New border-crossing requirements start Jan. 31

A required-passport
proposal has been delayed.

WASHINGTON (AP) — If you’re accustomed to driving across the border to shop, ski or sightsee in Canada, you need to know about new border-crossing requirements.

Starting Jan. 31, citizens of the U.S. and Canada ages 19 or older will have to present a government-issued photo ID (such as a driver’s license) along with proof of citizenship (such as a birth certificate or naturalization certificate) in order to enter or depart the U.S. by land or sea. Children ages 18 and younger need proof of citizenship.

The requirements also apply to Americans driving or sailing to and from Mexico, and to those traveling by sea to and from Bermuda and the Caribbean.

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the new rules end the practice of “accepting oral declarations of citizenship alone.” The Cruise Lines International Association says most cruise companies already require proof of citizenship and government ID for boarding, but it will be enforced as law as of Jan. 31.

A separate proposal to require passports for land and sea travel from the Caribbean, Canada and Mexico has been postponed. But you do need a passport if you’re flying into the U.S. from Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean under rules that went into effect in 2007.

Those regulations resulted in a deluge of passport applications, with the State Department issuing a record 18.4 million passports in fiscal year 2007, compared to 12.1 million in 2006. Thirty percent of Americans now hold passports. Last summer, the time it took to get a passport doubled, but processing times are back to normal (four to six weeks); details are at

If you don’t have a passport and you’re craving a Caribbean getaway this winter, remember that U.S. citizens may still travel to and from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which are U.S. territories, without a passport. But bear in mind that U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers may ask your citizenship, so having your birth certificate available is helpful.