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US Temporarily Relaxes Western Hemisphere Passport Requirement

The Bush administration has announced it is relaxing passport rules for U.S. travelers in the Western Hemisphere for the next three months.

The administration said Friday it will suspend a requirement that all U.S. citizens must have a valid passport if traveling by air to and from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda. But travelers will still have to show proof of a passport application.

The proposal is a response to the increasing backlog of U.S. passport applications since January, when rules requiring passports for travel to those nations first took effect.

The mandate, known as the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, prompted a surge of passport applications at the State Department, causing a backlog and delays that led angry applicants to complain to their congressional representatives.

The initiative will also impose the same rules on land and sea travelers beginning January 1, 2008.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.