WASHINGTON - The federal government said Thursday it will go ahead with plans to require travelers from Canada, Mexico and other allied nations to show a passport or other secure document to enter the country.
The departments of State and Homeland Security said they expect to officially adopt the new policy - which drew complaints from travelers, the affected nations and even President Bush - by the end of the year. But they pushed back by a year the date when the requirements would begin to affect travelers.
Under the new timeline, all who travel by air or sea from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Bermuda and South and Central America will have to show a passport or one of four other secure documents by Dec. 31, 2006.
Travelers crossing land borders, namely from Mexico and Canada, will have to comply with the rules by Dec. 31, 2007.
Department officials also said they will keep working to come up with a cheaper, more widely used alternative document to allow U.S. citizens and other travelers to cross into the country over land borders. Passports cost $97.
After the rules were announced in April, Bush said he was surprised by the passport requirement, which drew criticism from the Canadian government, and said he had ordered a review of the plans. Last December, Bush signed into law an intelligence overhaul that requires tighter border security and was the basis for the passport proposal.
Homeland Security spokesman Jarrod Agen said the administration is looking to use biometric technology in creating an alternative identification card before the 2007 deadline. Despite moving forward with the plans Thursday, "this gives us time to develop the most sensible and secure document which won't stop the flow of traffic at the border," he said.
The Canadian government will work with the administration to develop a new document for widespread use on both sides of the northern border, said Jasmine Panthaky, spokeswoman for the Canadian Embassy in Washington.
Asked if Canada was disappointed that a compromise had not yet been reached, Panthaky said: "We would have liked to have seen something. . . . But this is the way it's going to have to be for a little while."