New Canadian “enhanced” driver’s licenses for US border entry

New driver’s licenses for US entry

Last month, British Colombia was the first of the provinces to bring out the “Enhanced” driver’s license. This license acts as a substitute for passports when entering into the US via land or water (you still require a passport at the airport).

So far these licenses are only in beta format (testing) with 500 of these licenses issued to Canadian citizens born in BC. However, if the program is deemed successful,  Canadian citizens with valid driver’s licenses will be issued these new licenses throughout BC.  Quebec has also just revealed they are also interested in developing this technology, joined by Manitoba and Ontario, where new legislation has been passed to create these high tech licenses. Quebec’s new “Smart” license  also known as the “RFID Driver’s License” will allow Quebecois to enter the U.S. via land or water.

“Enhanced” driver’s license provides US border officials with more information

This enhanced driver’s license contains a radio frequency identification chip that when scanned, provides border officials with a special code. The officer can then punch the code into a computer to search a database for information about the cardholder. The information will include the same details contained on a passport such as address, birth date and name thus being able to verify the cardholder as a Canadian citizen.

This new “border-friendly” license having a code rather than explicit  personal details, will help protect the privacy of individuals who sign up for the license. Further, it may speed up wait times at the Canada-US borders.As of June 1, 2009, this license will be considered a valid document under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI)  which is a U.S. law that requires Canadian Citizens to present a passport OR the new “smart” license in lieu of a passport along with other approved documents such as the Nexus Card.  It will be valid for four years and in order to qualify it may be the case that you will  have to prove your Canadian citizenship and have no criminal record.

We will see what the exact conditions are when the new enhanced license is ready for circulation.

Ontario is expected to unveil its own “smart license” some point in early spring. But until this happens, it is important that you have all the necessary documentation with you before attempting to enter the US.Denied Entry to the US? Call Niren and Associates Immigration Lawyers in Toronto for assistance at 416 410 7484.

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Michael Niren

About Michael Niren

Michael is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. He is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Canadian Bar Association’s Citizenship and Immigration Section and the Associate Member of the American Bar Association. Read more

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