US Travelers: Grab Your Passports

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Get those passports ready!

Starting January 23 all travellers entering the US, including US citizens, must have a passport if coming in by air.

The Department of Homeland Security issued its formal announcement the necessity of having a passport to enter the US by air from any part of the Western Hemisphere will begin on January 23, 2007. Secretary Michael Chertoff said "The ability to misuse travel documents to enter this country opens the door for a terrorist to carry out an attack. We cannot continue to allow loopholes that could facilitate access to the United States through false claims of citizenship or fake identities. This initiative strengthens our border security by designing verifiable secure documents that may be used at our air ports of entry." He also said this date was the final one. The final date for having to have a passport to enter the country by land or sea remains at June 1, 2008, however that date could be moved up to January 1, 2008.

The US government will charge $28 annually to process background checks on each airline passenger who joins a private registered traveler program that could help him/her to get through airport security more quickly. The fee is to cover the cost of performing the checks and overseeing the program. The program is aimed mostly at frequent fliers which include business travellers on major airlines at busier airports. Those who sign up for the program agree to submit personal information for background checks and fingerprints or other biometric information to be embedded on an identity card. Verified Identity Pass plans to expand the service to Cincinnati, Indianapolis, San Jose and BA's terminal at JFK by the end of the year. Its first program is in Orlando where about 30,000 fliers participate. the fee will be part of the cost of joining the program.

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