WASHINGTON, D.C. — Despite ongoing opposition, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will begin checking for citizenship and identity documents when entering the U.S. at land and sea crossings, beginning Jan. 31.
The change primarily affects U.S. and Canadian citizens, who have previously been permitted entry by oral declaration alone.
The transition will also kick start a robust and concerted public education campaign, intended to inform travelers of document requirements which will be implemented next year.
“For the safety of the American people, the United States cannot have an honor system at the border,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. “Requiring secure and reliable documentation at our borders will drastically reduce security vulnerabilities posed by permitting entry based on oral declarations alone. As travelers become accustomed to carrying documents to cross the border, and as we move to more stringent documentation requirements, our border officers will be able to more quickly and confidently identify cross-border travelers.”
Beginning Jan. 31, U.S. and Canadian citizens ages 19 and older will be asked to present documentation from a specified list of acceptable documents when entering the U.S. at land and sea ports of entry. Children ages 18 and under will only need to present a birth certificate.
The most common examples include birth certificates and driver’s licenses, while a complete list of acceptable documents is available on the CBP website.
However, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its documentation requirements under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative have met strong opposition in the U.S. House of Representatives.
More than 30 representatives condemned the plans and in a letter to DHS Secretary Chertoff the bipartisan group of politicians from northern U.S. states called the plans irresponsible.
“These ill-conceived and unnecessarily cumbersome travel requirements will have a deleterious effect on our nation’s weakening economy and will adversely affect the economies of the border communities,” stated the letter.
Originally passports were to be required beginning this month to gain entry to the U.S. by land or sea ports, similar to what has become a requirement at airports in the U.S. While an outcry from politicians delayed a passport requirement until June 2009, documented proof of citizenship will still be required at border crossings.
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