Passports will be required at Canadian and Mexican borders as of June 2009
By Caroline Wigmore
Local travelers are facing new passport requirments at Canadian and Mexican borders, but most travelers feel that the inconvenience will be slight.
US citizens have always been able to make spontaneous trips to Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Bermuda, but beginning June 2009, either a passport or a passport card will be required. The idea is that ID should denote both citizenship and the personal identification of a traveler when a border is crossed.
Both the traditional passport, or a new form of ID called the “passport card” will qualify, as they both denote ID and citizenship. The passport card will only qualify for land or sea travel and the traditional passport will still be required for air travel.
Jennifer (Ahlbrecht) Propst, originally of Dassel, uses her passport several times a year, mostly traveling within Africa. Propst met her husband while teaching English in Africa to Sudanese women and children with a missions organization.
For travelers like Propst, the new passport requirements won’t affect her all that much because she already owns a passport.
“I think that the border crossing experience will be a bit slower (because of the new requirements),” said Propst, “but not terribly inconvenient.”
Bernelle Hansen of Cokato has traveled to Sweden and Canada in recent years. She believes that the changes will be an effective way to improve security, and Hansen isn’t worried about any amount of extra time it may take to cross a border.
“Convenience shouldn’t replace importance,” Hansen said.
Zac Minissale, originally of Cokato, also sees the heightened passport requirments as a positive change, as he believes Americans may be more likely to travel overseas if they own a passport. Minissale has spent extensive time overseas, visiting over 20 countries, and considers the process of getting a passport to be well worth it.
“It’s actually not too difficult to get a passport, and if you are over 18, they last for 10 years. It’s just as complicated as buying a plane ticket, transportation, or accommodation,” said Minissale.
There are also big changes for air travelers who are foreigners entering the US. All non-US citizens must now give a finger print and undergo a retinal eye scan while passing through customs.
British national, Chris Wigmore, who recently moved to Howard Lake, underwent the fingerprinting and eye scan before he was given admittance into the US in July.
“Every government needs to strike balance between protecting the people and safeguarding their liberty,” Wigmore said. “I’d rather not have been fingerprinted, but if it helps keep everyone safe, so be it.”
The following is an explanation of different ID requirments for travel.
Travel by air
Along with travel to Mexico or Canada, all travelers to and from the Americas, the Caribbean and Bermuda are required to carry a traditional passport.
Travel by land and sea
Since January 2008, US and Canadian citizens 19 years and older who enter the US by land or sea are required to carry government issued identification. Previously, a verbal claim of citizenship was enough for a traveler to cross a border, but that is no longer sufficient. Land and sea travelers are now required to present a government issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, along with proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, naturalization certificate, or a traditional passport.
Children age 18 and under will need to present a naturalization certificate, birth certificate or passport to enter the U.S.
For more information regarding passports, passport cards or travel, visit www.travel.state.gov.