Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, created by the Departments of State (DOS) and Homeland Security (DHS), requires all travelers (including U.S. citizens) to have a passport or other approved, secure document to establish identity and citizenship upon entry or re-entry into the United States from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, the Caribbean and Central and South America. The purpose of WHTI, as recommended by the 9/11 Commission, is to strengthen U.S. border security by facilitating the entry of travelers through the use of standardized documentation that allows the federal government to quickly and reliably identify individuals.
U.S. TRAVEL POSITION
U.S. Travel believes the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative is a major change in law and tradition with regard to border crossings, particularly between the U.S. and Canada and has the potential to negatively impact cross-border travel and trade if not implemented correctly. Because only about half of Canadian citizens and even fewer U.S. citizens possess a passport, providing alternative options such as the U.S. passport card, enhanced driver’s licenses and other travel documents will help in this process.
However, the most critical aspect of the entire program is communication. Travelers must be fully informed about WHTI, its requirements and options they have for obtaining required travel documents. In addition to the distribution of informational “tear sheets” at border crossings and a media promotion campaign conducted by DHS, continued effort is needed to inform prospective travelers about WHTI requirements. An informed public would prevent confusion and concern on the part of travelers and help avoid a negative impact on the U.S. economy.