If you cross into the U.S. from Canada or Mexico for any reason, you will be required to have a passport or other approved documentation as of June 1, 2009 – regardless of your North American citizenship.
In other words, the verbal declaration of citizenship will no longer be accepted.
U.S. citizens returning to the states by land will be required to produce a valid U.S. passport, passport card, a valid FAST, NEXUS or SENTRI credential, enhanced driver’s license, military identification with travel orders, or a Merchant Mariner document.
Canadian citizens have been required since 2008 to show a valid passport, FAST, NEXUS or SENTRI card, or an enhanced driver’s license.
Travelers from the U.S. and Canada under the age of 16 can use a birth certificate.
Some exemptions exist for student travelers and native North Americans.
People who cross the border by air and go through customs at airports have been required to have a passport or an accepted credential since 2008.
The passport requirement comes from the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, created in 2004 by the Department of Homeland Security on a recommendation by the Sept. 11 Commission.
According to the U.S. Department of State, turnaround time for new U.S. passports and renewals is four to six weeks. Expedited service costs more and takes about 14 days. The department also has a service for people needing a passport on shorter notice.
Click here to read more about the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative and click here for information on obtaining or renewing a U.S. passport.
– By David Tanner, staff writer