U.S. to demand passports of all travellers
CTV.ca News Staff
By next year, Canadians will no longer be able to enter the United States using their driver's licence or citizenship card. New rules require travellers to produce a passport instead.
The departments of state and homeland security announced the new measure as part of its Western Hemisphere Security Initiative on Tuesday.
"Our goal is to strengthen border security and expedite entry into the United States for U.S. citizens and legitimate foreign visitors," Homeland Security Acting Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security, Randy Beardsworth said in a statement.
Under the new rules, as of Dec. 31, 2005, Canadians will need to show a passport or other "secure document" if trips to the Caribbean, Bermuda, Central or South America by air or sea include a U.S. stopover.
The few exceptions to that rule will have to show a secure alternative -- such as the Customs and Border Protection Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI), NEXUS and Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program cards -- to clear immigration.
The rules, instituted in accordance with the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, also apply to all citizens of the U.S., Bermuda and Mexico.
Following a consultation period, they will be implemented in three phases:
- As of Dec. 31, 2005: All travellers must show their passport when stopping over in the U.S. during air and sea travel to or from the Caribbean, Bermuda, Central and South America.
- As of Dec. 31, 2006: The rules take effect for all air and sea travel to or from Mexico and Canada.
- As of Dec. 31, 2007: The rule applies to all remaining travel, including land crossings.
Canadians will still be exempt from an American program that requires foreign visitors to be fingerprinted upon entry, but the new rules nevertheless prompted a terse response from Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan.
"We will review our requirements for American citizens, and we're going to do that in collaboration with the United States," McLellan said outside the House of Commons Tuesday afternoon, hinting that Canada could impose a similar demand on Americans travelling north.
"There's no point in either of us going off in a direction without working together to determine how best we can facilitate the flow -- a free flow -- and movement of low-risk individuals."
Few Americans would be put out by demand for passports at Canadian immigration, however, as the new rules also call for them to use that document whenever they leave and plan to return home.
Reacting to the announcement, many travellers told CTV News the new rule is a reasonable price to keep the border open.
But former congressman John Lafalce says it's more proof the decline in Canada-U.S. relations.
"The special relationship no longer exists," Lafalce told CTV, predicting that the long-term impact on cross-border traffic will even exacerbate the situation.
"I think its going to diminish the relationship significantly. It's going to diminish the frequency of contact between our two peoples."
Until now, Canadian citizens have been the only foreigners allowed to enter the United States without a passport. The U.S. has accepted a driver's licence, birth certificate or a certificate of citizenship instead.
In the past, there has been talk of using a "laser visa" that would contain biometric systems, such as a person's fingerprints or voice pattern.
In the joint announcement Tuesday, officials said they anticipate such a card is possible.
In March, an independent task force recommended that the U.S., Canada and Mexico create a common North American security perimeter by 2010, with combined visa, visitor screening and cargo inspection.
The task force, co-chaired by former deputy prime minister John Manley, said the three should share a common biometric border pass that would allow expedited passage through customs, immigration and airport security.
Many companies in Canada and the U.S. already take part in the Nexus program, which allows faster low-risk business and other travellers to speed through border crossings with special documents.
Canadians make an estimated 60 million trips into the United States each year.
With reports from CTV News and The Canadian Press