The U.S. Department of Homeland Security
and the U.S. Department of State have formally submitted
a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative proposal for public
comment, according to the State Department.
The initiative is designed to expedite travel
and enhance security, and it would require that, by January
2008, citizens of the United States, Canada, Mexico and
Bermuda have a passport or other approved documents to enter
or re-enter the United States.
If adopted, the initiative would be rolled
out in phases, applying the new passport or secure document
requirement to air and sea travel to or from Canada, Mexico,
Central and South America, the Caribbean and Bermuda as
of December 31, 2006.
By December 31, 2007, the passport requirement
would extend to all land border crossings as well.
These timelines represent a revision of
an earlier proposal that would have begun implementation
on December 31, 2005.
Although a passport would be the preferred
document for travel within the Western Hemisphere or for
re-entry into the United States, the Border Crossing Card
(BCC) is among other secure documents that are being considered
for approval, the State Department said.
The departments anticipate adopting a final
rule later in 2005, after comments on the proposal are reviewed.
Following is the text of the State Department
media note on the initiative:
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
September 1, 2005
MEDIA NOTE: WESTERN HEMISPHERE TRAVEL INITIATIVE
FORMALLY SUBMITTED FOR PUBLIC COMMENT
Initiative Designed to Expedite Travel in
the Western Hemisphere While Enhancing Security
The Departments of Homeland Security and
State formally submitted the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative
proposal for public comment. The Western Hemisphere Travel
Initiative will require all U.S. citizens, citizens of the
British Overseas Territory of Bermuda, and citizens of Canada
and Mexico to have a passport or other accepted secure document
that establishes the bearer's identity and nationality to
enter or re-enter the United States by January 1, 2008.
The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention
Act of 2004 mandated that the Secretary of Homeland Security,
in consultation with the Secretary of State, develop and
implement a plan to require U.S. citizens and foreign nationals
to present a passport, or other secure document when entering
the United States.
In the proposed implementation plan, the
Initiative will be rolled out in phases, providing as much
advance notice as possible to the affected public to enable
them to meet the terms of the new guidelines. The proposed
timeline will be as follows:
-- December 31, 2006: Requirement applied
to all air and sea travel to or from Canada, Mexico, Central
and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda.
-- December 31, 2007: Requirement extended
to all land border crossings as well as air and sea travel.
In April 2005, the Departments of State
(State) and Homeland Security (DHS) announced a proposed
plan to be implemented in three phases beginning on December
31, 2005 for the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. After
further review and considering the delay in publishing the
public notice in the Federal Register, State and DHS recognized
that implementing the December 31, 2005, phase would be
problematic for travelers. This new timeline will simplify
the implementation and provide a longer lead-time for travelers
to come into compliance with the requirements.
As previously noted, the passport will be
the document of choice for travel within the Western Hemisphere
or re-entry. However, another document that we anticipate
will be acceptable under the travel initiative is the Border
Crossing Card, (BCC -- or "laser visa"). Currently,
the BCC serves in lieu of a passport and a visa for citizens
of Mexico traveling to the U.S. from contiguous territory.
Other documents that we are considering for acceptance under
this initiative are the Customs and Border Protection Secure
Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI),
NEXUS and Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program cards.
No currently existing documents other than
the BCC, SENTRI, NEXUS or FAST cards are under active consideration
as substitutes for the passport. However, DHS and State
are reviewing new technological developments regarding options
for secure travel documents. Acceptable documents must establish
the citizenship and identity of the bearer, and include
significant security features. Ultimately, all documents
used for travel to the U.S. are expected to include biometrics
that can be used to authenticate the document and verify
To provide vital information to the general
public, the Departments of Homeland Security and State are
issuing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM)
on the plan to the public and requesting input and/or comment
on the suggested documents and possible alternative documents
that can meet the statutory requirements. A more formal
rulemaking will be issued later this year following review
of those comments to implement the first phase of the initiative.
This rulemaking will take into account comments received
from the ANPRM as well as soliciting further comments on
the rulemaking itself.
Those wishing to comment on the proposal
may access the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov
and follow the instructions for submitting comments.
For more information, visit www.dhs.gov