Travel pass card will help at the border: American ambassador
The U.S. ambassador to Canada promised a Toronto audience on Thursday that a proposed high-tech identification card for Americans would speed up cross-border travel.
David Wilkins also told the Toronto Board of Trade crowd that the U.S. government has listened to the concerns from politicians and business groups in both countries over the possible negative impact on tourism and commerce of new border requirements.
Washington's Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative would require all Canadians and Americans entering the U.S. by land and sea to carry a passport or other secure identification card by June 2009. The implementation was originally slated for 2008.
"I think it's important for Canada to understand that your concerns were heard loud and clear and, in my opinion, those concerns were honoured by the delay," Wilkins said.
Wilkins added that it was possible the plan could be rolled out ahead of schedule.
The U.S. State Department and Department of Homeland Security officially announced on Tuesday their plans for a wallet-sized passport card, good for 10 years.
The card will use radio frequency identification technology to link the card to a database containing biographical data and a photograph.
"By the time you pull up, they'll have checked you out," Wilkins said.
The system will be faster than using passports, since border guards won't have to flip through and stamp pages, he said, adding that frequent visitors and commercial trucks would have special lanes.
Wilkins said he is not putting any pressure on Ottawa to implement their own travel card.
"That obviously is a decision for Canada to make and Canada alone to make."
Passports, which are currently used by about 23 per centof Americans, cost about $100 US.
The proposed wallet-sized card would cost $10 for children and $20 for adults, plus a $25 administrative fee.
In addition to Canada, the U.S. government will require the card for Americans travelling to Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda.