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WHTI- What is it and how does it effect me?
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative is a result of the Intelligence Reform and Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA), requiring all travelers to present a passport or other document that denotes identity and citizenship when entering the U.S.
Passport Card Layout
The Passport Card is formatted according to specifications for TD-1 size travel documents, as described in ICAO Document 9303, Part 3, Volume 1. The card contains both eye readable and machine readable information. For machine reading, information corresponding to personal data is printed in the Machine Readable Zone (MRZ).
MLK Jr Day Closing
In Observance of the Martin Luther King's day, U.S Passport Agencies and many foreign embassies will be closed on Monday January 21st 2008. Passport Visa Express will also be closed and resume regular business hours on Tuesday January 22nd 2008. Please select your passport/visa processing time accordingly.
Congress Seeks Passport Rule Delay
Congress is seeking to delay a new security rule requiring passports at all U.S. border crossings next year in hopes of avoiding a repeat of last summer's vacation-killing backlog of passport applications.
The Bush administration said Monday it opposed the measure and still plans to go forward with implementing the planned passport rule next summer.
Lawmakers said Monday that under a major end-of-the-year spending bill to be voted on this week, the border passport rule would be moved back even further, to no earlier than June 1, 2009.
The first phase of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, or WHTI, went into effect earlier this year, requiring U.S. travelers returning by plane from Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean to carry a passport. As a result of the new requirements, demand for passports soared and the State Department issued a record 18.4 million passports in fiscal year 2007, compared to 12.1 million in 2006.
As a result, wait times for passports ballooned from four to six weeks to 12 weeks, but they have since returned to normal.
Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., said the government should have more time to implement the law, and ''do it in a way that won't cause the same passport headaches we saw with the air travel requirement earlier this year.''
In border states like Coleman's, the new laws have also raised concerns that local trade and tourism will suffer. In response, the State Department plans to create passcards which will cost less than half the nearly $100 charged for a new passport.
Department of Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said the agency opposes the measure but doesn't believe it will actually stop their implementation plan for the border passport rule.
''A delay in WHTI implementation would create the very type of chaos at the border that Congress has repeatedly urged our department to avoid,'' Knocke said.
WHTI was passed by Congress as part of a 2004 intelligence reform bill.
Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Passports.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
New Passport Requirements: WHTI
Below is a summary of The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative(WHTI), which will require US Citizens to have a valid passport for travel between the US, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.
JANUARY 31, 2008
U.S. and Canadian citizens will need to present either a WHTI-compliant document, or a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver's license, plus proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate. DHS also proposes to begin alternative procedures for U.S. and Canadian children at that time.
At a later date, to be determined, the departments will implement the full requirements of the land and sea phase of WHTI. The proposed rules require most U.S. citizens entering the United States at sea or land ports of entry to have either a U.S. passport; a U.S. passport card; a trusted traveler card such as NEXUS, FAST, or SENTRI; a valid Merchant Mariner Document (MMD) when traveling in conjunction with official maritime business; or a valid U.S. Military identification card when traveling on official orders.
The implementation date will be determined based on a number of factors, including the progress of actions undertaken by the Department of Homeland Security to implement the WHTI requirements and the availability of WHTI compliant documents on both sides of the border. DHS and DOS expect the date of full WHTI implementation to be in the summer of 2008. The precise implementation date will be formally announced with at least 60 days notice.
Note: The passport requirement does NOT apply to U.S. citizens traveling to or returning directly from a U.S. territory.
For more information visit: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cbpmc/cbpmc_2223.html
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