Tag Archives: WHTI

Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative Deadline Approaches

The U.S. State Department is reminding travellers to apply for their travel documents (or to make sure their current documents comply) that will be required at all land or sea border crossings as of June 1, 2009.

Under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) U.S. citizens will be required to present a government-approved document that denotes both citizenship and identity when entering the United States.

The U.S. Passport Book and the U.S. Passport Card are the “best evidence” documents that denote both citizenship and identity. A list of other government-approved documents is available at www.getyouhome.gov/.

The Passport Card is a wallet-sized document. A Passport Card costs $45 for an adult and $35 for a child under age 16. When applied for in conjunction with a passport book or by a previous passport holder who is eligible for renewal, the charge for the Passport Card is only $20. Current passport holders, who are eligible to renew, can apply for a passport card by mail.

Please note that the Passport Card is valid only for entry to the United States at land border crossings and sea ports of entry when traveling from Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean region, and Bermuda. It is not valid for international air travel.

Information on how and where to apply for a U.S. Passport Card is available at travel.state.gov.

NEXUS now in Niagara Falls, New York.

CBP announced the opening of a joint NEXUS Enrollment Center located adjacent to the Whirlpool Bridge border crossing in Niagara Falls, N.Y. This is the second “Trusted Traveler” Enrollment Center within the Port of Buffalo. The other is located in Fort Erie, Ontario just across the Peace Bridge.

The new Enrollment Center is designed to make obtaining a NEXUS border-crossing card easy and convenient for nearby residents on both sides of the border. The new center also provides a second location for current members to renew their application, which must be done every five years.

NEXUS is a joint CBP-Canada Border Services Agency program that both the American and Canadian governments implemented to enhance border security while simplifying border crossings for pre-approved, low-risk travelers. Approximately 225,000 U.S. and Canadian citizens/residents are currently enrolled in the NEXUS program nationally. Locally, CBP and CBSA have enrolled over 38,000 individuals in NEXUS and this facility will provide increased enrollment capacity and accessibility in preparation for Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) identity document requirements on June 1, 2009.

WHTI is designed to reduce the vulnerability resulting from the sole acceptance of verbal declarations of citizenship for Americans and Canadians entering the U.S. by land or sea, by requiring approved travel documentation.  Under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, oral declarations of citizenship alone are no longer sufficient to establish identity and citizenship for entry into the United States.

Currently, U.S. and Canadian citizens ages 19 and older must present a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, along with proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or naturalization certificate or they may present a single WHTI-compliant document. Children ages 18 and under are currently asked only to present proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate. Passports and trusted traveler cards, such as NEXUS and FAST, are considered WHTI-compliant documents on the northern border and are accepted for cross-border travel.

NEXUS pre-approved travelers crossing the U.S./Canada border receive the added benefits of access to dedicated commuter lanes, expedited marine reporting and access to NEXUS kiosks at designated Canadian airports.  Effective June 1, 2009 travelers will need to present a valid and acceptable document that proves both identity and citizenship when entering the U.S. by land or sea. Travelers on the northern border will be able to select from one of five different documentation options, based upon their needs. These include a passport, the new U.S. passport card, new state-issued enhanced driver’s license, and the two Trusted Traveler Program cards (NEXUS and FAST), which are accepted already.

NEXUS members can use dedicated lanes at selected ports along the U.S.-Canadian border. The NEXUS alternative inspection program allows pre-screened, low-risk travelers to be processed with little or no delay by United States and Canadian border officials. There are currently 18 land border crossings that offer NEXUS and the program is also available in the air and marine modes. Locally, members can use dedicated lanes at the Peace Bridge and Rainbow Bridge border crossings. The Whirlpool Bridge is dedicated as a NEXUS only crossing, the only border crossing in the country to be designated as such. Travelers can apply online at www.nexus.gov.

Enhanced Driver’s Licenses Coming Your Way…

In a recent press release (May ’08) DHS announced that it was pursuing development of alternative documents to meet Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) implementation requirements at land and sea ports of entry.

DHS is encouraging individual states to enhance their driver’s licenses and identification documents to satisfy both WHTI requirements and the changes in international land/sea travel document procedures which began on January 31, 2008. These enhanced documents will denote both identity and citizenship, be issued in a secure process, and include technology that facilitates travel.

WHTI stems from a 9/11 Commission recommendation mandated in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. The law requires all travelers, including U.S. and Canadian citizens, to have a secure, verifiable document that denotes both identity and citizenship for entry into the United States.

DHS has worked to align REAL ID and EDL requirements. EDLs that are developed consistent with the requirements of REAL ID can be used for official purposes such as accessing a Federal facility, boarding Federally-regulated commercial aircraft, and entering nuclear power plants.

Although the goal of enhancing identification security is shared by both programs, there are some distinctions. While the REAL ID requires proof of legal status in the U.S., the state issued EDL will require that the card holder be a U.S. citizen. The EDL will also serve as a limited-use international travel document.

The purpose of REAL ID is to establish minimum standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards to be accepted for official purposes. When presenting a driver’s license for official purposes such as accessing Federal facilities, boarding Federally-regulated commercial aircraft, or entering nuclear power plants, it must be a driver’s license that is compliant with the REAL ID regulation.

In leveraging technologies for border security and facilitation of legitimate global travel, DHS is mindful of privacy concerns, and is committed to adhering to strict privacy standards. As most privacy and security professionals recommend, the vicinity RFID enabled WHTI-compliant documents will incorporate several layers of privacy mitigations.

For those who will be travelling (internationally) this summer…

Whether you are a U.S. citizen or foreign national, if you have plans to travel outside the United States this summer, please be prepared, particularly if you do not travel frequently beyond our borders.

Be aware of documentation requirements and make sure you and those travelling with you comply with them. Make sure your photo identification is up-to-date. Is your driver license in order? Are you required to present a passport? Is your passport still valid? Does your passport comply with current documentation standards? Do you require a visa to enter the foreign destination? Do you have a valid visa to re-enter the United States, if you a required to have one?

A day before your scheduled departure for your vacation destination is a little late to realize that some aspect of your vital documentation is not in order. My recommendation is, particularly with foreign nationals living in the United States, check with an immigration lawyer, like myself.

In the case of U.S. citizens travelling overseas (esp. for “first-timers”), the U.S. State Department website (http://travel.state.gov/) contains a myriad of helpful information for Americans engaging in foreign travel. Also, the State Department recommends that U.S. citizens register with the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate at their vacation destination.

You may also want to check USCIS and State Department sources on travelling to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean, as there are special provisions under the so-called “Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative” (WHTI), requiring all travelers to present a passport or other document that denotes identity and citizenship when entering the U.S.

The goal of the initiative is to strengthen U.S. border security while facilitating entry for U.S. citizens and legitimate foreign visitors by providing standardized documentation that enables the Department of Homeland Security to quickly and reliably identify a traveler.