"Madame, bear in mind That princes govern all things--save the wind." -Victor Hugo, The Infanta's Rose

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Passport to exotic lands

Those who travel often are no doubt aware of this, but for poor stay-at-home schlubs like myself it came as somewhat of a surprise to learn that the government is about to require a valid U.S. passport to travel anywhere outside the country, including Canada and Mexico. Previously only a valid driver's license or other picture ID was required to visit our North American neighbors, but beginning next week (January 23rd), all persons, including U.S. citizens, traveling by air between the United States and Canada, Mexico, or any other country will be required to present a valid passport. Note that only airline passengers are affected initially, however beginning January 1, 2008 ANYONE who wishes to cross the U.S. border, whether by air, land, or sea, will be required to present a passport or other accepted documentation. According to the State Department's website:
As early as January 1, 2008, ALL persons, including U.S. citizens, traveling between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda by land or sea (including ferries), may be required to present a valid passport or other documents as determined by the Department of Homeland Security. While recent legislative changes permit a later deadline, the Departments of State and Homeland Security are working to meet all requirements as soon as possible. Ample advance notice will be provided to enable the public to obtain passports or passport cards for land/sea entries. The passport requirement does NOT apply to U.S. citizens traveling to or returning directly from a U.S. territory. U.S. citizens returning directly from a U.S. territory are not considered to have left the United States and do not need to present a passport. U.S. territories include the following: Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Swains Island, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
The new policy will affect millions of Americans, and has been planned by the Department of Homeland Security as a way to tighten U.S. borders by not allowing potential terrorists to exploit the relative ease of travel within North America. There have been previous occasions where terrorists were narrowly thwarted attempting to bring in material and operatives from Canada and Mexico. "We're asking people to think of travel in and out of the U.S. [in this hemisphere] in the same way they would travel to and from Europe," said Elaine Dezenski, a deputy assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security. However, the new rules will also require significant additional trip-planning time, and drastically affect last-minute travelers as well as students who travel on school trips, or spontaneously, to Canada or Mexico. Tourism officials say that those under age 21 are much less likely to have passports than older travelers.

As far as I can tell, there is no exception planned for those who want to drive to our northermost state from the "lower 48". Alaska may become unique: the only one of the United States that requires a passport to visit by car, as U.S. motorists have to pass through Canada to get to it. Tourism officials there can't be too happy about the new rules.

These developments have been in the planning phase for months but somehow I managed to miss hearing about them before now. But, I am fortunate in two regards: (1) I obtained my passport in preparation for a visit to Europe a few years ago, so I'm all set, and; (2) the chances that I will be traveling to an exotic foreign destination like Moose Jaw (home of "Mac the Moose", right) in the foreseeable future are best described as "slim to none".


  • At 1/18/2007 04:32:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I have traveled to Mexico twice w/out a passport and trust me, it's not something you want to do. They were none too pleased with me.

  • At 1/18/2007 09:41:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Coming soon...

    You've inspired me to blog about the time my husband forgot his license for a trip to Mexico. IT WAS OUR HONEYMOON.


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