First day of new border rules goes smoothly

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(Host) On the first day for new identification procedures at the Vermont-Quebec border, traffic flowed smoothly.

Customs officials said almost everyone entering the United States on Thursday had the proper documents to prove who they were.

VPR’s Ross Sneyd was on the border in Highgate Springs and has our report.

(Sound of traffic pulling through border station)


(Sneyd) Connecticut businessman Randy Lewis was heading home from Montreal – and he was prepared.

(Lewis) "I had a passport. But I’ve been carrying it for a couple of years. So I don’t see any difference. It was less than a minute to go through. … I think it’s a good idea. I don’t see a problem with it.”

(Sneyd) Jacques St. Pierre of Montreal was headed to Burlington with his wife to have lunch with their grandson, a Southern Vermont College student. He says the new border ID requirement is nothing new for anyone who’s traveled elsewhere around the world.

(St. Pierre) "When you travel other countries in the world, you have to bring a passport with you, in most countries. All of them, matter of fact, I would say. I’m not bothered by that or annoyed. … Now that this requirement is there, it doesn’t bother me.”

(Sneyd) Under the new rules, anyone entering the United States from Canada – or from Mexico, for that matter – needs to present a passport.

Right now, there’s a grace period.

For example, here’s what happened when I presented my driver’s license …

(Guard/Sneyd) "How are you today? "Good morning. Good, how are you?” “Where are you returning from, sir?” … "Do you have a birth certificate with you?” "I don’t.” "You don’t have a birth certificate. Are you aware that the current border requirements are that you need a photo identification if you’re using this as an ID?…”

(Sneyd) So there was a little more scrutiny of my license, but today the message was education. And I was waved through.

That’s the system that’s been in place for many years and the one Vermont’s congressional delegation had hoped to keep.

But on this weekday in the middle of the winter when traffic is typically slow, most people were prepared.

Jackie Elkahi of Montreal was heading to Saxtons River to visit her sister. She had a passport, but presented her birth certificate and her Canadian citizenship card.

(Elkahi) "And that seemed to do the trick. Took a little longer. He was punching in his numbers, or whatever it is he does. Other than that, no problem.”

(Sneyd) Vermont business leaders still worry that lines will form in the busy season and Canadian traffic will dry up.

They’ll find out in just a few months. The season starts with Canada’s Victoria Day weekend in May followed a week later by the U.S. Memorial Day weekend.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.


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