The post-September 11 battle to keep the Canada/U.S. border free of a passport requirement has been fought and lost.
As of June 1, 2009 all travellers to the United States, including American and Canadian citizens, will require a valid passport or an acceptable equivalent.
When travelling by air, Canadian citizens, regardless of age and including children, will need to present a valid passport when travelling to or through the United States. A valid NEXUS card may also be used, but only at participating airports.
When entering the United States by land or sea, Canadian citizens will need to present a valid Canadian passport, NEXUS card, or Enhanced Driver’s Licence. Commercial truckers can also use a Fast/Express card for admission. Canadian children who are under 16 can continue to enter the U.S. with an original or a copy of a Canadian birth certificate or Canadian citizenship card, but only if they are entering the U.S. from contiguous territory. Canadian children under 19 who are travelling with a school or religious group, sports team, or a social or cultural organization can also enter the U.S. with an original or a copy of a Canadian birth certificate or citizenship card.
Canadian citizens who live in Ontario or British Columbia should consider getting an Enhanced Driver’s Licence (EDL). Such identification complies with the American Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) and is acceptable for travel to the U.S. by land but not by air. For the Ontario licence, one must be a Canadian citizen, Ontario resident and hold a valid Ontario’s driver’s licence to qualify for the EDL. It costs an additional $40.00 above the $75.00 cost of a regular licence. Applicants must undergo a scheduled interview which takes about 15 minutes and which takes about tow weeks to book.
A key feature of the EDL is that it has a Radio Frequency Identification Technology chip embedded in it. When you approach a U.S. border crossing, you simply hold up the card facing the large scanners and your personal information is transmitted to the computer of the U.S. border guard who is about to examine you. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency will store and retain your personal information — information that would have been kept by the Americans in any event, whether or not the information was loaded onto their computer system manually or electronically through chip technology.
No doubt these additional requirements will thicken our border, somewhat slowing down trade and tourism. However, our American friends are convinced that imposing a passport requirement will deter terrorists from entering their country from ours and they are willing to pay the price for this belief.
We Canadians will just need to deal with it
Guidy Mamann practices law in Toronto at Mamann, Sandaluk and is certified by the Law Society of Upper Canada as an immigration specialist. Reach him confidentially at 416-862-0000 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.