The law falls under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Department of State anti-terrorism policy known as the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which were rushed through following the 9/11 attacks.
U.S. citizens are now required to present a passport or other secure identification when returning to the U.S. after visiting Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean through sea or ground routes. Among the acceptable forms of secure identification are a passport, an enhanced driver's license or a "trusted traveler card."
The rule already is in place for people traveling by air.
Customs and Border Protection agents say they will be lenient for a time and work with people lacking proper documents, using government databases and other tools to verify citizenship. Those without proper paperwork will be given "non-compliance notices" -- a written warning without consequences -- before they are allowed into the country.
The list of acceptable documents for land and sea travelers includes:
- Passport: The standard citizenship proof for travelers, recognized worldwide.
- Passport card: They're cheaper and look like a driver's license, but require the same background information as a passport. The card is accepted at land and sea ports for travelers from Canada and Mexico, but is not allowed for air travel.
- Enhanced driver's licenses: Michigan, New York, Vermont and Washington state issue special motorist licenses embedded with technology that refers border agents to a stored record in a government database.
- Trusted Traveler Cards: SENTRI cards allow expedited passage through border crossings from Mexico for pre-approved applicants who have undergone extensive background checks. Commercial truckers may obtain FAST cards for the same purpose.
- Special groups: Children under age 16 may use birth certificates as proof of citizenship when entering the U.S. at land and sea ports from contiguous territories. Alternate identification papers also may be valid for student groups, Native Americans and "closed-loop" cruise-ship passengers.
- Passport book cost for people 16 and older, $100; under 16, $85.
- Passport card cost for people 16 and older, $45; under 16, $35.
- Cost of passport card if requested with new or renewed passport book, $20.
- Passport cards are not valid for international air travel.
Online: For more passport information, go to:
Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection