January 25, 2007

Starting January 23rd, 2007, the citizens of the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Bermuda will be required to present a passport to enter the United States while arriving by air from any part of the Western Hemisphere.

It is expected that there will be a smooth transition to the new passport requirement based on the current numbers of travelers arriving at U.S. airports with passports. It is reported that over 90 percent of U.S. citizens, 97 percent of Canadians, and virtually 100 percent of Mexicans and Bermudans who flew to the United States over the past week arrived with passports. The recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission has resulted in this change in travel document requirements.

There are alternative documents to a passport made available for air travel which can be the Merchant Mariner Document (MMD) and the NEXUS Air card. The MMD, or “z card”, is issued by the U.S. Coast Guard to U.S. Merchant Mariners. The NEXUS Air card is issued to citizens of Canada and the United States, lawful permanent residents of the United States and permanent residents of Canada who meet certain eligibility requirements. The NEXUS Air card will only be accepted when used in conjunction with the NEXUS Air program at certain airports. The MMD card will only be accepted for official business by U.S. Citizen Merchant Mariners. All the United States Armed Forces active duty members traveling to the United States with military identification will be exempted from the requirement to present a valid passport. Legal Permanent Residents of the U.S. may re-enter on their I-551 Permanent Resident Card.

A separate proposed rule addressing land and sea travel is expected to be published later with specific requirements for travelers entering the United States through land and sea border crossings. By Jan 1, 2008, citizens traveling between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda by land or sea may be required to present a valid passport or other documents to enter the United States.

See also…

Immigration Law forum