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Passport requirements

UPDATE - 5/12/08: Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative

ALL PERSONS traveling by air outside of the United States are required to present a passport or other valid travel document to enter or re-enter the United States.

You may be required to present additional or different travel documents when entering foreign countries, including countries in the Western Hemisphere. Before you travel, make sure you know the entry requirements of the country you plan to visit. See Country Specific Information for more information on the country you are traveling to.

U.S. citizens on closed-loop cruises (cruises that begin and end at the same port in the U.S.) will be able to enter or depart the country with proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate and laminated government issued picture ID, denoting photo, name and date of birth. A U.S. citizen under the age of 16 will be able to present either an original or a certified copy of his or her birth certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad issues by DOS, or Certificate of Naturalization issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The following summarizes information available on the Department of Homeland Security's website.

Effective June 1, 2009, the U.S. government will implement the full requirements of the land and sea phase of WHTI. The proposed rules require most U.S. citizens entering the United States at sea or land ports of entry to have a passport, passport card, or WHTI-compliant document.

U.S. citizen children under the age of 16 will be able to present the original or copy of their birth certificate, or other proof of U.S. citizenship such as a naturalization certificate or citizenship card.

Groups of children ages 16 through 18, when traveling with a school or religious group, social organization, or sports team, will be able to enter under adult supervision with originals or copies of their birth certificates or other proof of citizenship. See the Department of Homeland Security's for more information on the changing travel requirements.

Note: The passport requirement does NOT apply to U.S. citizens traveling to or returning directly from a U.S. territory. U.S. territories include American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Island, Puerto Rico, Swains Island and U.S. Virgin Islands.

U.S. Passport: U.S. citizens may present a valid U.S. passport when traveling via air, land or sea between the U.S. and the aforementioned Western Hemisphere countries.

The Passport Card: U.S. citizens may begin applying in advance for this new, limited-use, wallet-size passport card beginning February 1, 2008. We expect cards will be available and mailed to applicants in spring 2008. When available it will only be valid for land and sea travel between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean region, and Bermuda.

WHTI-Compliant Travel Documents for U.S. citizen travel via land or sea, as of January 31, 2008:

  • Trusted Traveler Cards (NEXUS, SENTRI, or FAST)
  • State Issued Enhanced Driver's License (when available)
  • Enhanced Tribal Cards (when available)
  • U.S. Military Identification with Military Travel Orders
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner Document when traveling in conjunction with official maritime business
  • Native American Tribal Photo Identification Card
  • Form I-872 American Indian Card

For further information, see U.S. Customs and Border protection.

Effective Jan. 31, 2008, New Requirements for Entry at Land and Sea Ports from Canada

Effective Jan. 31, 2008, U.S. and Canadian citizens (19 and older) will be required to present proof of citizenship, such as 1) a passport or 2) a birth certificate or naturalization certificate supported by a government issued photo ID, when entering the United States through land and sea ports of entry from Canada. Children ages 18 and under are only required to present proof of citizenship (without ID), such as a birth certificate, naturalization certificate or passport. If a birth certificate is presented, it must be a certified birth certificate issued by the city, county or state. A photocopy of a birth certificate will only be accepted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) if the original has been sent to the Department of State in support of a passport application. In such case, the traveler must obtain and provide proof of passport application. These changes are significant as compared to the current and long-standing policy that allows CBP officers to accept oral declarations of citizenship from U.S. and Canadian citizens seeking entry into the United States through a land or sea border. Effective Jan. 31, 2008, oral declarations will not be accepted.

Eventually, at an unspecified date in mid-2008, the Department of State will require passports, or soon-to-be announced passport alternatives, from ALL travelers at ALL points, including air, land and sea, within the Western Hemisphere. Prior to the effective date, the State Department intends to make available a Passport Card, which is specifically designed for land and sea travel from neighboring countries. The primary advantages of the Passport Card are that it will be less expensive and smaller than a traditional passport. In addition, several states including Washington, Vermont and New York are creating an Enhanced Driver_s License that will, according to the CBP, also fulfill the proof-of-citizenship requirement at land and sea borders. Further details of these alternative products are unknown. However, CBP says that ample notice of the exact date of implementation will be provided to ensure travelers can obtain the appropriate documents.

Since passports are the gold standard for entering and exiting the country from all foreign destinations, ALL travelers, including those traveling by land or sea in the Western Hemisphere, should be obtain, and travel with, a passport. The current turnaround time for a passport is four to six weeks.

UPDATE - 10/1/07: U.S. citizens traveling by air to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is reminding air carriers and the traveling public that valid passports are required for air travel to / from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda.

