Passport No Longer Needed for Border Crossing

Update 7/31/07 I.D. Requirements at the Canadian Border

Follow this link for an informative and easy to read summary of what’s needed and by when: Canada for Visitors.

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In Thursday’s edition of the Herald, the AP’s David Ammons wrote an article about a new driver’s license that would also establish proof of U.S. citizenship to expedite U.S./Canadian border crossings. In a landslide 43-3 vote the state Senate signed off on the new license, which was formally approved by the Dept. of Homeland Security yesterday. The initiative was fueled by legislator’s concerns over how trade and tourism with Canada could be negatively impacted by the expense and delay involved with getting a passport, especially with the 2010 Winter Olympics in BC fast approaching. Gordon Campbell, Premier (Governor) of BC has announced a parallel program will be adopted by his government, though a target date has not yet been announced.

The new license, available January 2008, will cost about $40 – $60 less than a passport – will require an in-person interview to obtain and won’t require the 6-8 week wait passports do. It will also incorporate technology that allows for easy scanning, which will hopefully reduce wait times at crossing points. In June 2009, these new licenses or a passport will become required for all cross-border travel – land, sea, and air. Currently passports are required only for cross-border travel by air or sea.

I like the idea of spending less and waiting less when traveling to and from Canada. I’m also happy that legislators are looking out for small businesses – the cafes, restaurants, and retail shops near crossing points that depend on tourist traffic for revenue. 

But at what cost to my privacy will this needed balance come? As I was reading the article, red flags started going up. What’s being implemented is a federal license. It will be scannable and will establish my US citizenship, WA state residency, and give touch-of-a-button access to any number of federal databanks all at once. In addition, a high-frequency radio chip will be embedded in them. I’m not a tech wiz, but can’t high freq. chips be used to track movement? To be honest, this all makes me a little nervous.

Visiting Technorati this morning to see what others were reporting on the topic, I came across an informative post in the American Patriot Journal. I also found a lengthy post on concerns over federally controlled ID’s (link no longer available). Though the latter has a conspiracy theory flavor, it certainly contained some good information.

These new ID’s are strictly optional at this point – or are they? Even with the program’s apparent benefits, I’m less than happy about lawmakers putting me in a position where I’m forced to choose between expedited travel at the cost of privacy or higher costs and longer waits.

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