US Representative Gary Peters of Michigan has managed to get an amendment through the House of Representatives requiring the government to review the economic impact of the final phase of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. The new rules, which became law on June 1st, 2009, require Americans to use passports or another special government-approved document to travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean by land and sea.
Prior to June 1st, Michigan and Canadian citizens who wanted to cross the US/Canadian border by land or water could do so with a state-issued photo ID and proof of citizenship, usually a birth certificate. Under these rules, it was still relatively easy for people to patronize businesses on the other side of the border.
The amendment sponsored by Rep. Peters made in through the House on June 10th, according to the Detroit Free Press. If it passes the Senate, it will compel the Obama administration to review the economic impact of the new rules, especially on small businesses. The state is already suffering due to the economic crisis and the financial woes of American car companies, who were major sources of employment in and around Detroit.
In the Detroit Free Press article, Peters told the paper that he sponsored the amendment because “We need to know exactly how new passport requirements are affecting Michigan’s economy.” Michigan does $67 million worth of business each year with the Canada, the largest of any US state.
Of course, chances are that the requirements will stay in place, no matter what happens to Rep. Peters’ bill. In previous interviews about the passport requirements, Janet Napolitano, head of the Department of Homeland Security, has dismissed people who worried about the economic impact of the rules.
If you need a passport to travel to Canada, remember to allow enough time when you apply. Currently, applications for passports are taking at least 6 weeks to process. Even with the government’s expedited service, expect to wait 3 weeks or longer.
The easiest way to get passports quickly is to use a private passport expediting service. These services hand-deliver your application to the US Department of State. They can get passports processed remarkably quickly, often within 24 hours.
Don’t let the rules mess with your travel plans this summer. Order your passports today!