The Associated Press has an excellent article up that looks at how the new passport regulations associated with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) have changed the way people live in border communities like St. Albans, Vermont.

More than two years after the final phase of the WHTI went into effect, residents still miss the “good old days.” It’s easy to see why- in the article, Paul Martin, the fire chief in Richford, Vermont, reminisces about how easy it used to be to go from America to Canada and back again:

“It used to be real simple. We just went across the border. Sometimes I wouldn’t even take my wallet.” Now, he says, whether it’s “simple” or not depends on who is posted at the crossing: “If I get somebody I went to school with, I don’t have a problem. If you get somebody new, they have to inspect everything. It all depends on what kind of a day the inspector is having.”

The truth is, most borders are arbitrary, man-made things. Along the US/Canadian border, close-knit communities straddled the dividing line between the two countries. Now, the ties that bind have inevitably become a little bit looser. Paul Martin’s fire department still crosses into Quebec to help fight fires across the line, but they can no longer count on the Quebec fire department for backup unless there is a serious emergency; it’s easier to get into Canada than it is to for the Canadian fire trucks to cross over into the United States. One restaurant owner on the American side even held a contest to help some of his Canadian regulars get new passports so they could continue to pop in for a bite. Still, he gets much less business from Canada now, and his establishment is suffering.

While the tone of the people interviewed for the AP piece seemed to range from anger to grim resignation for the most part, not everyone has a problem with the new regulations. Stanstead College Headmaster Michael Wolfe (from Quebec) told the AP that he doesn’t mind the new rules:

“I wouldn’t say it’s hard. It just takes longer. As long as the paper work is in place, I think it’s OK.”

For more information on passport requirements for Canadian travel, see Do You Need a Passport to Go to Canada?

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