Proof of citizenship required after Jan. 31 at border crossings

| Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Even with a FAST card or a government-issued ID such as a CDL, truckers and other U.S. citizens will be required to present proof of citizenship when entering or re-entering the U.S. after Jan. 31.

The requirement for proof of citizenship is part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative being implemented by the Department of Homeland Security.

Proof of citizenship, as defined by the DHS, is a government-issued birth certificate for U.S.-born citizens, a naturalization certificate for naturalized citizens, or a U.S. passport.

Eventually everyone will be required to have a passport when they enter the U.S., but a date has not been set for that requirement for entry by land or sea. The government has required passports since January 2007 for all air travelers entering the U.S. from other countries, regardless of their citizenship.

In a nutshell, passports are coming. But for now, the latest requirement is proof of citizenship and a form of ID that meets the requirements of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. Those approved IDs are: a driver’s license; a U.S. passport; SENTRI; NEXUS; FAST; U.S. Coast Guard Mariner Document; or, active-duty military identification.

Confused?

Land Line has put together the following list of questions and answers from government sources to help U.S. truckers and their families sort out some details of these requirements.

Q. What documents will I need to enter the U.S. at a land crossing after Jan. 31, 2008?
A. You will need two things: Proof of citizenship and an approved form of ID listed above.

Q. I have a FAST card and an electronic cargo manifest. Is that good enough?
A. Not after Jan. 31. You will need proof of citizenship and a form of ID that meets the requirements of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. Those approved IDs are: a driver’s license; a U.S. passport; SENTRI; NEXUS; FAST; U.S. Coast Guard Mariner Document; or, active-duty military identification.

Q. What happens if I don’t have the proper ID after Jan. 31?
A. Unless the government implements a grace period for enforcement, you could be turned away from crossing the border.

Q. Why is the government requiring this?
A. Congress passed the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative in 2004 to increase border security. Besides security, the government also wants to speed up processing time for trade.

Q. Will everyone need a passport to cross?
A. Eventually, but not just yet for crossings by land or sea. Sometime in the near future, Homeland Security is expected to issue a “notice of proposed rulemaking” to require a passport or passport-type card for all border traffic.

Q. What if I cross into Canada only once a year? Does this still apply?
A. Yes. It doesn’t matter how often you cross.

Q. How do I get a passport?
A. If you’ve never had a passport, you need to apply in person at one of 9,000 registered locations. Click here to find a location through the U.S. Department of State. If you are renewing a passport that is less than 10 years old, you can do it online or by mail, with a few exceptions. If your passport is too old, damaged or has been lost or stolen, you need to start over, in person, at a registered location.

Q. How much does a passport cost?
A. For adults 16 and older, it’s $97 which includes various fees. For those under 16, it’s $82.

Q. What is a “passport card?”
A. Soon, U.S. citizens will be able to obtain a wallet-sized version of a passport called a passport card. Those will start becoming available after Feb. 1, but are not mandatory. A passport card will contain a chip that carries a person’s passport information and citizenship identity.

Q. Will my spouse, team driver or any other passenger need these documents too, and what about children?
A. All adults in the vehicle will need to provide the proper ID when crossing the U.S. border. The Department of Homeland Security issued a “notice of proposed rulemaking” that outlines somewhat flexible requirements for children. It is always wise to carry identification for children, such as birth certificates, especially if you’re crossing international borders.

Q. What else does the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative require?
A.Click here to view the government site.

– By David Tanner, staff writer
david_tanner@landlinemag.com

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