On June 1, 2009, the second phase of theWestern Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) will go into effect. By way of background,WHTI requires all citizens of the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Bermuda to have a passport or other accepted document that establishes the bearer’s identity and nationality to enter or depart the United States from within theWestern Hemisphere.
The first phase of the initiative went into effect on January 23, 2007, and covered air travel. As of that date, all travelers, including children, have been required to present a passport or secure travel document when entering the United States by air.
On June 1, 2009, new rules will go into effect for land and sea travel.WHTI requires travelers to present a passport or other approved secure document denoting citizenship and identity for all land and sea travel into the United States.WHTI establishes document requirements for travelers entering the United States who were previously exempt, including citizens of the U.S., Canada and Bermuda. These document requirements are effective June 1, 2009.
Most travelers will require one of the following documents:
- U.S. citizens: A passport issued by the U.S. Government, a passport card, a valid trusted traveler program card (FAST, NEXUS, or SENTRI), an enhanced driver’s license (EDL), a Military ID with official travel orders, or a U.S. Merchant Mariner Document.
- Canadian citizens: A passport issued by the Government of Canada, a valid trusted traveler program card (FAST, NEXUS, or SENTRI), or an EDL.
- Bermudians: A passport issued by the Government of Bermuda or the United Kingdom.
- Mexican citizens: Mexican citizens, including children, are currently required to present a passport with visa or a laser visa border crossing card, and therefore there is little to no expectation of change under these new requirements.
Children. U.S. and Canadian children under the age of 16 will be able to present the original or copy of their birth certificates, or other proof of citizenship such as a naturalization certificate or citizenship card. Groups of U.S. and Canadian children ages 16 through 18, when traveling with a school or religious group, social organization, or sports team will be able to enter under adult supervision with originals or copies of their birth certificates or other proof of citizenship.
Anyone attempting to enter the United States without proper documents will be delayed as U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers attempt to verify their citizenship and identity.
Traveling by Sea
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 Department of State, or a Certificate of Naturalization issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Please note that cruise ship travelers may still be required to present a passport when docking at a foreign port, depending on the islands or countries that the cruise ship is visiting.