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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Passport or No Passport? That is the Question

Passport or No Passport ? That is the Question!

The State Department published on March 27 2008, new rules for the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. You will still be able to travel with a state-issued ID and another document, such as a birth certificate, as long as you are traveling within the defined Western Hemisphere, which includes Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and much of the Caribbean.

For cruises to destinations within the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), one thing that the State Department and CBP (Customs and Border Protection, now a part of the Department of Homeland Security) will no longer accept is an "oral declaration of citizenship."

Countries covered by the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative include:

Canada
Mexico
Bermuda

17 Caribbean nations as follows:
Anguilla
Antigua and Barbuda
Aruba
Bahamas
Bermuda British
Virgin Islands
Cayman Islands
Dominica
Dominican Republic
Grenada
Jamaica (except for business travel)
Montserrat
Netherlands Antilles
St. Kitts and Nevis
St. Lucia
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Turks and Caicos

When the WHTI is fully implemented, the State Department and Customs and Border Patrol are saying that if you do not have a passport, you could be subject to delays.

Here are some most recent statements regarding border crossings:

LAND AND SEA TRAVEL

NOW: U.S. citizens need to present either (a) a passport, passport card (available in spring 2008), or WHTI-compliant document; or (b) a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver's license, along with proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate.

On June 1, 2009: The U.S. government will implement the full requirements of the land and sea phase of WHTI. The proposed rules require most U.S. citizens entering the United States at sea or land ports of entry to have a passport, passport card, or WHTI-compliant document.

These rules are for land and sea arrivals. The exception is arrival by air. All air passengers are already required to present a passport to cross our borders.

As of January 31, 2008, the information below shows some of the acceptable documents to prove citizenship:

U.S. or Canadian Passport
U.S. Passport Card (Available spring 2008)*
Trusted Traveler Cards (NEXUS, SENTRI, or FAST)*
State or Provincial Issued Enhanced Driver's License ( NOT your normal driver's license)(when available - this secure driver's license will denote identity and citizenship)*
U.S. Military Identification with Military Travel Orders
U.S. Merchant Mariner Document

* Frequent Land Border Crossers - to expedite processing into the United States, U.S. Customs and Border Protection recommends using one of the above asterisked documents.

The "Two Document" Requirement:
All U.S. and Canadian citizens who do not have one of the documents from the list above must present BOTH an identification and citizenship document from each of the 2 Items below:

(Item 1)

Identification Documents*
Driver's license or identification card issued by a federal, state, provincial, county, territory, or municipal authority U.S. or Canadian military identification card. * All identification documents must have a photo, name and date of birth.

PLUS....

(Item 2)

Citizenship Documents ( must be an original, not a photo-copy)
U.S. or Canadian birth certificate issued by a federal, state, provincial, county, territory or municipal authority
U.S. Consular report of birth abroad
U.S. Certificate of Naturalization
U.S. Certificate of Citizenship
U.S. Citizen Identification Card
Canadian Citizenship Card
Canadian certificate of citizenship without photo

The State Department says you face possible delays if you go with just your driver's license and birth certificate. You should know the requirements for any country you plan to visit, because many of them require a passport to enter.

"When traveling entirely within the Western Hemisphere on a cruise ship, and when the U.S. citizen boards the cruise ship at a port or place within the United States and returns on the return voyage of the same cruise ship to the same United States port or place from where he or she originally departed. That U.S. citizen may present a government-issued photo identification document in combination with either an original or a copy of his or her birth certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad issued by the Department, or a Certificate of Naturalization issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services before entering the United States; if the U.S. citizen is under the age of 16, he or she may present either an original or a copy of his or her birth certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad issued by the Department, or a Certificate of Naturalization issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services"

How will the final WHTI requirements affect passengers going on cruises?

"U.S. citizens on closed-loop cruises (cruises that begin and end at the same port in the U.S.) will be able to enter or depart the country with proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate and government-issued photo ID. A U.S. citizen under the age of 16 will be able to present either an original or a copy of his or her birth certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad issued by DOS, or a Certificate of Naturalization issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services."

Please be aware that you may still be required to present a passport when you dock at a foreign port, depending on the islands or countries that your cruise ship is visiting. Check with your cruise line to ensure you have the appropriate documents for the stops you'll be making on your cruise.

What about the new U.S. Passport Card?

A standard passport is recommended even though the passport card will facilitate entry at U.S. land and sea ports-of-entry when arriving from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda, the card cannot be used to travel by air.

Passports are Recommended.

All cruisers must go through Customs and Border Patrol when disembarking a cruise ship. This means everyone must prove their citizenship in order to get off the ship, and if you are relying on the "two-document option," it can delay everyone, not just yourself.

In addition, if an emergency occurs you might find yourself in a situation where you have to enter a foreign country that requires a passport. Or you may be forced to return to the U.S. by air, and all air travelers are now required to produce passports to airport Border Patrol and Customs officers.

For more information about Passports, visit these web sites:
http://www.cbp.gov/linkhandler/cgov/travel/vacation/ready_set_go/sea_travel/whti_landsea_faq.ctt/whti_landsea_faq.pdf
http://travel.state.gov/travel/cbpmc/cbpmc_2223.html

http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/vacation/ready_set_go/land_travel/chnge_in_proced.xml

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE
Rules can and will likely change, so do not rely on the information above. Always check with US State Department for the latest rules and be sure you know the requirements for any country you plan to visit, because many of them require a passport and even a visa to enter. If you fail to bring the proper Proof of Citizenship and Identity to the pier for check-in, you will be denied boarding, If so, you will NOT get your money back from the cruise line.

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