Washington, DC – January 2008 – The Travel Industry Association (TIA) expressed concern Tuesday (January 29) that new documentation requirements for crossing the U.S.-Canadian border could result in significant economic harm. Scheduled to take effect on January 31, 2008, the new document requirements are a part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). Canadians made more than 40 million visits to the United States in 2006, spending more than $13.5 billion.*
“Canadian travel to America is too important to place at risk,” said Roger Dow, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Travel Industry Association. “Just a five percent decline in Canadian visits to the United States could cost the American economy nearly $700 million. At a time when we must stimulate our economy, we cannot afford to implement the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative in a way that will hinder legitimate border travel without enhancing security.”
TIA recently reiterated its support for WHTI, but shares the concern of many in Congress that the proposed policy change scheduled to take effect on January 31 has been inadequately communicated and should be reconsidered given the confusion that already exists among travelers in Canada and the United States.
The travel community strongly supports ending the acceptance of oral declarations to enhance security at the border. However, requiring travelers to carry a birth certificate is onerous in the absence of robust, advance outreach to travelers. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) itself has argued that birth certificates are unreliable documents that present verification difficulties for border inspectors. To limit confusion and the threat to commerce, DHS should enhance security by requiring only a government-issued photo ID (such as a current driver’s license) until next generation travel documents have been widely adopted and DHS certifies compliance with statutory criteria necessary to transition to full WHTI implementation at land and sea ports of entry after June 2009.
*Sources: Statistics Canada and U.S. Dept. of Commerce