June 1, 2009, saw the introduction of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) and the implementation of more immigration rules and regulations.
In order to understand why these changes were made, it would help to understand a bit more about the WHTI. “The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative basically says that all travelers to and from Canada, Bermuda, the Caribbean and Mexico, who didn’t previously need passports, now need passports or other documents that proves who they are and their country of origin (citizenship) in order to enter and leave the U.S.,” said Sally Odell of Rifkin Fox-Isicoff, P.A., in Miami and Orlando, Florida.
This measure was brought into being as a joint initiative of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State after 9/11 in order to address what the U.S. viewed as a major security problem – vulnerable borders. As of June 1, 2009, U.S. citizens, including children, had to start presenting passports, etc., when coming into the U.S. by air. “Other documents may include a NEXUS card, U.S. military ID and travel orders, a passport or U.S. Merchant Marine documents,” indicated Odell.
U.S. citizens coming in by land or seaports now need WHTI compliant documents that in most cases are a U.S. passport, a trusted traveler card (NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST), a passport card or enhanced driver’s license. The idea behind NEXUS is that it is for low risk, pre-approved travelers into the U.S. and Canada. SENTRI cards allow expedited travel to approved members between the U.S. and Mexican border, and FAST refers to a truck driver card that lets drivers avoid lineups at the border.
If a person is in the category of lawful permanent resident, then after the 1st of June, 2009, if travelling by air, all residents, including children must offer a passport or other proper travel documents. “For land and sea travel they may still use Form I-551 permanent resident card,” added Odell.
If a traveler happens to be from another country and arriving by air, they must have a passport or other proper documentation. “Since these travelers hold a non-U.S. passport or visa, US-VISIT biometric procedures apply. Biometrics simply means a person’s unique physical characteristics, like fingerprints, are collected and used for automated recognition,” outlined Odell. A fingerprint cannot be forged and instantly identifies a person.
The rules and regulations are quite extensive, and for a complete understanding of how they may apply to certain individuals, it is best to consult with a highly skilled immigration attorney such as Sally Odell of Rifkin Fox-Isicoff, P.A., in Miami and Orlando, Florida.