The U.S. State Department and the Department of Homeland Security have officially issued a proposed rule that would require citizens of the U.S., Mexico, Canada, and Bermuda to present a passport when entering the U.S. by air or sea beginning January 8, 2007, as part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.

This extends by a week the originally scheduled date by which the passport rule was to be implemented. According to a press release issued by DHS, the scheduled date was moved from January 1, 2007, to accommodate holiday travel.

Under the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, all citizens of the U.S., Mexico, Canada, and Bermuda must, by January 1, 2008, have a passport in order to enter or reenter the U.S. from anywhere within the Western Hemisphere. The DHS and U.S. State Department plan to implement the law in stages, with the air and sea travel requirements going into effect first, while anyone crossing at a U.S. land border will be required to present a passport beginning January 1, 2008. There is currently legislation under consideration that would push the latter deadline back to June 1, 2009.

The DHS has not yet issued any rules regarding alternative documents that would satisfactorily establish identity and citizenship.

The public has until September 24 to comment on the proposed rule. Click here for more details.