Wednesday, November 22, 2006

U.S. to require passport for all inbound air travellers

The Department of Homeland Security (who have umpteen pictures of me on file) have set the date of January 23 as the day when everyone entering the U.S. by aircraft must have a passport. Previous to this, citizens of the U.S., Canada, Bermuda, and some Mexicans only needed a picture ID.

This measure is to increase security. They point out that within the U.S. alone there are some 8,000 agencies, from the federal to the municipal level, who can issue picture identification documents. By requiring a passport, only one federal agency in the U.S. (and only one federal agency in each of the remaining countries) can issue a passport. Passports can be forged, but they are far harder to forge than a driver's license.

This measure will probably affect Americans the most. Other nationals are already getting passports in order to simplify the border crossing procedure, even when it wasn't strictly necessary. Americans, though, typically do not have a passport.

The measure will only be in effect for air travellers for now. They are still working out the details for surface entry into the U.S. from Canada. A number of organizations, including border states, don't want a passport to be required.

I'm personally of two minds on this. A single photo ID is a good thing. The moment you allow exceptions, you end up with increased vulnerabilities. Passports are about the most secure document issued. On the other hand, no one has actually demonstrated whether or not this will have a major effect. The 9/11 terrorists all came to the U.S. from countries other than Canada, and they all had valid visas. Presumably a valid passport would be hard to forge, making it difficult for those on the FBI's lists to get in. That won't stop terrorists from using unknowns in their plans. Or sneaking in from Mexico (I hesitate to mention Canada, not because it's impossibly — on the contrary, it is very feasible — but because there are those who still think some of the 9/11 terrorists got in from Canada). Security is only as good as its weakest link, and there are a lot of weak links in the U.S.

Anyway, I guess this means I need my Canadian passport updated, as my green card won't be enough to let me in the U.S. This is only for emergencies, as I can't see us affording a "foreign" vacation for some time, and Alana's ex won't let Logan leave the country for reasons we don't quite understand. It's still a pain, as I don't have any guarantors down here that have known me for two years. In the new year I intend to send my paperwork, and my money, to Canada for my passport.

I should get my Euro passport updated, too, just in case...

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