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June 01, 2009

Crossing the U.S. Border? Get Your PASScard Now

Starting June 1, 2009, just a driver’s license and birth certificate won’t suffice to get U.S. travelers back across the border from its neighboring countries. Travelers returning from Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean islands must show either a PASScard (U.S. Passport Card), U.S. Passport, Mexican “laser visa,” SENTRI, NEXUS or FAST card.

Newppt_card Since the PASScard, a wallet-friendly, limited-use version of the U.S. Passport, became available in the summer of 2008, it has become very popular with cruise ship passengers and travelers who frequently cross borders by land or sea. It is cheaper than a passport, and covers all but international air travel from the United States. This tightening of border-crossing regulations is the third phase of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which is designed to make border patrols less confusing and more consistent. The PASScard can also be used for traveling by air within the United States, and as an I.D. for alcohol and tobacco purchases.

If you were planning a trip to Canada, or a cruise to the Bahamas, and don’t have a passport, remember it’ll take up to six weeks to get your PASScard. It costs only $45, but adults over 16 who already have a passport book may apply for the card as a passport renewal by mail and pay only $20. Start your PASScard application online here, or apply in person at a location near you.

 

License533 Residents of the states of Michigan, New York, Vermont and Washington can order state-issued Enhanced Driver's Licenses that include the same type of identification chip used in PASScards, and can be used with the same limitations of a PASScard. When travelers pull up to an American border station in a vehicle, they just hold up their Enhanced Driver's License, which is scanned from a distance. When travelers reach the station, security personnel will simply make a visual check.

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