Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Tough new border ID rules kick in Monday

What will be accepted

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OTTAWA -- The time when people could cross into the U.S. with just a driver's licence ends Monday.

And the tough new identification rules that begin in five days could be a serious block to Americans who used to visit Canada and spend money, fear tourism operators.

"It's going to be a major change and it's unfortunate," said Emerson mayor Wayne Arseny, who knows border issues intimately as the mayor of a border town and a Canadian Border Services Agency guard at the Emerson crossing.

As of June 1, anyone -- Americans included -- crossing into the U.S. by land or by sea from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda or the Caribbean has to have a valid passport or one of a few other specific documents such as a Manitoba enhanced driver's license or a Nexus card.

Children under 16, or those under 19 travelling with a school, religious or sports group, will be able to use a birth certificate or citizenship card.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman Joann Ferreira said the U.S. border offices will be fully staffed on Monday to ensure smooth sailing but she said nobody should anticipate a longer wait if they have the correct ID.

"We are ready," she said. "We don't expect any major issues."

She said 80 per cent of the people who cross the border already use the right documents, and said the border guards will be practical and flexible for awhile. If you don't have the right ID, you'll likely still get through but your wait will be longer as they verify your identity and citizenship, she said.

But businesses in border towns fear the new requirements mean people will stay on their own side of the border.

In 2008, 291,153 Americans crossed the Canadian border in Manitoba by car. Over half of them, 53.3 per cent, were for same day trips.

In Emerson, Arseny says about 20 per cent of commercial activity can be attributed to Americans coming over the line, often just for a few hours. "I don't think you're going to see a North Dakota resident apply for a passport for once or twice a year," said Arseny. "There will be deep cuts and it will be all of us who suffer."

Americans account for six per cent of the tourists who visit Manitoba each year and 13 per cent of the tourist dollars spent -- $164 million last year.

Linda Whitfield, vice-president of advertising and communications at Travel Manitoba, said with the American economy in such a poor state, there was already going to be an expected drop of American tourists coming to Manitoba of 8.1 per cent this year.

Whitfield said it will be difficult to determine how much of that is economy related and how much is due to the new identification requirements.

Travel Manitoba staged an awareness campaign, using its website, and visitor's centres, to make sure people knew about the new rules and could prepare for them. There are indications both Canadians and Americans have been paying attention but there are still millions in both countries without the necessary ID.

In 2005, estimates showed less than one in four Americans and less than one in three Canadians had a passport. As of April, about 17 million Canadians - or 54 per cent - had a passport and 21,000 applications come in every day, according to a government spokesman. Over 45 per cent of Manitobans now have a passport.

Ferreira said 91 million Americans have passports, or about 30 per cent of the U.S. population.

The number of applications processed annually in the U.S. has grown 148 per cent in the last 10 years, with over 16 million passports issued in the U.S. last year compared to 6.5 million in 1998.

In 2008, the U.S. also began issuing a passport card, a cheaper alternative to the passport which Americans can use to get back into the U.S. by land or by sea. Over one million of them have been issued since July 2008.

Manitoba is one of three provinces which has a new enhanced drivers license the U.S. will accept as an alternative at land and sea crossings. Over 3,000 Manitobans applied for the new card already and the first 1,700 were mailed out this week.

 mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

 

What will be accepted

There are four different pieces of Canadian ID which will be accepted at U.S. border land crossings as of June 1, 2009* 

Canadian Passport

Issued by: Passport Canada

Who can get one: Canadian citizens

Valid for: five years for adults, three years for kids under 3

Cost: $87 for adults, $37 kids 3-15, $27 kids under 3

Processing time: two weeks if you apply in person, four weeks if you apply by mail. Can be processed in as little as 24 hours for additional fees.

Use: Good for entry into the U.S. by air or by land or sea. Also good for travel to other countries, some of which may also require traveling visas.

 

Enhanced ID Card

Issued by: provincial governments (Manitoba, B.C. and Quebec at the moment)

Who can get one: In Manitoba, anyone over the age of 16 except people with outstanding child support payments, criminal charges or who are in jail.

Valid for: five years

Cost: $30 for drivers (in addition to regular license fees), $50 for non-drivers

Processing time: 10 to 14 days, including half hour interview

Use: Alternative to a passport for land and sea entry to the U.S. The U.S. actually prefers them at the border because their embedded chip technology allows the border guard to identify the occupants of a car even before the car has pulled up to the kiosk and it speeds up the processing.

 

Nexus card

Issued by: Canada Border Services Agency

Who can get one: pre-approved, low-risk Canadian citizens who cross the border frequently. Interview with U.S. customs agent and fingerprints are required.

Valid for: Five years

Cost: $50

Processing time: Six to eight weeks

Use: Good for entry into the U.S. at land and sea crossings and some airports.

 

Fast/Expres Card (Free and Secure Trade) 

Issued by: Canada Border Services Agency

Who can get one: pre-approved, low-risk commercial truck drivers. An interview and fingerprints are required.

Valid for: Five years

Cost: $50

Processing time: Six to eight weeks

Use: Good for entering U.S. or Canada by land, and can use FAST express lanes if everyone in vehicle has a FAST card.

 

*Canadian children under 16 can continue to use a birth certificate or Canadian citizenship card to enter the U.S. by land. Children under 19 can use a birth certificate if they are travelling with a school, religious group or sports team.

-U.S. Customs and Border Protection/Canadian Border Services Agency

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 28, 2009 A6

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