Enhanced Driver’s License
Since 2013, the Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL) became available for some U.S. and Canadian citizens. Currently, in the United States, the states of Minnesota, Michigan, New York, Washington, and Vermont, offer EDLs. Arizona, California, and Texas are working on implementing an EDL program.
In Canada, the provinces of British Columbia, Quebec, Manitoba, and Ontario offer EDLs. However, Quebec discontinued the program in 2014, due to inadequate demand.
What is an EDL?
An EDL serves as both a driver’s license and an identification card that proves citizenship for certain purposes. An EDL may be used for land or sea travel (but is not sufficient for air travel) as the identification required to cross international borders between the United States with Canada, Mexico, and some Caribbean islands.
As part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), United States citizens may enter the USA by land or sea (not air) using only an EDL for identification, when traveling from the following countries:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- British Virgin Islands
- Caribbean Netherlands
- Cayman Islands
- Dominican Republic
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Saint Lucia
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- Sint Maarten
- Turks and Caicos Islands
EDLs are useful as documentation for those American citizens that take a cruise leaving from a U.S. port that returns to the same port at the end of the cruise.
The Department of Homeland Security describes the technology of how EDLs work.
For those who are residents of states or provinces that offer EDLs, there are benefits for obtaining as EDL to use for land and sea travel (not air).
The benefits are:
- Lower cost than passports – A new passport costs $115. The cost for an EDL is less than the cost of a passport.
New York: $30
- Speedier processing at border crossings – An EDL contains a RFID microchip that emits a radio frequency. When a person stands close enough to the equipment at the Border Control, it reads the information from the microchip to find the person’s matching information in the database. Additionally, as needed, the EDL has a Machine Readable Zone (MRZ) or barcode that a border control officer scans, using a barcode reader.
- Other countries may not recognize EDLs and demand passports for entry.
- Not useful for air travel.
- Privacy concerns, as it is possible to “hack” an RFID chip to gain access to a personal identification code. This code is only a unique identification number, not the actual personal information. The code links to the actual personal information kept in a secure Homeland Security database. The EDLs also come with a protective sleeve for the card that prevents others from receiving the radio signal.
EDLs serve a good purpose and are less costly than a passport. EDLs are good for specific types of travel, such as Caribbean cruises leaving from and returning to an America port or frequent land-crossings between the U.S. border with Canada or Mexico.