Planning to re-enter the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean after your big summer escape? The new enhanced drivers license (EDL), which is being offered in four states (New York, Vermont, Washington and Michigan), promises to make the process easier (and hopefully faster!) with its Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip, which contains biographic and biometric data that proves both identity and U.S. citizenship. As of June 1, 2009, U.S. citizens are required to show a passport, passport card, or the newly implemented EDL when crossing the border by land or sea from Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean.
It's all part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which has had separate requirements for air travel in place since 2007. The land and sea portion of the initiative was delayed because the U.S. government felt the population was not adequately prepared, so they began taking steps toward implementing the EDL and started accepting applications in summer 2008.
Arizona is debating the federal government's push to adopt the EDL, citing the protection of civil liberties (the RFID chip can be remotely tracked, not only by government officials but by anyone who buys an RFID reader over the internet). Ohio is currently waiting to see if Michigans system works before deciding, while California and Texas are in the process of implementing EDLs. Canada has also introduced EDLs in a number of provinces, including British Columbia and Ontario.
Applications have been extremely popular in the four offering states, which has made obtaining one a long process. When arriving at the licensing office, come prepared with your current license, state-approved birth certificate, and proof of residence. EDLs are $15-$30 more expensive than a normal license, but it's still cheaper than the $100 for a first passport.
What do you think? Should we accept some sacrifices in privacy for the sake of (potentially) quicker travel times and a couple of bucks?