Saturday, June 03, 2023

New ID requirement at border impacts locals

by Canda Harbaugh & Western News
| June 9, 2009 12:00 AM

Though a new requirement that mandates a passport or similar document to enter the United States through Canada has been in the works for five years now, many have put off applying for one or are unfamiliar with the details.

“We’ve been watching the deadline and dreading it,” said Kelly Morford, an American Legion baseball coach. “It’s a pain because it’s an extra financial burden on the family.”

Morford received his passport last summer and said everyone on his team, theoretically, will have one by the time they travel north to Alberta for a game in July. It ends up costing about $115 for a passport or $60 for a passport card.

The final phase of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative was implemented last Monday and requires U.S. and Canadian land and sea travelers to present a passport or similar document – such as a passport card – that denotes “identity and citizenship” when entering the United States.

The Libby Post Office, which is the only venue where one can apply for a passport in southern Lincoln County, has seen an increase in business.

“We used to get maybe two or three (passport applications) a week,” Brian Cutsforth, customer service supervisor at Libby’s post office, said last week, “but we’re getting two or three a day now, sometimes more.”

The new measure does not require a passport for those under 16 or for those ages 16-18 who are traveling in a group, such as a sports team or youth group, but Morford said that American Legion is requiring all players statewide to have one.

“When the law does come down, there’s the whole youth group thing, but that isn’t what they told us at the (Legion) meeting last year,” Morford said. “They told us we would need them. I’m not sure what happened with that.”

Frank Votopka also had some confusion about who is required to have a passport. He takes his Boy Scout troop to Canada twice a year.

Though most of the scouts who go on the trip are under the age of 16, he feared that the few who weren’t might not be able to go.

“Any scout over 16 needs to get a passport or he isn’t going,” Votopka said. “That may or may not happen for some kids that are a little older.”

When informed about the group exception for those ages 16-18, he brightened up.

“That’s news to me and that’s great,” he said. “If we can, we’ll take advantage of it.”

Though the new requirement was met with dread and gripes about cost, Alfred Burris, supervisor of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office at the Port of Roosville, said last week ran smoothly.

“We haven’t had any problems,” Burris said. “People have been well-informed, and those still playing catch-up, we’re working with.”

The five western states bordering Canada had a 98-percent compliance rate last week, Burris said. The remaining 2 percent provided enough documentation to get into the country – identification and a birth certificate. They were given a non-compliance sheet and told that they would need a passport in the future.

Getting a passport may be an initial nuisance, Burris said, but the conformity of the document allows people faster entry into the country. Before the measure went into effect, border patrol officers had over 500 different birth certificates and driver’s licenses to validate.

“You’ll find they’re as varied as hair on a dog’s back,” Burris said. “You start photocopying birth certificates and different documents, it just gets ridiculous. This way, there are two or three standard documents.”

Morford agreed that once everyone finally gets a passport, there will be no more hassles.

“Once you have them, you have them and you don’t have to worry about them anymore,” Morford said. “It’ll be nice. After this year, it will be easier.”

How to get a passport

As of last week, a passport or similar document was required to enter the country from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean or Bermuda by land or sea.

Where and when to apply: Libby Post Office, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

What you’ll need: An application from the post office, a certified copy of your birth certificate, proof of identification (usually a state-issued driver’s license or identification card), two identical color headshot photos that are 2 inches square in size.

How much it will cost:  A passport book, which allows entry into the United States from any country by land, air or sea, is $100, plus cost of photographs.  A passport card, which allows entry into the United States from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean or Bermuda by land or sea, is $45 plus cost of two color photographs. Libby Post Office provides photo service for $15.

How long it will take: It is estimated to take 4-6 weeks, although some have reported receiving their passports in as early as two weeks.

For more information on specifics of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, visit