American officials vote to delay passport rule

WASHINGTON — U.S. House and Senate lawmakers have postponed the Bush administration’s controversial plan to require Canadian and American land travelers to hold a valid passport or new tamper-resistant ID cards when entering the U.S.

As rumored weeks ago, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), signed by Bush in 2004, has been pushed back by 17 months, to June 1, 2009, only for people crossing by land from Canada or Mexico. Rules for those entering the U.S. by airplane or cruise ship, must still show passports to Customs as of Jan. 8, 2007.

Canadian politicians, as well as trucking and other industry officials have been vocally opposed to the passport rule, arguing that it’ll slow commerce between the world’s two largest trading partners.

The delay was reportedly announced so U.S. officials could continue working on a cheaper, ID alternative to a passport, dubbed the “PASS” card. The technology to read the cards and security standards are still being developed, however.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance as well as the American Trucking Associations argue truckers with FAST cards should be expect from the passport requirement since those drivers already have to clear very similar security background checks.

— with files from Associated Press

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