Introduction to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) is a security measure established by the federal government. The Department of State (DOS) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) created this initiative to standardize the documents travelers must have when they enter the United States. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative WHTI applies to both U.S. citizens and foreigners.
If you want to travel to the United States, you need to make sure you have a WHTI document that qualifies you for entry. If you are wondering, “What is a WHTI approved document?” remember that there are many different cards and IDs you can use. However, the type of document you may be able to use depends on your residency. It also depends on how you are entering the country.
What is the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative?
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative is a security plan that ensures everyone who travels to the United States has proper identification to do so. Legally, these documents need to prove the traveler’s identification and citizenship. Travelers should remember, though, that WHTI only applies to individuals who enter the country via land or sea. If visitors or U.S. citizens want to travel to the United States by air, they may only present a valid passport book to do so.
Countries Included in the US Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative
Once you ask, “What is WHTI?” you may wonder which countries are affected by this security measure. Remember that the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative affects travel from the following countries:
Caribbean islands are also included in the US Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. However, remember that if you want to travel to Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands, you only need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or ID card to do so. This is because these islands are U.S. territories.
What is a WHTI compliant document?
You may wonder what Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative compliant document you can use to enter the United States by sea or land. The following IDs are included in the WTHI approved document list:
- Passport – You can use either your passport card or book to enter the United States. If you are a Canadian citizen, you can also enter with your Canadian passport.
- Trusted Traveler Program card – If you qualify to have a Trusted Traveler Program card, this is one of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative documents you can use. Examples of these IDs include SENTRI, NEXUS or FAST cards.
- Enhanced Driver’s License – If you have an Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL) from one of the U.S. states that issues these documents, you may use it as your ID to enter the United States.
- U.S. identification cards for official business – If you are traveling on official orders, you can use your U.S. military ID. If you are traveling on official business and have a U.S. Merchant Mariner document, you can also use this ID.
- Native American card – If you have an Enhanced Tribal Card or Form I-872 American Indian Card, you can use either of these documents to enter the United States.
Do children need to travel with a WHTI document?
Children who are younger than 16 years of age do not need to travel with a WHTI compliant document if they are U.S. or Canadian citizens. These individuals only need to travel with proof of citizenship, such as their birth certificates. Additionally, U.S. and Canadian citizens who are younger than 19 years of age can enter the United States with only their proof of citizenship if they are traveling with a:
- Youth group.
- Church organization.
How to Get a WHTI Compliant Document
You need a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative WHTI document to travel to the United States from a foreign country. However, remember that you need to follow the application procedures associated with each individual document. Contact the agency that issues these IDs to determine which procedures you need to follow.
Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative and Cruise Trips
Depending on the type of cruise you take, you may need to present a WHTI compliant document when you return to the United States. This is especially true if you go on an open loop cruise. This means that your ship departs from and returns to different U.S. ports. Alternatively, if you take a cruise that leaves from and returns to the same port (closed loop cruise), you only need to bring your birth certificate and government-issued ID.
However, you should still try and take a WHTI document with you. This is because the countries your cruise ship stops at may have additional ID document requirements you need to meet.