Border security tightens

Courtesy illustration Residents can apply for a cheaper, wallet-sized alternative to a traditional passport that can be used when entering the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean.

By Thomas Garcia: Freedom New Mexico

Those quick trips across the border to Mexico and Canada will soon come with new requirements for travelers.

As of Thursday, all travelers 19 and older crossing U.S. borders by land or sea from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean must show a government-issued I.D. card, such as a driver’s license, and proof of citizenship, such as a passport or birth certificate. U.S. citizens 18 and under must prove citizenship.

This new initiative will strengthen the security at U.S. land and sea borders, according to the U.S. Department of State Web site.

Starting Friday, U.S. residents can apply for a cheaper, wallet-sized alternative to a traditional passport, which already is required for all air travel outside the USA.

The new passport card, to be issued sometime this spring, will be valid for 10 years for adults and five years for children 15 and younger. The cost will be $45 for adults, $35 for children — vs. the regular passport cost of $97 for adults and $82 for children.

At a later date, a passcard or passport will be required of most U.S. citizens entering the United States at sea or land ports of entry, according to the U.S. Department of State Web site.

The passcard will only be valid for land and sea travel between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean region and Bermuda, according to the U.S. Department of State Web site.

How Passport card works
—The card will contain a vicinity-read radio frequency identification chip. This chip will link the card to a stored record in secure government databases. There will be no personal information written to the RFID chip itself, according to the U.S. Department of State Web site.

Passport card costs

First-time applicants:
—Adults: $45
—Children: $35
—For adults who already have a passport book: $20.

What to show at border
To cross the border, a driver’s license alone won’t cut it anymore. Starting Thursday, you will need to have a passport or similarly secure document, or a combination of two other documents.
Single document option:
—U.S. passport
—U.S. passcard
—So-called “trusted traveler card,” which includes NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST cards (These are typically used only by people who cross the border frequently, often for work).
—State issued “enhanced” driver’s license (states are only beginning to produce these, so they are not available in most places).
—U.S. military ID with travel orders.
—U.S. merchant mariner document
—Native American Tribal Photo ID card
—Form I-872 American Indian Card
—Indian and Northern Affairs Canada Card

Multiple document option:
If you don’t have a passport or one of these other IDs, there is a two-document option, the most likely combination being a driver’s license and a birth certificate.
Border crossers can present a driver’s license or ID card, or a U.S. ID card, along with one of the following:
—Birth certificate
—U.S. consular report of birth abroad.
—U.S. certificate of naturalization
—U.S. certificate of citizenship
—U.S. citizen identification card

Sources: The Associated Press, U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security