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US Defers Part Of Passport-Carrying Initiative

by Glen Shapiro, LawAndTax-News.com, New York

06 October 2006


Caribbean countries are alarmed that legislation approved by the US Congress last week to defer WHTI rules for the carrying of passports by US citizens does not apply to air travel.

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 requires that by January 1, 2008, travelers to and from the Caribbean, Bermuda, Panama, Mexico and Canada have a passport or other secure, accepted document to enter or re-enter the United States.

Originally, the requirements would have come into force in 2007, but cries of horror from popular tourist destinations in the Caribbean, not to mention US and Canadian resort cities, led to a postponement until 2008.

Now the WHTI (Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative) implementation date of 8th January 2007 has been put back to 1st June 2009 for US citizens travelling within the region by land and sea. However, the provisions of the amendment passed last week are silent as regards air travel.

Prior to the new amendment, the timetable was as follows:

  • January 8, 2007 - Requirement applied to all air and sea travel to or from Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda.
  • January 1, 2008 - Requirement extended to all land border crossings as well as air and sea travel.

President of the Caribbean Hotel Association, Peter Odle, said that the Caribbean countries affected would face economic and social upheaval, sayingl: “Tourism is the lifeline of the Caribbean, where the industry spans the depth and breadth of the national economies and represents as high as 97% of all direct and indirect jobs in the country. For the Caribbean nations affected, the economic impact has the potential to be disastrous.”

Last August, the government of the Cayman Islands has joined the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, the International Council of Cruise Lines and other leading travel organisations in opposing the phasing in of the WHTI.

In a recent visit to Washington, Tourism Minister Charles Clifford participated in rounds of talks on Capitol Hill with key bipartisan senate and congressional representatives. Acting Permanent Secretary Gloria McField-Nixon attended meetings with the Chiefs of Staff for a number of Congressmen from the State of Florida.

"All of our meetings confirmed that there is strong bi-partisan support to review and defer the implementation date of the WHTI in favour of a consistent roll-out date for air, sea and land travel later than 1 January 2007," Clifford told members of the Cayman parliament.

Monitoring visitor arrivals with the Immigration Department and the cruise lines, the Cayman Department of Tourism has learned that the majority - some 80% - of stay-over visitors currently travel on passports. While not confirmed, the anticipated percentage of non-passport holders is expected to be significantly higher for cruise arrivals, Minister Clifford said.

The Minister reiterated that any policy that negatively impacts arrivals by air or sea "or which acts as a disincentive to travel to the region due to perceived additional obstacles and burdens is an unacceptable risk".

In 2005, the Canadian Tourism Commission estimated that a WHTI passport requirement would result in a cumulative loss of some 3.5 million outbound trips by Canadians to the US.

TAGS: Curaçao

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