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Passport requirement feared to hit US-Canada ties

Even those who have traveled earlier between the two countries will now be required to own a passport to cross the border.

25 March, 2007

The stepped up security system on the United States-Canada border is feared to affect adversely trade and cultural relations between the two countries. The new security regulation would require passports for all cross-border travel.

According to Sarah Hubbard, vice-president of governmental relations for the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, the United States, it is very important for both countries to keep the US-Canada borders open.

The new homeland security rules would require all travelers to have a passport, including those who have previously traveled to and from Canada.

It was on January 23, 2007, that the new rules came into effect for air travel between the United States and Canada. From June 1, 2009, the new rules will apply to all those who travel by land and sea.

Sarah Hubbard, whose agency is part of a business coalition lobbying for a passport requirement that is less restrictive, said a lot is at stake from the economic and tourism standpoint.

The US-Canada cross-border travel accounts for $1.2 billion in trade daily and supports 5.2 million jobs, Sarah Hubbard said, and added that Michigan is among the top three destinations for Canadian travelers.

Crossings at Detroit alone represent about $450 million in trade each day. About half of Canadian trips in Detroit are made by people who go shopping or go to restaurants, with the rest related to work and family, and athletic or cultural events. About 4,000 nurses come from Canada to work in Detroit every day, Sarah Hubbard said.

The impact of the new regulations on the citizens of both countries could be huge since at present only 23% of Americans and 40% of Canadians possess passports, according to Sarah Hubbard.

People are scrambling to get passports – which costs up to $100 each – and the earlier processing time of six to eight weeks has now risen to 10-12 weeks.

Sarah Hubbard is a part of a coalition called Business for Economic Security, Trade and Tourism, which is advocating the use of ‘enhanced driver licenses’ instead of passports for cross-border travel.

To obtain a driver license, only some form of proof of citizenship is required. The bar codes already printed on the back of licenses of most states in the US would aid in the identification verification process, Hubbard said. Using driver license would mean lower costs for citizens and naturally could exempt minor children.

Sarah Hubbard said her coalition is very concerned about the effects of the new passport regulation on children and families moving across the border.




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