Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Travelling to the States? I get it, already!

Tomorrow is January 31 -- the day the new entry requirements to the U.S. come into effect. I have had this date imprinted in my brain for the last several months because I look at so much travel advice. I keep track of breaking news. I've posted the updates. I've seen the ads. I've even written an article about the issue.

And then in today's mail: an "adcard" from the Canadian government reminding me, yet again, that as of tomorrow I will need a birth certificate and my driver's license to visit the States through land and sea entry points.

Why all the effort? Because people are confused. Because last time they changed requirements (for air travel) huge backlogs and delays occurred. Because if border officials have to verify your identity through another means, you will have to wait and everyone in line behind you will have to wait (etc, etc). In other words, this is not going to be a smooth or easy transition.

Why are people confused? Because the policies keep changing, and they will continue to change. Canadians will need a passport to get into the States by 2009 -- unless the U.S. pushes the date back again, or issues passport I.D. cards, or gets their enhanced driver's license program in place by then.

My advice: Treat the U.S. border as if it were any other foreign border (rather than one that we've had relatively easy access to in the past). Regardless of where you plan to go, check out entry and exit requirements before you travel (while you still have time to get any missing documentation). A passport is still your best bet if you don't already have one.

Anyone who still hasn't seen the advice can find it here: Travel Documents for Entering the United States

The best part: Apparently U.S. officials won't enforce new border ID rules until June 2009.

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