Soldiers and their families may soon be able to use their military ID’s in lieu of a passport for certain types of international travel, if New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has her way. The senator promised to work with the Department of Homeland Security to get a military ID listed as a “WHTI-compliant” document, one that complies with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. If she’s successful, soldiers and their dependents could forego getting a passport for land and sea travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. They would still need valid passports to travel by plane to these locations, however.

According to the Watertown Daily Times, Senator Gillibrand promised to make the issue a priority during a discussion with local business leaders and politicians, “I will focus on that immediately. We can probably do that directly with homeland security. I think that is a fabulous idea and that’s a great move especially because, as you know, a lot of our troops are coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan and we expect Fort Drum to literally be full — something like 90 percent full by next year.”

Nothing is definite yet, of course, but if she is successful it will make it much easier for military families to get across the border. Currently, to re-enter the US from Canada, you need a valid passport, a passport card, a NEXUS card, or an enhanced driver’s license. Only four states currently offer the enhanced driver’s license: New York, Michigan, Vermont and Washington.

Under Gillibrand’s proposal, soldiers would no longer need to spend time and money getting a passport or another form of ID. They could just use the military ID they already have. This gives them the option of taking spur-of-the-moment trips into Canada or Mexico, something that the rest of us can only dream of at this point.

Getting a passport costs money, an expense that can be especially burdensome for families with children. In also takes time- about six weeks if you apply for normal processing and about three weeks if you pay for the Department of State’s expedited service. For faster processing, the easiest thing to do is to use a private expediter like RushMyPassport. That way, you’re not stuck having to make an appointment or wait in line at a passport agency office.

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