After a four-month reprieve, U.S. citizens must again present a passport when flying to and from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda.
This provision of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative originally went into effect on January 23, 2007, but State Department officials—faced with a backlog of passport applications and bombarded with complaints from frustrated travelers who waited three months and longer to get their new passports—suspended the new passport requirements until today, October 1.
When the new requirements first went into effect, the State Department was deluged with passport applications—4 million during March, April, and May. With the big summer season about to hit, the State Department put temporary rules into place, allowing U.S. citizens traveling to the above Western Hemisphere destinations to use a government-issued photo ID (such as a driver’s license), along with proof that they had applied for a passport. Even with the temporary rules in place, passport applicants still faced 12- to 14-week delays getting their passports.
The next WHTI deadline is January 31, 2008, when the Department of Homeland Security plans to begin implementing those WHTI provisions relating to land and sea travel. At that point, U.S. and Canadian citizens will need to present either a WHTI-compliant document or a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, plus proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate. Then at some point—expected to be later in 2008—WHTI will be fully implemented, meaning that U.S. citizens entering the U.S. by sea or land from within the Western Hemisphere will have to present acceptable documentation, such as a passport or a U.S. passport card. The exact day will be announced with 60 days’ notice in the Federal Register.