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DHS, State Dept. meet WHTI criteria

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- The U.S. Homeland Security and State departments said Thursday the statutory criteria for implementing the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative have been met.

The WHTI, part of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, is scheduled to go into effect at land and sea borders on June 1. The two departments certified Thursday to Congress that the eight statutory criteria required prior to the WHTI's implementation have been met, the Department of Homeland Security reported.

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The eight criteria include aspects of the new passport-card program -- the selection of a secure card that meets international standards, sharing passport-card technology with Canada and Mexico, establishing a fee for the passport card, upgrading infrastructure so that ports of entry can process the passport card and making the card available. The passport card is a new, less expensive travel document that can be used for entry to the United States by land and, in some cases, by sea. The card is not valid for air travel, which requires a passport.

Other criteria for implementing the WHTI include setting up rules for children traveling internationally, setting a single implementation date and signing a memorandum of agreement to initiate an enhanced driver's license pilot program.

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Homeland Security and State Department officials announced that their efforts "have enabled the departments to jointly certify to Congress that all statutory criteria have been met prior to implementing the WHTI at land and sea borders on June 1," according to a news release.

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