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Border Crossing Update

Wabananki Legal News 2011

In June of 2009, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) was put into place. This law imposes stricter document requirements on Native Americans who cross the land borders between the United States and Canada.

Under WHTI, most people who enter the United States from Canada by land must present a passport. However, the Department of Homeland Security is working with interested Native American tribes in the United States to come up with special tribal identification cards that follow the rules of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). To be approved, the new “Enhanced Tribal Cards” (ETC) would need to electronically verify the person's identity, tribal membership, and citizenship. With such cards, tribal members would not be required to get passports. As of this time, however, none of the tribes in Maine have developed approved cards. In Canada the issue is being handled centrally by the Canadian government. For Canadian tribes, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) has begun issuing more advanced Secure Certificate of Indian Status (SCIS) cards to replace the old INAC cards.

At some point the old ID cards will no longer be accepted for Native American and First Nation citizens entering the United States from Canada by land. However, as of June 27, 2011, neither DHS nor INAC has set a definite deadline. The U.S. Customs website, at www.cbp.gov, states that, “Until further notice, Native American United States and Canadian citizens may continue to present their current tribal documents, including the current Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) card, as proof of identity and citizenship when entering by land or sea, provided the document is affixed with a photo.” When this will change, however, is entirely up to U.S. officials.

Remember that these official comments are about land crossings of the US/Canada border and not about air travel. Under the WHTI, air travelers need different forms of ID - generally passports.

Publication Volume: 
2011.1
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