U.S. lawful permanent residents will continue to be able to use their Alien Registration Card (Form I-551) issued by the Department of Homeland Security or other valid evidence of permanent residence status to apply for entry to the United States.

As early as Summer 2008 - A valid passport will be required for all sea and air travel. And subject to U.S. Government amendment, U.S. and Canadian citizens 15 or younger with their parents consent may cross the U.S./Canadian border by land or sea with a certified copy of their birth certificate.

Important update regarding sea travel:

  • For domestic travel which includes: the Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, the Caribbean and Mexico, a passport (valid or expired) is highly recommended.
  • In the absence of a passport, a birth certificate (original or certified copy), plus laminated picture ID card issued by a federal, state, or local government agency is required. Note: Baptismal papers and hospital certificates of birth (except for newborns) are not acceptable.
  • For U.S. Naturalized citizens, in the absence of a passport, Naturalization papers (either original or notarized copy) plus a picture ID card issued by a federal, state, or local government agency is required.
  • A voter registration card or Social Security Card are not considered to be proof of citizenship.
  • Children under 16 years of age do not require a picture ID.

Traveling abroad? It's important you know your passport, visa, and health requirements, which may vary by destination. Make sure you get all the information you need well in advance of your trip.

U.S. Citizens
Flying within the United States, including territories. U.S. citizens do not need a passport to go to or come back from a U.S. state or territory. U.S. territories include Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Swains Island, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Going on a cruise or traveling by vehicle across the land border to Canada or Mexico. U.S. citizens do not need a passport, but need to be able to show a government-issued identification. U.S. citizens arriving by land and sea must be able to prove that they are U.S. citizens.

This rule may change as early as January 2008, when the Departments of Homeland Security and State begin to implement the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) at land and sea ports of entry.

Important update regarding travel to Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda:

  • On January 23, 2007, ALL passengers, including U.S. citizens, traveling by AIR between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda will be required to present a valid U.S. passport, Air NEXUS card, or U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Document.
  • U.S. Government Delays Land and Sea Passport Requirement for Canada, Mexico and Bermuda and Announces New Phased Initiative

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Department of State (DOS) announced on June 20, that they have delayed the land and sea passport requirement for Canada, Mexico and Bermuda that was previously scheduled to begin as early as Jan. 1, 2008, and have initiated a new _phased approach_ to implementing the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). As a result, beginning Jan. 31, 2008, U.S. and Canadian citizens have the option, in lieu of a passport or WHTI-compliant alternate document, to present a government-issued photo ID along with a birth certificate at land and sea borders. As part of a future phase, it is anticipated that the WHTI passport requirement for land and sea borders will be rescheduled for mid-year 2008.

As part of this new _phased_ initiative, beginning Jan. 31, 2008, DHS will also eliminate the routine practice of accepting oral declarations of citizenship at land and sea borders. All travelers will be required to present physical proof of citizenship as defined by DHS. As a result, if a passport or WHTI-compliant alternate document (passport card, NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST) is not provided as proof of citizenship, the following options are available:

  • U.S. and Canadian citizens, except for children as noted below, may present a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver's license, plus proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or a copy of a birth certificate. The birth certificate does not need to be certified or contain a raised seal.
  • U.S. and Canadian citizens 15 and under, as well as children ages 18 and under traveling in designated groups, may present a certified copy of their birth certificate. U.S. children may also present Consular Reports of Birth Abroad or Certificates of Naturalization.

If you have booked a flight, hotel, rental car, vacation package, or cruise, visit the CIBT website for detailed information on travel requirements for the countries you're visiting, and for those you pass through en route. This site provides online ordering for passports and visas, including rush replacement of lost or stolen passports, and a 24-hour customer support telephone number.

For more information on travel requirements, contact the U.S. embassies of the countries you're visiting. A complete list of U.S. embassies worldwide can be found at the U.S. Department of State website.

About the Initiative:
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) requires all citizens of the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Bermuda to have a passport or other accepted document that establishes the bearer's identity and nationality to enter or re-enter the United States from within the Western Hemisphere.

The travel document requirements make up the departments of State and Homeland Security's Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). This change in travel document requirements is the result of recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission, which Congress subsequently passed into law in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.

This travel initiative is being implemented in two phases. The first phase will be for air travel, and the second for land/sea travel.

Download and print your passport forms now

NOTE: If in doubt, bring a passport.

Effective June 26, 2005, travelers from the 27 countries participating in the United States' Visa Waiver Program (VWP) must have a machine-readable passport to enter the United States.

If you are in possession of a passport issued by any of the 27 countries listed below, please contact the passport issuing authority to ensure that you are in possession of a machine-readable passport. Please note that boarding will be denied to travelers from VWP countries that do not have machine-readable passports.

The 27 countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program include: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

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