5:36 PM

Halt! Stop!
Alto! Arrêt!

You, with the airplane, do not step into my country without your papers!! You do have your papers? What!! No papers!! Then you are under arrest!! Guards, handcuff this man!! Seize his pretty airplane!! Mr. American pilotman, you will rot in my foreign jail until you can produce your papers!!

Extreme? O.K., this dramatization might be a touch over the top, unless you are at a Mexican border crossing after January 23rd flying home from a killer fishing trip in Cabo, and you’ve never heard of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI).

The what?

AOPA is reporting that they've so far unsuccessful in convincing the Department of Homeland Security or the Bureau of Consular Affairs to extend the requirements that any GA pilot returning back into the United States must have a passport, once the WHTI is being enforced.

From AOPA:

You have less than two months to obtain a passport if you are planning to fly to Canada, the Caribbean, Bermuda, Mexico, or other points in Central and South America next year. Starting January 23, you'll need a passport to enter (or re-enter) the United States under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative — your birth certificate and government-issued photo ID won't work anymore. And you'll need a passport whether you are flying in your own general aviation aircraft or if you're an airline passenger.
Now I stay up on aviation news regularly, and never saw this coming. So it is a SURE BET that other fat, dumb and happy pilots will soon be getting the surprise of their lives if they’ve also not yet heard of this new law. And you'll be really, really screwed if you're standing on the wrong side of the border when you find this out.

The Feds announced the requirement last week as part of a broader initiative to secure U.S. borders. AOPA had requested that the WHTI not be extended to GA until 2008 to allow the association more time to inform pilots of the changes.

Now I am all for securing our borders. I laugh when I hear clowns say we are in Iraq to “fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them here.” That argument loses all of it’s credibility when you look at the porous border we share with Mexico. Can the war mongers promise that there won’t be a handful of Taliban or al Qaeda mixed in with the honest broccoli pickers and nannies that stroll easily into California and Arizona at the alarming rate of hundreds per day?

If the Feds are going to suddenly require all air travelers to now have a passport, shouldn’t it be easier and cheaper to obtain one than this:
The initial first-time fee for a new passport for citizens age 16 and older is $55, plus a $12 security surcharge, and a $30 execution fee. Total cost is $97. Passport processing time is normally six weeks. Expedited service can be provided for an additional fee of $60 plus all overnight delivery charges. This service will get you a passport in two weeks.
So now my readers have been informed. Here are a few links to get you up to speed fast:

AOPA’s story about the WHTI is found here
Their online guide to obtaining a passport can be found here
Here is an FAQ from the Bureau of Consular Affairs
The Press Release from Homeland Security can be found here

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