Niagara Gazette

Tourism

March 5, 2007

BORDER ISSUES: Securing the border

Officials tout passport plan, examine alternatives at tourism summit

NIAGARA FALLS, Ontario — Taking out his plastic-covered birth certificate, John Nay showed what border officers have to deal with on a daily basis.

The aged document issued in Louisiana, whose seal is nearly worn away, is one of up to 8,000 different documents presented at the American/Canadian border as proof of identification.

Trying to authenticate so many documents is exactly why the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative — the law that will require a passport for entry into the United States — will be beneficial, he said.

Nay, the U.S. consul general in Toronto, spoke during a presentation on border security issues at the Binational Tourism Summit at the Sheraton Fallsview Hotel and Conference Centre.cq Despite the bad press the passport law has received, he feels it will streamline operations by simplifying the documentation process.

“We are working diligently to make it smarter, secure ... and quicker for travelers,” he said.

Under WHTI, air travelers have needed passports to enter or re-enter the United States since January, and sea and land travelers will require passports sometime between January 2008 and June 2009. Although the law was recently amended to include the possible postponement, the legislation has been passed and the change will occur, Nay said.

“The delay is not because it’s up in the air. It’s to give people time to implement the change,” he said.

If price is a concern (U.S. passports cost $97 each for those ages 16 and older), an alternative touted by many at Monday’s conference is NEXUS, a pre-approval process whereby travelers get a card after a one-time screening and get to cross the border more quickly thereafter. Still in the pilot process at Niagara Falls-area crossings, the program is slated to expand in airports across Canada and at land crossings in Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana, said Greg Goatbe, an official with the Canada Border Services Agency in Ottawa, Ontario.

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