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US temporarily eases travel rules for Canada, Mexico, Caribbean

Only proof of passport applications needed for US citizens to travel.

11 June, 2007:

The United States has temporarily waived the rule that requires US citizens to produce passports to fly to and from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda.

However, citizens without passports would have to undergo additional security scrutiny when they travel, which could include extra questioning or bag checks.

The United States Department of Homeland Security and the State Department have announced that US citizens may use proof of passport applications, rather than passports. Through September 30, 2007, citizens can go to the US State Departmentís website and obtain a receipt proving that they have submitted an application for a passport, which will allow them to re-enter the US.

The waiver plan had run into opposition from the Homeland Security Department, which controls US border points and fears the move could make it easier for terrorists or other undesirables to enter the country.

Now, instead of a passport, travelers can present a State Department receipt showing that their passport application is being processed, and a government-issued ID such as a driverís licence.

In January 2007, the United States government had made it mandatory that US citizens traveling by air from Canada, Mexico, South America, Central America and the Caribbean have a passport. Officials had then said the requirement would help prevent terrorist suspects from entering the United States.

The rule gave rise to a flood of passport applications, a 12-week backlog in issuing passports, and numerous protests from travelers. The US government decided to suspend the passport requirement for these countries because of the backlog and the busy summer travel season, an official said.

Those who have not submitted applications will still have to go through the passport process.

The suspension will give the State Department time to deal with a surge in passport applications that has overwhelmed its processing centres since the new rules took effect earlier in 2007.

The backlog has caused up to three-month delays in issuing passports and ruined or delayed the travel plans of tens of thousands of Americans. From January 2008, a passport or a special identification card will be required when traveling by land over these borders.




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