Passport Requirement for Air Travel Begins Today


Release Date: January 23, 2007

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: (202) 282-8010

Beginning today, citizens of the United States, Canada, Mexico, and
Bermuda are now required to present a passport to enter the United
States when arriving by air from any part of the Western Hemisphere.

The department expects a smooth transition to the new passport
requirement based on the current numbers of travelers arriving at U.S.
airports with passports. Over 90 percent of U.S. citizens, 97 percent
of Canadians, and virtually 100 percent of Mexicans and Bermudans
flying to the United States over the past week arrived with passports.

The air requirement is part of the departments of State and Homeland
Security’s Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. This change in travel
document requirements is the result of recommendations made by the 9/11
Commission, which Congress subsequently passed into law in the
Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.

The only acceptable alternative documents to a passport for air
travel will 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 when used on official business by U.S.
Citizen Merchant Mariners. All active duty members of the United States
Armed Forces traveling with military identification will be exempt from
the requirement to present a valid passport when entering the United
States. 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 will be
published at a later date with specific requirements for travelers
entering the United States through land and sea border crossings. As
early as 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 as determined by the Department of Homeland Security to enter
the United States.

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