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New Border Rules Take Effect

Above: San Ysidro border crossing

— New passport rules affecting the San Diego-Mexico border went into effect today.

The new rules requires border crossers to show their passports, passport cards or other travel documents approved by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security upon re-entry into San Diego.

In addition to San Diego, the new rules, which are part of the land and sea phase of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, apply to all other northern and southern U.S. borders, according to the U.S. Department of State's Web site.

Before the new rules, travelers only needed to show identification, such as a driver's license, and orally declare their citizenship. In 2008, the federal government changed that rule to require proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or passport.

The passport card does not work for air travel. But at $45 for first- time applicants, it's a more affordable alternative to the traditional passport, which costs $100. More than 1 million passport cards have been issued since last year.

Identification documents available under the "Trusted Traveler" programs are also accepted. Those require fees ranging from $50 to more than $100. The "Trusted Traveler" programs, developed by the U.S., Canadian and Mexican governments, allow vetted travelers faster access to the border. In some cases, members in these programs have their own lanes at the border crossings.

Enhanced driver's licenses, which use a microchip to store a person's information, also can be used to cross the northern and southern borders. Washington state, Vermont, New York and Michigan are the only states that offer them so far.

Children under 16 traveling with family, people under 19 traveling in youth groups, Native Americans and members of the military will be able to use different forms of identification.

Travelers who do not comply with the new requirements will get a warning and be allowed to enter the United States after a background check, said Michelle James, director of field operations for the northern border, which covers Washington state.

The new rules do not apply to cruise ship travelers if they depart from a U.S. port, sail only within the Western Hemisphere and return to the same port.

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