Passport Information

Border Crossings Get Tougher for U.S. Citizens

Passports

Americans who cross into Mexico and Canada by land on a regular basis are
encountering new rules requiring them to prove citizenship upon return or risk being denied entry into their homeland.

The change, effective January 31, requires production of a photo ID, such as a driver’s license, at the border—a departure from past practice in which an oral declaration would suffice, and a precursor to more stringent rules requiring a passport for transnational travel.

“For the safety of the American people, the United States cannot have an honor system at the border,” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said. “Requiring secure and reliable documentation at our borders will drastically reduce security vulnerabilities posed by permitting entry based on oral declarations alone.”

The rules, which apply to U.S. and Canadian citizens older than 18, are a departure from long-held practice, but the government said the security implications are huge. Between October and December 2007, it said, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officers reported 1,517 cases of fraudulent claims of U.S. citizenship. Travelers who cannot produce a valid document may face delays, the border agency said.

A list of qualifying documents can be found at CBP’s Web site. U.S. travelers became eligible to begin applying for a new trusted traveler passport card on February 1 in anticipation of the narrower border-crossing document.

Homeland Security originally was scheduled to implement passport requirements this summer, but Congress postponed the rules by a year. The State Department said it would begin taking “pre-orders” February 1 for the new wallet-sized passport card, designed as a cheaper passport alternative for border-state residents and others making frequent land border crossings.

The fees will be $45 for adults and $35 for children. Passport fees were slated
to rise on February 1. Passport Details