Today is the day: US border crossing rules change

January 31, 2008 at 9:33 am 2 comments


Passport rules for US citizens have been kind of complex as of late.  We’ve always needed passports for travel in Europe and other super far away parts of the world, but it used to be a lot easier for closer countries.  We could go to the Caribbean with just a drivers license and a birth certificate, and we could go to Mexico and Canada just by telling the border patrol folks that you’re a US citizen.  There have been lots of complicated changes lately though.

The initial plan was just to have everyone have a passport, even for Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.  Then the government decided that was too much of a pain (hello – you have to have enough staff to process all those passport apps!).  They changed the rules to say we only needed a passport if we flew back from Mexico or Canada.  If we traveled by land or sea, we just needed a declaration plus a government-issued photo ID.  It’s all very confusing for those without passports.  So what’s the story right now?

Air travel: Everyone must have a passport to fly into the US.

Land travel: As of today, US and Canadian citizens entering the US must have either (1) a passport or (2) a government-issued photo ID plus proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or naturalization certificate.  Children 18 and under may get by with just the proof of citizenship.

Sea travel: As of today, it’s the same deal as land travel.

The good folks on NPR said that the border patrol will probably let people through based on the old guidelines for a little while and give those people a warning.

My advice?  Get a passport.  Make sure to keep it current.  Don’t leave the country without it.

Passport image from City of Orange.


Entry filed under: Travel Tips.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Deborah Herbert  |  February 18, 2008 at 4:09 am

    Myself, and my 21 year old son like to cross the rainbow bridge at least once a month to go to the Yuk Yuk’s comedy club located in the Casino Niagara as we get two free tickets once a month each for the shows there. Will we have a problem crossing the rainbow bridge with only a dirver’s license (me) and a non-drivers license (my son). We walk across the bridge. We both live in downtown Buffalo but are Seneca Nation of Indians tribal members (from the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation tribe). We do have the latest credit card size ID card issued by the Seneca Nation. Will our dirvers license and the Seneca Naton ID card be sufficient to cross the border and back. Thank you for your response.

  • 2. feistync  |  February 18, 2008 at 8:43 am

    i bet they’ll let you through with a warning for a little while, but i wouldn’t want to risk it! my advice would be to take your birth certificates. make sure to leave a copy at home (take the real one with you).


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