The days of free and easy travel between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada are coming to an end. You'll soon need a passport to enter -- or re-enter -- the U.S. from its North American neighbors.

The Departments of State and Homeland Security have announced a new policy, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, requiring all U.S. citizens, Canadians, citizens of the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda, and citizens of Mexico to have a passport or other accepted secure document to enter or re-enter the U.S. by January 1, 2008.

Currently, U.S. citizens, and some citizens of other Western Hemisphere countries, are not required to present a passport to enter or re-enter the U. S. But legislation passed after the 9/11 ttack gives Homeland Security to require the use of passports by everyone entering the country.

"Our goal is to strengthen border security and expedite entry into the United States for U.S. citizens and legitimate foreign visitors," Homeland Security Acting Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security Randy Beardsworth said.

DHS and the State Department say they plan to roll out the program in phases, providing as much advance notice as possible.

While a passport will be the document of choice for entry or re-entry, the State Department says it also expects the Border Crossing Card, BCC - or "laser visa," will also be acceptable. Currently, the BCC serves in lieu of a passport and a visa for citizens of Mexico traveling to the U.S. from contiguous territory.