WASHINGTON — Requirements for Canadian air travellers to have passports and pay an extra $5 user fee when entering the United States have been pushed back.
The U.S. government has said it’ll miss a Jan. 8 deadline to begin implementing the air portion of Washington's new Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.
Department of Homeland Security spokesperson Joanna Gonzales said the U.S. hasn’t set a new deadline yet but warned Canadians against holding off obtaining a passport for travel in the New Year.
“It might send the wrong message and people might think they don't have to worry about January,” Gonzales said in an interview. “We don’t have a specific date (to start this), but it is going to be in the very near future.”
The passport requirement for air travellers is the first stage of tighter U.S. border identification rules for Canadians and Americans entering the country.
Earlier this fall, U.S. President George W. Bush signed legislation extending the deadline for passports or another form of approved ID for crossing the land border from Jan. 1, 2008 to mid-2009.
But Homeland Security is still advising Canadians that the U.S. intends to implement the new land crossing rules well ahead of the later deadline, so long as a new wallet-sized 'passport lite' is ready for use by American travellers.
Ottawa has not yet decided if it will introduce its own alternative to a passport.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said it’s postponing a $5 airline traveller fee to offset the cost of increased counterterrorism inspections.
The fee, originally set to be applied starting Nov. 24, will now be added to the charge of airline tickets starting Jan. 1.
© CanWest News Service