For many years, crossing the Canadian/American border was hardly more difficult than crossing from one state to another. In the “good old days,” all you had to do was verbally declare your citizenship at the border and you were good to go. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) put an end to that practice.
Under the WHTI, Passengers on US/Canada flights have been required to carry passports since 2007, but the rules remained more relaxed for land and sea crossings. American citizens crossing by land were only required to bring photo ID and a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship with them before driving across the border.
On June 1, 2009, the final phase of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative will take effect. After that date, Americans will need a US passport, a US Passport Card or another “WHTI-compliant” document to cross the border. This disturbs advocates for an open border between the US and Canada, who believe that it will affect trade and tourism.
For example, in this article from GlobeandMail.com, New York Congresswoman Louise Slaughter predicts that after June 1, “There will be pure chaos. Lines will lengthen, people will be denied entry, tourism and business will suffer. And with the addition of the Olympics it’s going to be even more so.”
During a March 24th symposium sponsored by the Brookings Institution, US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano had a clear message for open-border advocates like Congresswoman Slaughter: Get over it. The GlobeandMail.com article quotes Secretary Napolitano telling the symposium, “It’s a real border, and we need to address it as a real border.” She also asked citizens of both countries to accept a “change of culture” at the US Canadian border.
Congresswoman Slaughter has introduced a measure to delay the final phase of the WHTI, but it is not likely to pass. The bottom line? If you’re planning on crossing the US/Canadian border, you need to get a passport, quick!
If the new travel regulations have taken you by surprise, the easiest way to get a passport quickly is to go through a private passport expediting company. An expediting company speeds up and simplifies the passport application process, and ensures you can get your passport quickly even if the US Passport Agency is bogged down with too many applications.