Caribbean Nations Breath A Sigh of Relief Over WHTI Extension

The United States Government has granted an additional extension for individuals to submit concerns regarding the implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) designed to secure and expedite international travel, an official from the U.S. Embassy in Nassau has revealed. This is in response to the number of letters submitted to the U.S. Government since it announced plans for the execution of the WHTI on April 5, said Michael Taylor, spokesperson for the United States Embassy in Nassau.

Mr. Taylor said that public comment began on April 5 and that the “official period of public comment” will last for 60 days once the proposed new rules are published in the U. S. Government«s Federal Register, which has not happened yet.

“So interested parties have at least 60 more days to express their concerns,” Mr. Taylor said.

He noted, however, that in general, most observers seem to understand the need for a secure travel document and want to see the process advance as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

On April 5, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State announced that effective Jan. 1, 2006, all U.S. citizens and foreign nationals travelling to the United States from The Bahamas, the Caribbean, Bermuda, Central America and South America, will be required to present a valid passport or another secure, accepted document to enter or re-enter the United States.

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Currently, U.S. citizens, and some citizens of other countries in the Western Hemisphere, are not required to present a passport to enter or re-enter the U.S. when travelling within the Western Hemisphere.

Legislation passed by the U.S. Congress in 2004 (The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004), however, mandated the development and implementation of a plan to require U.S. citizens and foreign nationals to present a passport or other secure document when entering the United States.

Potential travelers are strongly encouraged to submit their passport application form and required documentation well in advance of the January 1, 2006, implementation date for the new travel document requirement.

The U.S. Congress passed a law in December, 2004, setting a January 1, 2008, deadline for US citizens and foreign nationals to have “a passport or other document, or combination of documents, deemed by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to be sufficient to denote identity of citizenship” in order to enter the US, said Mr. Taylor.

From the pages of Caribbean News Digital
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