Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Crossing the Mexico/USA Border: Your Papers, Please


I received an email yesterday asking for specific information about what kinds of documentation are acceptable for crossing the border back into the USA, so I visited the official government Web site to make sure I had the correct information. Note that these documents aren't required to get into Mexico, but you will need them to get back across the border into the USA.

Let me start off by saying that if you don't have the proper ID but you can show that you are indeed a US citizen, you will not be denied entry. There is the possibility that you might be directed to "secondary" for a more thorough questioning, you are very likely to receive at least a mild scolding, and you will definitely be handed a notice that you are noncompliant (which will also be noted on the computer). The picture above is what that notice looks like.

The Web site that carries all this information is Get You Home and you might want to visit it for even more information. But for now, here are the documents that will get you quickly across the border.

U.S. Passport – This is an internationally recognized travel document that verifies a person’s identity and nationality. It is accepted for travel by air, land and sea.

-Cost: Please visit the State Department's website at www.travel.state.gov for passport fees.
-Validity: 10 years for adults, 5 years for children under age 16
-Issued by: U.S. Department of State
-Info: www.travel.state.gov-Questions: Contact National Passport Information Center
(877) 4-USA-PPT
TDD/TTY (888) 874-7793

U.S. Passport Card – This is a new, limited-use travel document that fits in your wallet and costs less than a U.S. Passport. It is only valid for travel by land and sea.

-Cost: Please visit the State Department's website at www.travel.state.gov for passport card fees.
-Validity: 10 years for adults, 5 years for children under age 16
-Issued by: U.S. Department of State
-Limitations: Not valid for international air travel
-Info: www.travel.state.gov
-Questions: Contact National Passport Information Center
(877) 4-USA-PPT
TDD/TTY (888) 874-7793

Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL) – Several states and Canadian provinces are issuing this driver’s license or identification document that denotes identity and citizenship. It is specifically designed for cross-border travel into the U.S. by land or sea.

The following states are currently (July1, 2009) issuing this type of WHTI-compliant document: Michigan, New York, Vermont and Washington. In addition, Arizona and Texas have agreed to produce the enhanced drivers' licenses. Arizona is in the development process, but in Texas it is being blocked by Gov. Rick Perry.

For information on costs, validity and issuing agencies, visit the appropriate state government website.

Click here for a list of links and more information.

Limitations: Not valid for international air travel


Trusted Traveler Program CardsNEXUS (US/Canada), SENTRI (US/Mexico) or FAST (Commercial Truckers) enrollment cards can speed your entry into the U.S. and are issued only to pre-approved, low-risk travelers. The cards are valid for use at land or sea; the NEXUS card can be used in airports with a NEXUS kiosk.


Special Groups
    Children: Beginning June 1, 2009, U.S. and Canadian citizen children under age 16 arriving by land or sea from contiguous territory may also present an original or copy of his or her birth certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, a Naturalization Certificate, or a Canadian Citizenship Card.

    Groups of Children: Beginning June 1, 2009, U.S. and Canadian citizen children under age 19 arriving by land or sea from contiguous territory and traveling with a school group, religious group, social or cultural organization, or sports team, may also present an original or copy of his or her birth certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, a Naturalization Certificate, or a Canadian Citizenship Card.

    The group should be prepared to present a letter on organizational letterhead with the following information:
    • The name of the group and supervising adult,
    • A list of the children on the trip, and the primary address, phone number, date of birth, place of birth, and name of at least one parent or legal guardian for each child,
    • A written and signed statement of the supervising adult certifying that he or she has obtained parental or legal guardian consent for each participating child.
    Native Americans: Native Americans will be able to continue presenting tribal documents until June 1, 2009, provided they are affixed with a photo. Customs and Border Protection is working closely with interested Native American tribes toward the development of an enhanced tribal card that complies with WHTI.

    "Closed Loop" Cruises: U.S. citizens who board a cruise ship at a port within the United States, travel only within the Western Hemisphere, and return to the same U.S. port on the same ship may present a government issued photo identification, along with proof of citizenship (an original or copy of his or her birth certificate, a Consular report of Birth Abroad, or a Certificate of Naturalization). Please be aware that you may still be required to present a passport to enter the foreign countries your cruise ship is visiting. Check with your cruise line to ensure you have the appropriate documents.

    U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents: Document requirements for Lawful Permanent Residents will not change under WHTI. U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents can continue to use their permanent resident card (Form I-551) or other valid evidence of permanent residence status.

    U.S. Military: U.S. citizens can present a valid U.S. Military identification card when traveling on official orders.

    Merchant Mariners: U.S. citizens may present an unexpired Merchant Marine Document in conjunction with maritime business.

    Ferries and Small Boats: Passengers on ferries and small boat operators are processed much like travelers entering the U.S. through a land border. They are required to present one of the travel document that complies with WHTI.

    Boaters: I-68 Registration Holders: Boaters who have an I-68 form will need to follow the new travel document requirements. A NEXUS card is an alternative to a passport for entry into the U.S., and ensuring that you have either a NEXUS card or a passport will enable you to continue to utilize telephonic clearance procedures currently in place for I-68 holders.

    An I-68 form is similar to a vehicle registration, and is not an identity document or a travel document.
Knowing what documents are required and having them ready when you return home will help streamline the entry process and ensure your return to the U.S. is as smooth as possible. http://www.getyouhome.gov/html/eng_map.html

And that should get you started on the road to full official governmental snooping documentation. ;-)

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