CHAMPLAIN - It's been a month since new regulations have been put in place for cross-border travel between Canada and the United States, but officials say it's business as usual at ports of entry in the North Country.
Kevin Corsaro, a public affairs liaison for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said the majority of motorists crossing from both sides of the border are doing so with proper identification and documentation in hand in order to be compliant with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. WHTI, to which it is commonly referred, requires all U.S. and Canadian citizens wanting to cross the border to carry a passport or other form of single-document proof of citizenship and identity as of June 1.
Despite the new regulations, Corsaro said there has been no noticeable effect on the amount of traffic or length of wait times at the border.
"We really have nothing to indicate that traffic is up or down because of WHTI," said Corsaro.
That may be due, in part, to the Customs and Border Protection's more lenient than anticipated enforcement of the regulations, still allowing motorists to cross without what Corsaro referred to as "a WHTI-compliant document."
Documents suitable for U.S. citizens for border crossing include a U.S. Passport, U.S. Passport Card, New York State Enhanced Driver License and NEXUS card. Canadian citizens are required to have a Canadian passport, Quebec Enhanced Driver License or NEXUS card.
"We're still in the informed compliance stage," explained Corsaro, stating motorists would be expected to comply once informed when crossing the border without proper WHTI-compliant documentation. "We will not refuse a citizen entry into the United States if their only violation is they don't have a WHTI-compliant document. We'll continue to educate them."
There is no definitive timeframe as to when Customs and Border Protection, which is overseen by the Department of Homeland Security, will make having WHTI-compliant documentation mandatory, said Corsaro.
"We're waiting for further guidance from the [Department of Homeland Security], but we'll be in the informed compliance stage until further direction," he said.
Corsaro also noted children younger than 16 years old are still able to travel across both sides of the border with a valid birth certificate when traveling with their family. Children ages 16-19 traveling with organizations such as school groups are also able to present only a valid birth certificate when crossing, he added.
According to Clinton County Clerk John H. Zurlo, the average wait time for a passport or passport card once an application has been filed is about four to six weeks. The amount of time it takes to receive an enhanced driver license is about 10 days.
The Clinton County Clerk's office has processed more than 3,000 applications for enhanced driver licenses, commonly referred to as EDLs, since being first made available last September.
For more information regarding enhanced driver licenses or other documentation available for crossing the border, contact the Clinton County Clerk's office at 565-4700 or visit www.nydmv.state.ny.us/edl.htm.
The Customs and Border Protection Web site, www.cbp.gov, and WHTI Web site, www.getyouhome.gov, also have information about cross-border travel requirements and how to obtain necessary documentation.