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June 1, US Passport Requirement Clarified…(when RETURNING to USA, from Baja MX)

May 22, 2009

Starting June 1, 2009, US citizens will need a passport to enter the U.S. from any foreign country. This will be required for air, sea or land. Children 18 or younger need only a birth certificate for land and sea entry from these areas. BUT what if you have already planned a trip (and lack a passport) or for some reason cannot obtain the same?

There may be many situations where a US citizen cannot obtain a passport, lost their passport during travel, or simply forgot to bring their passport with them.  What is likely to happen?

Essentially it is nearly impossible for the Dept. of State to PROHIBIT  a legitimate US citizen from returning the their homeland.  That would be absurd.  Likewise, there is no apparent “criminal” sanction for failing to present a passport, even if the law “requires” one. 

Prior to June 1, 2009, the pending policy requires that, if without a passport, a US citizen needs to present a Drivers License or some other type of authentic government issued picture ID together with a birth certificate.  The idea is to provide sufficient evidence to establish the bearer’s valid citizenship.  Despite the June 1, change, it is likely that travelers who lack a valid passport, will be allowed to return under similar circumstances. 

When one comes into a port, or at a land crossing, the border guard requests a passport (or other acceptable travel documentation) from the traveler.  If the traveler is unable to present the same, the guard will probably refer the traveler to “secondary inspection”.   This is usually another nearby area, where another guard will review any/all docuementation that the traveler may have, to verify status.  They do so via computer database, so it may take 5 minutes, 30 minutes or an hour or more, depending on how busy the station is at that time.

Accordingly, although a passport is “required” , in the end, it is more of a vehicle of convenience than a “do or die” ultimatum, if in fact, you are a legitimate US citizen.  If you do not have a passport, the more documentation that you can provide (e.g. drivers license, birth certificate, social security card, etc.) the faster the procession will be.  It is even conceivable that if you are traveling with a group of passport holders, especially at a land crossing, the guard may let you across upon providing other proof, although this should not be relied upon.

Finally, if you CAN obtain a passport, but simply haven’t as of yet; go to your local Post Office and apply for your passport, (or if you are crossing a land border–a passport card), and keep hold of your receipt.  When crossing into USA, present your Driver’s License, birth certificate AND the receipt from your passport submission.  No Hay Problema!

(It is important for the reader to understand, that this is the author’s “opinion” predicated upon legal research, and practical expericence, but should not be relied upon as legal advice).  However, even a layperson should realize that there is virtually no method for the government to require US citizens to remain in Canada, Mexico or “in custody”, when in fact you are a US citizen returning to the USA! 

BTW, for those traveling into Baja, Mexico, they have not, and have no plans of requiring a US passport when coming into Mexico.

For more information visit the State Department website pertaining to the same

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