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Enhanced Driver's License for International Travel

A State-issued Enhanced Driver's License (EDL) provides travelers not only a license to drive but also a proof of identity and citizenship when exiting and re-entering the United States borders. This is a card under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) that has security features and technology that make travel a lot easier and safer. They provide travelers with a low-cost, convenient alternative to a passport for entering the United States from Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean through a land or sea port of entry, in addition to serving as a permit to drive. The states of Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont and Washington State are currently the only states issuing these enhanced drivers licenses. This license cannot be used for air travel in any of the above mentioned countries.

What does an Enhanced Driver's License offer?

Enhanced drivers licenses makes it easier for US citizens to enter or cross the border into the United States because of the following characteristics of the EDL:

  • a vicinity Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip that will signal a secure system to pull up your biographic and biometric data for the CBP officer as you approach the border inspection booth, and
  • a Machine Readable Zone (MRZ) or barcode that the CBP officer can read electronically if RFID isn't available.

The top 39 land ports of entry in and out of the US are equipped with RFID technology that helps facilitate travel by individual presenting EDLs or one of the other RFID-enabled documents. This makes a travelers life easier than the usual checkpoints of the immigration border officials. This is also a quick alternative to a passport by land or sea.

How to apply for Enhanced Driver's License?

The application for EDL depends on where you reside at. The following information will help you through your application.

Eligibility to apply for the EDL includes:

  • If you have never been licensed, you must successfully complete the written knowledge and driving skills tests before a license can be issued. Although driver education is not required for individuals 18 and older, it is highly recommended.
  • If you have a current driver's license, you can apply for the EDL once you renew your license or extend expiration date.
  • You must be a U.S. citizen and a resident of the particular state (Michigan, New York, Vermont, and Washington)
  • You must have no violations, suspensions, revocations or denials on your driving record that would prevent you from legally operating a motor vehicle
  • In case of Name change, present lawful and valid proofs.

Visit any necessary offices that offer the EDL application (see list below). Make sure you bring documentations of Social Security Service, Proof of identity, US citizenship, and residency.

If you are a first time driver's license applicant, take the necessary tests and driving skills tests to be able to pass for the requirements. If you already have an old license, you can renew it and upgrade to an enhance one. You need to submit all necessary papers to the office. Some states instruct you to undergo an interview while others do not. Pay the necessary fees by cash, check, money order, or major credit cards. (See fees below)

  • Michigan: $45 total
  • Minnesota: $15 in addition to the fee required for your driver's license
  • New York: $30 in addition to Regular Driver’s license Fees
  • Vermont: $25 in addition to the standard fees for licenses and/or non-driver ID.
  • Washington: $107 (covers application and issuance fee)

Have your biometrics and photos taken and sign necessary declaration papers. Once you have successfully submitted and passed all of the process, you will be issued a temporary Operator's permit or a temporary enhanced ID. However, this permit is not valid for crossing the border only for identification. Your enhanced license is valid for up to four years and should arrive in the mail within two to three weeks. The usual validity of the Enhanced License is the usual validity of your regular Driver's license.

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