North American citizens dealt passport requirement

Tuesday, April 5, 2005

File photo of a U.S. passport.

North American travelers will see a phased-in requirement to carry passports in the coming years. In a multi-national initiative to restrict illegal immigration and travel, a passport layer of stricter identification will be introduced for travel throughout the continent by the year 2008. The US State Department announced the new American travel rules Monday.

For the most part, North American citizens can now travel to neighboring countries without formal papers. But starting in December 2005, U.S. citizens travelling by air or sea to or from the Caribbean, Central and South America will need a passport to get back into their native nation. Showing a driver's license or a government-issued photo ID card will no longer be sufficient for making the border crossing back.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that passport restrictions will help keep out "people who want to hurt us."

Rice made a brief trip on March 10 to meet with Mexican President Vicente Fox before leaving on her Far East tour. The Mexican meeting was to pave the way for a March 23 summit with Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin and Fox at the President Bush ranch in Texas. Issues concerning immigration, border security and water rights were discussed at the meeting. The intent of the summit was to produce a North American initiative that will strengthen security and economic ties.

The passport rules are a result of that summit.

The next phase of the passport requirements begins Dec 2006, when passports for air and sea travel to, or from Mexico and Canada, the Caribbean, Bermuda and US will be required. The final phase involves any travel: whether air, sea or land crossings, passports will be required at borders by Dec 7, 2008.