Pilots accustomed to flying over the border to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean and using a birth certificate to prove U.S. citizenship on their return to the United States could soon need a passport instead. The change will be especially significant to the many pilots who regularly use GA aircraft for travel to these convenient business and pleasure destinations.
A proposal announced today by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the State Department would require anyone reentering the United States from any foreign country to carry a valid passport. The program, called the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, is currently the subject of an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to give the public time to comment.
The measure grew out of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, also known as the 9/11 Intelligence Bill, which mandated that DHS and the State Department develop and implement a plan to require anyone entering the United States to present a passport or other secure document.
Getting a passport is not difficult, although it can take several weeks to process, so it's a good idea to plan ahead. If you've never held a U.S. passport before, you must apply in person at one of the 6,000 facilities located around the nation. You can expect to pay $97 in fees and wait six weeks for your new passport to arrive, although an expedited two-week service is available for an additional charge.
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative would be implemented in phases, with the first deadline set for December 31 when all citizens of the United States, Canada, and Bermuda traveling from the Caribbean and Central or South America will need a passport to reenter the United States. One year later, December 31, 2006, the requirement will be extended to all citizens of the United States, Canada, and Bermuda who are reentering the United States from Canada or Mexico. The following year, December 31, 2007, the rule will be expanded to include all persons traveling in the Western Hemisphere who are returning to the United States.
April 12, 2005