An Introduction to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI): What You Need to Know

An Introduction to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). Prior to 2007 American citizens traveling to and from certain countries such as Canada and areas in the Caribbean did not need a passport. After 9/11, the US government responded with new laws to protect our borders. More effectively, identify who comes into the country.

The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) states that all citizens of Bermuda, Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. must present a passport or another form of valid and accepted documentation to enter or leave the US.

The primary purpose of WHTI is to assist with the entry of US Citizens and legitimate foreign travelers while at the same time strengthening American borders.

Related: Do You Need a Passport to Go To Cancun

What is a WHTI Document?

The Initiative commenced in January of 2007 for all air travel. By June 2009, the land and sea requirements were put into effect. Under (WHTI) a citizen from Canada wishing to enter the US must present one of the following documents: an enhanced driver’s license, an enhanced identification card, a Trusted Traveler Program card, or a Canadian passport.

A US citizen coming back to the US from Bermuda, the Caribbean, Canada, or Mexico must have an enhanced driver’s license. They may also have a Trusted Traveler Program card or a US passport or passport card.

Related: Do You Need a Passport to Go to Canada

What Countries Are in The Western Hemisphere Initiative?

The Western Hemisphere Initiative is a US foreign policy commitment in the Americas. It aims to support inclusive economic growth, strengthen democratic institutions, and foster mutual security. The initiative covers countries in the Western Hemisphere, excluding the United States and Canada.

North America

  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • USA


  • Anguilla
  • Aruba
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Bermuda
  • British Virgin Island
  • Cayman Island
  • Cuba
  • Dominica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Grenada
  • Guadeloupe
  • Haiti
  • Jamaica
  • Martinique
  • Montserrat
  • Puerto Rico
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Saint Lucia
  • Saint Vincent and The Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • US Virgin Islands


Some special groups mustn’t necessarily present one of these cards or licenses. This includes the US and Canadian children under age 16 who are entering by land or sea. Hence, they may use a birth certificate for sea or land crossings. There are also exceptions and other forms of documentation that can be used.

This applies to the Native Americans, Merchant Mariners, and US military personnel.

Travel between the US and its territories did not change. These include Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Swains Island, and American Samoa. The U.S. Government has built a blog to help travelers who need more information on the WHTI here.