Passports will be required to enter the USA from Mexico and Canada in January 2008
Jan. 23 date for passport requirement by U.S.
WASHINGTON - Nearly all air travelers entering the U.S. will be required to show passports beginning Jan. 23, including returning Americans and people from Canada and other nations in the Western Hemisphere.
The date was disclosed Tuesday by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff in an interview with the Associated Press. The Homeland Security Department plans to announce the change today. Until now, the department had not set a specific date for instituting the passport requirement for air travelers, though the start had been expected to be around the beginning of the year. Setting the date on Jan. 23 pushes the start past the holiday season.
The requirement marks a change for Americans, Canadians, Bermudians and some Mexicans.
Currently, U.S. citizens returning from other countries in the hemisphere are not required to present passports but must show other proof of citizenship such as driver's licenses or birth certificates.
Visitors from most countries in the hemisphere are required to show passports. However, people from Canada, Bermuda - and those from Mexico who enter the U.S. frequently and have special border-crossing cards - have been allowed to use other forms of identification, including driver's licenses.
In a few cases, other documents still may be used for air entry into the U.S. by some frequent travelers between the U.S. and Canada, members of the U.S. military on official business and some U.S. merchant mariners.
Under a separate program, Homeland Security plans to require all travelers, including Americans, entering the U.S. by land or sea to show a passport or an alternative security identification card starting as early as January 2008.
The Homeland Security Department estimates that about one in four Americans has a passport.