The U.S. Government is proposing provisions to the Intelligence Reform Bill, passed last December, which requires that the current Western Hemisphere passport exemptions be phased out. That means the new passport rules for all U.S. citizens and other travelers coming to and leaving the United States will be put in place. The proposed rules will be phased in as follows:

December 31, 2005 – Passports required for all air and sea travel to and from the Caribbean, Bermuda, and Central and South America.

December 31, 2006 – Passports required for all air and sea travel to and from Canada and Mexico.

December 31, 2007 – Passports or other accepted travel documents required for land border crossings to and from Canada or Mexico.

The proposed rules for the different phase-in dates will be finalized over the coming months, but regardless of the timeframe, by January 1, 2008, all Americans departing and returning to the United States will be required to have a valid U.S. passport. This will undoubtedly cause a backlog in getting passports as these rules take effect. For information on obtaining or renewing a passport, visit the State Department’s Web site at