Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Your Papers, Please (II)

Continuing the long-running goatf--- of confusion and red tape that is our federal "border security" system, here's a heads-up on new requirements for identification papers you will need when returning by land or sea from a trip to either Canada or Mexico, or by sea from the Caribbean or Bermuda, effective next Monday, June 1.

That's the day a program called the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative goes into effect. Starting June 1, only a passport or five other forms of officially approved I.D. will be accepted for return to the U.S.

The passport is self-evident. But what are these "five other forms" of I.D. that the media have mentioned without going to the trouble of specifying them? Here are three. I'm looking for the rest.

--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. Frankly, I don't see why anyone would go to the trouble of getting this thing instead of an actual passport.

--Enhanced Driver’s License – Several states and Canadian provinces or territories are issuing this driver’s license or I.D., specifically designed for cross-border travel into the U.S. by land or sea. A trip to the motor vehicles department is required. Say no more.

--Trusted Traveler Program cards – NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST enrollment cards are issued only to pre-approved travelers who are deemed to be low-risk by whatever half-baked criteria the authorities use. The cards are valid for use at land or sea; the NEXUS card can be used in airports with a NEXUS kiosk.

Oh, and you're bringing a kid back with you? U.S. and Canadian citizens under age 16 arriving by land or sea from contiguous territory may also present an original or a copy of the kid's birth certificate (all parents carry that, right?), a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, a Naturalization Certificate, or a Canadian Citizenship Card.

Oh, and here's a twist. Religious groups are among those who get special consideration. Not that we've ever had to worry about, um, religious groups and security.

From the Customs and Border Patrol statement:

"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; and
* 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.

Letterhead and a signed statement! No way that can be forged.


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