Passport processing centers have been flooded with applications since a rule took effect this year requiring U.S. citizens to have passports if they are flying to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda.
The rule does not apply to citizens driving across the Canadian or Mexican borders or those taking sea cruises.
But now through the end of September, U.S. citizens going to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean may exit and enter the United States with government-issued identification, such as a driver’s license, and a State Department document showing they have applied for a passport.
Those who have not applied for a passport will not be allowed to travel.
The suspension is aimed at helping the State Department to catch up with passport applications and placate summer travelers who have been frustrated by the delayed application process.
The Department of Homeland Security’s “decision to suspend is simply common sense, and frankly, should have been made months ago,” said Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., whose office has had to intervene on behalf of more than 1,400 Minnesota travelers, reported the Associated Press.
The passport rule was mandated by Congress in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.
Both Congress and the committee investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks recommended the heightened travel-document security to protect against passport fraud and prevent Muslim militants from entering the country, according to Reuters.