the needs of border residents for a less expensive and more portable alternative to the traditional passport book. The card will have the same validity period as a passport book: 10 years for an adult, five for children who are 15 years of age and younger. For adults who already have a passport book, they may apply for the passport card as a passport renewal and pay only $20. First-time applicants for the passport card will pay $45 for adult cards and $35 for children. The passport card will facilitate entry and expedite document processing at U.S. land and sea ports-of-entry when arriving from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda. The card may not be used to travel by air. It will otherwise carry the rights and privileges of the U.S. passport book and will be adjudicated to the exact same standards.
In order to obtain a passport or passport card, please visit the U.S. Department of State's website at http://www.travel.state.gov/ or call 1-877-487-2778. The current processing time for a passport is four to six weeks. U.S. citizens may begin applying in advance for the new U.S. Passport Card on February 1, 2008. The Department of State plans to mail the passport cards to applicants in the spring of 2008.
In order to obtain a birth certificate, individuals should contact the appropriate agency for the state in which they reside. A listing of state issuing agencies may be found through the National Center for Health Statistics at www.cdc.gov/nchs. The Department of Homeland Security asks that, when possible, an original or certified copy of a birth certificate be presented. During the transition period, a regular copy will be accepted. However, after the transition period ends, an original or certified copy will likely be required for border security purposes.
The procedures to be implemented on January 31, 2008 are transitional. It is undetermined as to when the new procedures will become permanent, but it is projected to be sometime in the summer of 2009. During this transitional time, travelers who fail to present one of the aforementioned documents at point of entry may be delayed at the border while U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers attempt to verify citizenship and/or identity. When the transitional period ends, only secure documents meeting identity and citizenship requirements will be accepted for cross-border travel into the U.S. through land and sea ports.