U.S. and Canadian children under the age of 16 will be able to present the original or copy of their birth certificate, or other proof of citizenship, such as a naturalization certificate or citizenship card. Groups of U.S. and Canadian children ages 16 through 18, when traveling with a school or religious group, social organization, or sports team, will be able to enter under adult supervision with originals or copies of their birth certificates or other proof of citizenship. Birth certificates can be an original, photocopy, or certified copy. See the Department of Homeland Security’s GetYouHome.gov for more information on the changing travel requirements.
Joseph O’Neill, director of business development for student and youth travel at Tourism Toronto, said there is still a lot of confusion out there regarding this issue by the public and the trade. “I am finding that there is a shift from long-haul international travel to travel within North America by student and youth groups. Canada (Toronto, to be specific) is a great alternative so it is very important that the new border regulations are fully understood,” O’Neill said. “Also, there is a great incentive to visit us and that is the exchange rate. As of Jan. 29, 2009, $1 U.S. was equal to CA$1.207.”
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Bureau of Customs and Border Protection issued a final rule regarding WHTI that includes a section about children under age 19 traveling in groups. According to the final rule, the group, organization, or team will be required to contact CBP upon crossing the border at the port of entry and provide on organizational letterhead:
1. The name of the group, organization, or team and the name of the supervising adult;
2. A list of the children on the trip;
3. For each child, the primary address, primary phone number, date of birth, place of birth, and name of at least one parent or legal guardian; and
4. The written and signed statement of the supervising adult certifying that he or she has obtained parental or legal guardian consent for each participating child.
The group, organization, or team would be able to demonstrate parental or legal guardian consent by having the adult leading the group sign and certify in writing that he or she has obtained parental or legal guardian consent for each participating child. For Canadian children, in addition to the information indicated above, a trip itinerary, including the stated purpose of the trip, the location of the destination, and the length of stay would be required.
To avoid delays upon arrival at a port-of-entry, CBP would recommend that the group, organization, or team provide this information to that port-of-entry well in advance of arrival and would recommend that each participant traveling on the trip carry in addition to the above mentioned documents a government or school-issued photo identification document, if available.
WHTI went into effect for air travelers in 2007. Children arriving to the U.S. by air require a passport.
On June 1, 2009, the U.S. government implemented the full requirements of the land and sea phase of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. The proposed rules require most U.S. and Canadian travelers entering the United States at sea or land ports of entry to have a passport, passport card, or other travel document approved by the department of Homeland Security. Children are considered a special audience under the WHTI.