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New US border crossing rules take effect

[JURIST] The US Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative [official website; rule, PDF] went into effect Monday, heightening document requirements [text] for entering and re-entering the US by land or sea. The initiative requires all citizens of the US, Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and Caribbean nations to have a passport or other form of approved documentation in order to enter or depart the US. The rules were promulgated under the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA) [text; JURIST report] which required the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of State (DOS) [official websites] to develop and implement a plan to require travelers to present secure identification documents when entering or re-entering the US. There have been concerns about the ramifications the rules will have on tourism in the US and Canada, which traditionally have benefited from what had become known as the "world's longest undefended border". Tourism officials in the Canadian province of New Brunswick say that American tourism has declined [CBC report] in the region since the passport requirement was announced.

The air travel portion of the initiative went into effect in January 2007 and requires all travelers entering the US by air to present a passport or other secure travel document. The portion taking effect Monday covers land and sea travel and will complete the full implementation of the initiative. In the past, US citizens who entered the country by land or sea from within the Western Hemisphere, except from Cuba, have been exempt from passport requirements but were still required to show identification documents and orally declare their citizenship. The number of passport applications has increased since new border-crossing requirements were enacted as part of the IRTPA. In September, a group of Texans filed suit [JURIST report] against the DOS, alleging that they had been denied passports because they are of Mexican descent.

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