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Passport Requirements for Air and Sea Travel to the United States Announced


August 11, 2006

The Departments of State and Homeland Security today announced and submitted for public comment the air and sea phase of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative to secure and expedite travel.  The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative will require all U.S. citizens, Canadian citizens, citizens of the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda, and Mexican citizens, to have a passport or other designated secure document to enter or re-enter the United States at airports and seaports by January 8, 2007.

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 mandated that the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, develop and implement a plan to require U.S. citizens and foreign nationals to present a passport or other secure document when entering the United States.  In order to obtain national security benefits as quickly as possible, and to expedite the processing of arriving passengers, the plan will be phased in initially for those arriving by air and sea.

The proposed timeline and requirements would be as follows:

  • January 8, 2007 – Passports, Merchant Mariner Documents (MMD) or NEXUS Air cards would be required for all air travel, and most commercial sea travel, from within the Western Hemisphere for citizens of the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Bermuda.  This is a change from the previously scheduled date of January 1, in order to accommodate holiday travel.
  • January 1, 2008 – The statutory deadline for all Western Hemisphere travel, including land border travel.  Passports or other accepted documents determined to sufficiently denote identity and citizenship will be required for anyone crossing at a land border, as well as air and sea.

This Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) provides vital information on the plan to the public, as well as an economic impact analysis of the rule as it pertains to air and sea arrivals in the United States.  The proposed rule takes into account comments received on the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) in September 2005.  The NPRM and regulatory assessment of the proposed rule’s economic impact are available for public viewing and comment via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov

The passport (U.S. or foreign) will be the document of choice for entering or re-entering the United States through airports and seaports.  In addition, the proposal published today lists a limited number of other documents that will be acceptable:  the NEXUS air card for those enrolled in this international trusted traveler program; U.S. military ID for active-duty military members; and the Merchant Mariner Document (“z” card) for merchant mariners. 

The proposed plan for the land-border implementation phase will be published separately in the Federal Register at a later date.  In addition, a separate Proposed Rule will be published regarding the use of a U.S. passport card at land borders.

For more information, visit www.dhs.gov or www.travel.state.gov.