The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Department of State have announced travelers will be required to present proof of identification and citizenship when moving across the border by land and sea as of June 1, 2009.
We are on course to implement and enforce the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which is an important step forward in securing the homeland, said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. Limiting and standardizing the types of documents presented will result in a more secure and efficient border.
The announcement comes two months after DHS ended acceptance of oral declarations alone of identity and citizenship. Since Jan. 31, border agents have asked adults to present proof of identity and citizenship, but would allow them to cross with documents other than a passport or enhanced license.
A drivers license is proof of identification, but not citizenship. So Washington state began coordinating with DHS to create an enhanced license that would be proof of citizenship as well.
As of March 24, the state scheduled more than 18,600 appointments for enhanced license interviews and issued more than 6,400 cards.
Initially, DHS considered Washingtons venture a pilot project, so there were concerns that the cards ultimately would be turned away at the border, giving passports and the Trusted Traveler Card, such as NEXUS or SENTRI, the exclusive ability to prove a persons citizenship.
However, along with its announcement that proof of identification and citizenship will be needed to cross the border in 2009, DHS also reported that it would accept the Washington state enhanced drivers license as a valid proof of citizenship.
Washington is the first state in the nation to receive the accreditation. However, other states and Canadian provinces have begun a process similar to Washingtons to become recognized.
Driving into Canada is a way of life for many Washington residents, said Washington State Department of Licensing director Liz Luce. This new program makes travel faster and easier for our citizens, while supporting necessary security and economic growth on both sides of the border.
The enhanced license costs about $15 more than a regular drivers license. It contains a radio frequency chip to help speed entry at land and sea border crossings.
All air travel has had the passport-only restriction for some time. Now land and sea crossings, such as ferries between Port Angeles and Victoria, will have similar requirements.
DHS representatives have indicated they are working with the Canadian government to ensure a smooth transition into the new rule on both sides of the border.
Congress passed the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, designed to strengthen border security while minimizing the social and commercial impacts on international travelers, to require all travelers to and from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda who historically have been exempt from passport requirements, to present a passport or other approved document.
Box: For more information on:
• The Washington state enhanced drivers license, visit www.dol.wa.gov.
• The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, visit www.dhs.gov.
• Customs and Border Protection requirements, visit www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel.
• Where to find a passport application center, visit www.travel.state.gov.
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