Facing a torrent of complaints from travelers unable to get passports, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced Wednesday that the government would delay for at least six months new rules that require Americans to show passports to get back into the country by land or sea.
"The message I'm stressing today is we are not going to drop the ax on Jan. 31," he said.
As of that date, land and sea travelers returning from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean will be able to use a birth certificate and a driver's license in lieu of a passport, he said. However, they will no longer be able to enter the country simply by saying they are citizens.
Chertoff said he hopes to require passports or other secure documents by summer 2008. Officials have also delayed the rule for air travelers to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean until Sept. 30 of this year, saying they will accept a driver's license and a printout showing they have applied for a passport.