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US To Issue Passport Cards For Trips To Neighbouring Countries

by Leroy Baker,, New York

18 January 2008

The US State Department has announced the launch of new passport cards for American travellers to the Caribbean, Canada and Mexico as part of new rules requiring US citizens to carry passports when re-entering the country.

In a statement earlier this week, the State Department revealed that it has awarded a USD100 million contract to General Dynamics Information Technology of Fairfax, Virginia to integrate the production of the new passport card into the Department’s existing passport book processes.

Beginning in the spring of 2008, the Department of State will begin issuing the passport card to meet the needs of American land border resident communities for a less expensive and more portable alternative to the traditional passport book. The passport card will facilitate entry and expedite document processing at US land and sea ports-of-entry when arriving from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. The card may not be used to travel by air, but it will otherwise carry the rights and privileges of the US passport book, and will be adjudicated to the exact same standards.

US citizens may begin applying in advance for the new Passport Card beginning February 1, 2008, in anticipation of land border travel document requirements.

"Uniform and standard documentation with facilitative technology will enhance our border security and help facilitate legitimate travel," the Department explained.

Under previous rules, Americans only required some form of photo identification, such as a driving licence, to be allowed to re-enter the US from the Caribbean and Central America. However, since September 11 attacks, the US government has sought to tighten border security, introducing the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.

Under the WHTI, all Americans will need to show a passport when returning from Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean from January 31, 2008. However, a backlog in the processing of new passport applications has prompted the US government to launch the new Passport Cards.

TAGS: Curaçao

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