Canadian passport offices have been doing a booming business in recent weeks as the United States gets set to implement a major phase of its Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.
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My office is on the same floor as the downtown Toronto passport office. So for weeks now, my staff and I have witnessed, and had to manoeuvre around, many hapless Canadians sitting on the floor outside the passport office as they complete their passport applications while waiting their turn in line.
This is because starting tomorrow, citizens of Canada, the United States, Mexico and Bermuda will need a passport when arriving in the U.S. by air.
U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner’s Documents, NEXUS Air Cards, and U.S. Permanent Resident Cards will continue to be acceptable documentation for this purpose.
This proposal was the result of the recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission.
A further proposal to extend this requirement to land and sea travel may be implemented as early as Jan. 1, 2008.
It is expected that American citizens who might otherwise fly to Canada using birth certificates and drivers’ licences, etc., may pass up on some of these trips in the future should they be unable or unwilling to apply for or renew their American passport in time for their trip to Canada. How much these lost trips will cost Canada’s tourism industry is unknown.
What is clear is that this week will mark the beginning of the end of our cosy, or perhaps quaint, border relations with our American neighbours. As far as the U.S. is concerned, Canadians will finally have to answer to the call of “passport please” just like everybody else.
It will be interesting to see if our Minister of Citizenship and Immigration will maintain or repeal regulation 52 (2) (a) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations which specifically exempts visiting American citizens from Canada’s passport requirements, and regulation (b), which exempts American green card holders from these requirements when entering Canada from the United States.
If these regulations remain in place we will be left with the curious result that American citizens will require a passport to enter their own country by air but won’t require one when flying to ours.
On the other hand, if these regulations are repealed, the move may be viewed as cheap tit-for-tat politics. However, if the Americans view their recent initiative as truly necessary to the security of the western hemisphere, then they will welcome such a move as one needed to further that objective. We shall see.
Guidy Mamann practices law in Toronto at Mamann & Associates and is certified by the Ontario Law Society as an immigration specialist. Hear him live each Sunday morning at 11 on Toronto’s AM640. Reach him confidentially at 416-862-0000 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.