On November 24, 2006, DHS and the Department of State published a final rule announcing that all citizens of the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Bermuda must present a passport to enter the United States when arriving by air from within the Western Hemisphere. The Western Hemisphere is defined as Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, South and Central America, and the Caribbean. In lieu of a passport, certain eligible air travelers may also present a Merchant Mariner Document or NEXUS Air card. This requirement will become effective beginning January 23, 2007.

This change aims to limit the type of documentation allowed, in an effort to minimize the time spent in examining the authenticity of documents and reduce the use of fraudulent documents to enter the United States. This new requirement is the air component of DHS’ Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), Phase 1. A separate proposed rule regarding Phase 2 of the WHTI, relating to land and sea travel components, will be published as early as January 1, 2008.