U.S. passport plan replaced, Canada to follow

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The issuance of a new, specialized security card for Americans will replace a proposal to require a passport when crossing the Canada-U.S. border.

Canadian officials, who viewed the passport plan with skepticism, have welcomed the new initiative and will be working to develop a similar card in line with the United States.

The new People Access Security Service (PASS) system card will be the size of a credit card, include a photo and be equipped with radio frequency identification so it can be read metres away at border crossings, announced United States senior administration officials.

“The key is that it links with their system,” said Alex Swann, spokesman for Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan. “The difficulty for us has been to pin down what they’ll accept. Now we have a better sense of how far they’ll go.”

The border cards will be required from all Americans, Canadians and Mexicans entering the United States via land crossing beginning Jan. 1, 2008. The new card will not replace the requirement of Canadians to show a passport at airports and seaports, which goes into effect at the end of this year.

“Developing options to a passport is a significant undertaking,” said Swann. “You have to make sure you get all the bugs out. We need time to get this right.”

As well as cost concerns, Canadian officials viewed the U.S. passport plan as slowing trade and deterring people from travelling back and forth. Approximately 500,000 people were involved in the estimated 130 million border crossings last year, noted one official.

– With files from the Canadian Press

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