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Starting tomorrow, think of Canada as a foreign country : The Buffalo News May 31, 2009

Posted by Matthew in Border Crossings, Canada, Land Crossing, NEXUS Card, Passports, USA, WHTI.
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As this article from the Buffalo News reminds us, on June 1, 2009, 12:01 AM, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative takes effect.

As the FARK.com headline for the article notes: “This just in: Canada is not part of the United States. Who knew?”

Needless to say, the line-ups to apply for a NEXUS card is likely quite long at this point, as well as the line-ups for passports on both sides of the border.

Of Passports and Airport Crossings March 27, 2009

Posted by Matthew in Air Crossing, NEXUS Card, Passports, WHTI.
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When crossing the border by air, you still want to bring your passport(s). Although the NEXUS card has the machine-readable ID text (including issuing country, etc.), airlines and security officials still want your passport instead.

The NEXUS card is listed as a “WHTI-Compliant Travel Document” on the US Department of State website. Although it was accepted at the Customs agent, when I presented it to the airline employee and the security officials insisted on seeing a passport. This might be standard due to airline policy/security policy/etc. that have not been updated to include NEXUS and other WHTI-compliant, Trusted Traveler cards.

Traveler beware: a trusted traveler card is all you are required to carry, at least by customs agents; however, it seems airlines and security officials aren’t quite on the same page. Don’t forget to take your passport with you when you travel.

Dual Citizens and the Selective Service System March 14, 2009

Posted by Matthew in Dual Citizenship, USA.
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Men between ages 18 and 25 by law must apply for the Selective Service to retain benefits such as “student financial aid, loans, or grants; vocational training under WIA; government employment; and security clearances” (sss.gov) and to avoid penalties such as “…a fine of up to $250,000, imprisonment for up to five years, or both.” (sss.gov)

SSS.gov explicitly states:

Dual nationals of the U.S. and another country are required to register, regardless of where they live, because they are U.S. nationals.
See also Aliens and Dual Nationals – Liability for Service

If you are living IN the USA, you can register here.
If you are living OUTSIDE the USA, you can complete a foreign registration here.

I was asked if I had registered with the Selective Service System, and if I had my card with me when I applied for a US passport. In other words, if I wasn’t registered, I probably wouldn’t have received a passport.After registering for the SSS, they will send you your registration card in the mail, and I believe you get your registration number immediately.

More information: “Selective Service and You: 18? Time to Register!”

Crossing Borders March 12, 2009

Posted by Matthew in Canada, Citizenship, NEXUS Card, Passports, USA.
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When crossing borders as a dual citizen, remember that the USA sees you as an American, and Canada sees you as Canadian, so it seems wisest to present your passports as such.

US Department of State has this to say about entering and leaving the USA:

Most U.S. citizens, including dual nationals, must use a U.S. passport to enter and leave the United States. Dual nationals may also be required by the foreign country to use its passport to enter and leave that country. Use of the foreign passport does not endanger U.S. citizenship.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada says:

The Canadian government strongly encourages you to use your Canadian passport when travelling abroad, especially when entering the country of your second citizenship.¬†¬† … Using your Canadian passport may provide the basis under which Canada can provide you with consular assistance if you run into difficulties. You should also obtain a visa, if that is required for entry by Canadian citizens, and always present yourself as a Canadian when dealing with local authorities.

As far as ease of travel goes, it’s most definitely easier to present your US passport to US officials and Canadian passport to Canadian officials… Less confusion that way. (Of course, the NEXUS card alleviates all the hassle, since you declare both citizenships in the NEXUS application) (more…)

Applying for Passport(s) for Dual Citizens in Canada March 12, 2009

Posted by Matthew in Canada, Passports, USA.
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To apply for a US Passport, fill out your information online on the appropriate form found on the Department of State website, print it out, and attach one of the photos you either took yourself or ordered online, and take the form with attached photo, the additional photo, and proof of citizenship to your local US Embassy. (See the application form for documentation requirements)

To apply for a Canadian Passport, download the appropriate PDF file from the Passport Canada website, and fill in the information in Adobe Acrobat Reader or similar PDF-reading programs. When finished, print it out, and bring the form along with your photos to a Guarantor to have signed. Then take the photos, application form, and proof of citizenship  to your local Passport Canada office. (See the application form for documentation requirements)

In my opinion, it’s best to visit the submission locations in person as opposed to mailing your application: If you go in person, you can show them the your citizenship documents, and leave with them in your hands. (more…)

Photos for US Passports March 8, 2009

Posted by Matthew in Passports, USA.
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For those living outside of the USA, U.S. Passports can be obtained from your local US embassy.

Unfortunately, in Canada, obtaining a US-sized Passport Photo isn’t as easy as going to the nearest photo shop and paying the man/woman.

To take my photo, I set up my DSLR and took a bunch of different, well-lit photos, and picked the one that turned out the best. I loaded the photo into MS Publisher workspace measuring 4″x6″, and resized until my face was the proper size as indicated on the application form, and cropped around my head at 2″x2″. I then created a .JPG file with two copies of the 2″x2″ photo on it. (Two copies of the photo are required in an application.) I also made a version that was 5% larger, and one that was 5% smaller, to account for shrinkage/growth in the printing process. I sent all three copies to Costco for photofinishing via Costco’s online photo lab website. (I used Costco because each 4×6 cost roughly $0.17 after tax, so three copies came out to a whopping $0.51. This is much less than the ink cost required to print this on a photo printer at home, besides the fact that we don’t have any 4×6 photo stock lying around, nor a decent photo printer…) (more…)