NTA Applauds New Passport Rules

The National Tour Association applauded the June 1, 2009, implementation date for the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) by the Department’s of Homeland Security and State. The rule allows 14 months for U.S. citizens to have a WHTI compliant document such as a passport when entering the United States from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda by land or sea.

U.S. citizens on cruises that begin and end at the same port in the United States will be able to enter or depart the country with proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate and government-issued photo ID. Special provisions for school groups and other groups of children ages 18 and under will be made, allowing U.S. or Canadian citizens to enter the United States with proof of citizenship alone.

“We hope that the June 2009 implementation will enable a smooth transition, and we are encouraged that the departments will conduct public information campaigns,” said Steve Richer, the NTA’s public affairs advocate. “Additionally, the exceptions made for cruise vacations and youth travelers are provisions the association has been fighting for since WHTI was first announced in 2005. We are pleased the departments took the travel industry's concerns into consideration.”

The new announcement follows a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued in June 2007 and legislation passed in December 2007 that set the June 1, 2009, implementation date. The NTA and other groups including ASTA voiced concern about a hasty implementation of WHTI. The NTA supported the provisions proposed for student and youth travel and cruising.

“One of NTA's chief concerns regarding WHTI has been making sure the traveling public has time to prepare. We believe there must be sufficient outreach to the public about these new passport requirements,” said Richer. “We are encouraged that the final rule allows 14 months for educating the public and allows them ample time to obtain a WHTI-compliant document. We hope this also will give the State Department time to prepare for the issuing of passports to meet this requirement in a timely manner.” Visit www.ntaonline.com. (GD)