Incontestably requiring passports of air travelers coming from our closest neighbors — Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, the Caribbean — is a step backward for easy and convenient travel for tourists and business travelers.
Previously, a government-issued photo ID, typically a driver’s license or a birth certificate, was sufficient, but the passport requirement was added as part of a 2004 antiterrorism law.
It went into effect Tuesday, apparently with few problems, but that was probably because Americans arriving without a passport were given a warning and a passport application and allowed back into their country.
Americans needing a passport should be prepared to pay — $97 for a new one — and wait — approximately six weeks — unless they’re prepared to pay $60 extra for expedited service, although there have been press accounts of delays in getting expedited service.
Next year, travelers coming into the United States by car and cruise ship will need passports to enter. Only about 27 percent of Americans have valid passports, which means the great majority of them will be unable to make a spur-of-the-moment trip to Canada or Mexico, which worries tourism officials in both those countries.
The passport requirement should be reviewed at some point to see if it does have any terrorist deterrent.