PASS card not ready for prime time

The Homeland Security Department yesterday postponed a requirement for U.S. travelers to show passports or the new government-issued passenger identification card upon returning home at land or sea borders until the summer of 2008, Secretary Michael Chertoff announced.

The People Access Security Services cards (PASS) are new identification cards similar to credit cards that are to be issued to U.S. citizens and legal residents who frequently cross the borders, starting in spring 2008, as part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI).

Under the previous requirement, U.S. citizens and legal residents returning home at land and seaport border ports were to be required to show passports, PASS cards, WHTI-compliant driver's licenses and other WHTI-compliant identification cards, starting on Jan. 31, 2008.

But due to a major backlog in processing applications for new passports, the Bush Administration will postpone those requirements under the summer of 2008, Chertoff said. It will continue to accept government-issued driver's licenses and birth certificates, in lieu of passports or PASS cards, until at least June 30, 2008, he said.

"Everyone will need to show documentation that establishes citizenship and identity to enter through our land and sea borders but we will not, as of Jan. 31, require that only WHTI-compliant documents are acceptable. We will allow existing photo IDs and birth certificates to qualify as of Jan. 31, 2008," Chertoff said.

In the summer of 2008, the department expects to enter the second phase of the travel initiative, in which only WHTI-compliant documents will be allowed. These include a passport, PASS card, WHTI-compliant driver's license, NEXUS card, FAST card or SENTRI card, valid Merchant Marine Document or a valid U.S. military ID, Chertoff said.

The new policy comes several days after members of Congress voted to include provisions in the Homeland Security spending bills for fiscal 2008 postponing implementation of the travel initiative until June 2009.

The House and Senate versions each contain a provision to that effect; however, House and Senate negotiators must reconcile the two bills, pass final versions and have them signed by the president to become law. President Bush has threatened a veto of the House bill because he believes it exceeds spending limits.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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