Beginning Tuesday, Jan. 16, air travelers who are citizens of the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Bermuda will be required to present their passports before entering the U.S. from any part of the Western Hemisphere.
Truckers involved in cross-border hauling could soon be affected by a similar law restricting land travel.
The new requirements were issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State, and fall under the "Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative." The U.S. Government is expected to issue a separate rule for land and sea travelers that could be enforced as early as January 2008.
Alternatives to the passport include the Merchant Mariner Document issued by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Nexus Air card, which is issued to certain U.S. and Canadian residents.
Homeland Security officials estimate that 88 percent of flight passengers affected by the new law already enter the U.S. with passports, according to Jarrod Agen, a spokesman for the department.
"We feel public awareness has spread and people are already traveling with passports," Agen told Land Line Magazine.
Truckers who frequently enter the U.S. from Canadian and Mexican borders may be allowed to use the government's Free and Secure Trade program, which allows shipping information to be sent electronically to U.S. customs officials, Agen said. He said other alternatives for truckers are also being considered.
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