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US eases travel rules for American, Canadian children

American and Canadian children do not need passports to enter US.




February 25, 2007

The United States has announced that children of the US and Canada will be exempted from the new rules requiring travellers to show passports when entering the United States.

Children aged 15 or younger with parental consent will be allowed to cross the United States-Canada border at land and sea entry points with certified copies of their birth certificates instead of passports.

Youths aged 16 through 18 travelling with school, religious, cultural or athletic groups under adult supervision also will be allowed to use only their birth certificates.

“This is going to make it a lot easier for kids to cross the border,” United States Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said.

After the announcement, Chertoff toured the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, a link with Windsor, Ontario, under the Detroit River.

The Department of Homeland Security may approve other documents, in addition to birth certificates, later.

The new rules will possibly take effect on January 1, 2008, when the Department of Homeland Security’s Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative regarding land and sea travel are scheduled to be implemented.

The new announcement came a day after Canadian Ambassador Michael Wilson told The Washington Times that the travel initiative must be implemented with “clarity and flexibility” to avoid damaging the world’s most dynamic bilateral trading relationship.

Trade between the United States and Canada totaled over $740 billion in 2006. Canada also is the leading foreign trade partner for 39 US states.

Americans and Canadians who travel by air, regardless of age, must show passports when crossing the border, as mandated by the initiative’s first phase, which went into effect in January 2007. Those rules, which deal only with air travel, also apply to citizens of Mexico, Bermuda or Caribbean nations who enter the United States, as well as Americans re-entering the country.

The rules were mandated by Congress in 2004 as a response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the recommendations by the September 11 Commission that border security be tightened.

In October 2006, Congress had passed an amendment sponsored by Senator Patrick J Leahy (Vermont-Democrat), and Senator Ted Stevens (Alaska-Republican) to postpone the implementation of the land and sea rules for as long as 17 months, or until June 2009, if certain conditions have not been met.



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