U.S. to require passports to Canada and Mexico in 2008

Tyrel Linkhorn

It’s a small book containing a photograph, a signature, some basic personal information and blank pages for stamps.

It’s a passport – the key to most international travel.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2008, the United States will begin requiring all people entering the country to have a passport.

Currently, U.S. citizens do not need a passport to cross the land border between Canada or Mexico. Residents of Canada also enjoy freedom to enter the United States without a passport as long as they provide positive identification, said Linda Copley, Kent Clerk of Council .

However, that changed with the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. That act put a plan in place to eventually require passports or equivalent secure government documents to enter American territory.

The State Department and Department of Homeland Security are planning on offering a lower-cost alternative for U.S. citizens reentering the country in the form of a secure passcard. The passcard, which will be implemented later this year, will not be valid for other international travel.

The policy is not so much based on the belief that Canada and Mexico are terrorist threats, but rather the fear the “massive border” could present opportunities for terrorists to smuggle weapons or people across the border, said Political Science Professor Steven W. Hook, who specializes in U.S. foreign policy.

Historically, the border security with Canada and Mexico has been rather weak. With the new policy, the United States will be “brought into conventional border security,” Hook said. “That’s a part of daily life for people in most other countries.”

The new requirements will force college students to acquire passports before their spring break journey, although many college students apply for passports now, Copley said.

February was a record month for her office issuing passports, and she attributed it to spring break travelers. Normally, over half of the passports issued are to college students.

The cost of a passport from Kent’s office is $97, with $30 of that going to the city.

Generally, the application process takes six weeks, Copley said. For an additional $60, the process can be pruned to about two and a half weeks.

While it will limit spontaneous trips and may create financial issues for students, Copley said traveling with passports is much easier.

Junior finance major Adam DeSimone agreed with Copley.

“Having the passport would make the passing in and out of customs a lot easier,” said DeSimone, who has been to Canada twice. “It would eliminate some of the hassle and third-degree questioning vacationers get.”

Contact news correspondent Tyrel Linkhorn at [email protected].