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News: Department of Homeland Security Announces Change in Passport Requirement

Department of Homeland Security Announces Change in Passport Requirement
On November 30, 2006, Homeland Security Department Secretary Michael Chertoff announced that nearly all air travelers entering the United States, including returning U.S. citizens, will be required to show passports in order to re-enter. The requirement will also apply to people from Canada and other nations in the Western Hemisphere.

The requirement is a significant change in the law. Currently, U.S. citizens returning from other countries in the hemisphere are not required to present passports, although they must show other proof of citizenship such as driver's licenses or birth certificates. Also currently, people from Canada, Bermuda and those from Mexico who enter the U.S. frequently and have special border-crossing cards, have been allowed to use other forms of identification, including driver's licenses.

According to Chertoff, only one in four Americans currently has a passport. The problem, according to Secretary Chertoff, is that because over 8,000 different state and local entities issue birth certificates and driver's licenses, it is an "enormous burden" for Customs and Border inspectors.


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