BootsnAll Travel Network

American? You Now Need a Passport

If you are American and travel abroad a lot, you probably already have a passport. However, if you don’t have one, know that Homeland Security in 2004 made changes that are now coming into effect.

US Passport

Based on reports from a number of sources, here are the rule changes. This is important to those who are considering traveling to close neighbours like Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

Starting with a CNN story from late this year:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Virtually all air travelers entering the United States beginning January 23 will need to show passports — even U.S. citizens, the Homeland Security Department announced Wednesday.

Until now, U.S. citizens, travelers from Canada and Bermuda, and some travelers from Mexico who have special border-crossing cards for frequent visitors were allowed to show other proofs of identification, such as drivers’ licenses or birth certificates.

There are stages to the rule changes, which started at airports. This year, as of Jan. 23rd, anyone entering the US, which includes American citizens re-entering the US, will need to have a passport when landing at an airport or a seaport. Presumably, this does not yet include land crossings at Canada and Mexico. Land crossings will include the passport-required designation as of Dec. 31st, 2007.

The Department of Homeland Security says:

A separate proposed rule addressing land and sea travel will be published at a later date proposing specific requirements for travelers entering the United States through land and sea border crossings. As early as January 1, 2008, U.S. citizens traveling between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda by land or sea will be required to present a valid U.S. 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 acceptable documents for land and sea entries.

A Washington Post Article from earlier this year notes the staging of the rule changes:

The rule’s first phase will go into effect Dec. 31, 2005, requiring all U.S. citizens traveling by air or sea to or from the Caribbean, as well as Central and South America, to have passports. The next phase, which will apply these rules to all air and sea travel to or from Mexico and Canada, will begin a year later.

The last phase, which will affect the most people by far, will take effect on Dec. 31, 2007, and will apply the requirement to all air, sea and land border crossings with Mexico and Canada.

Nothing, however, seems to be set in stone. The changes are subject to much outcry from a number of sectors, including retired persons associations, travel operators, and cross-border business groups in Canada, the US, and Mexico. The rules have gone through some changes since first conceived after the 9-11 WTC attacks and President Bush himself is opposed to overly-stringent measures that might harm business interests.

As an American TEFLer, you should already of course, have your passport. If you do not, well, it looks like you don’t have a choice now. So please, do yourself a favour and go get the passport.

Later update: Samantha over at Dave’s ESL Cafe says that there has been an extension on the stage 2 passport requirement for American air travelers. Jan. 23rd is the new date, so you can rest easy and enjoy those New Year’s Cancun margaritas with a clear conscience. More at

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One response to “American? You Now Need a Passport”

  1. Jenny says:

    ..and getting a passport for any reasonable amount of money is slow! I didn’t plan and had about a week. I had to go through the market for “passport expediters” — and, you know, it’s hard to trust someone with all that info. I went with a place called passportready because they looked professional and cheaper than some of the others. $100 was still a lot, but they got it to me in under a week.

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