Saturday, June 2, 2012

Enhanced Drivers License Information

Crop from the EDL official page

The State of Washington requires that you apply for your new driver's license and vehicle registration within 30 days of moving to the state, so I got up early this morning to take care of that.  I grabbed all the necessary documentation, and headed to the Department of Licensing (which handles just the driver's license portion of that).  As any of you who have been to a DMV before can imagine, although it was at 8:30 on a Saturday morning, there was already a fairly long line.  I thought I'd be in-and-out and on to the next thing, but it ended up taking nearly 3 hours (and because the title and registration is done at a different office, I didn't even get to that today).  It is a shame that there isn't an appointment-only office nearby.

Part of that my be my fault.  I decided to get the Enhanced Drivers License (EDL) offered by the State of Washington for an extra $15, which I believe put me in a different queue.  That's okay, though, because the EDL program is what I wanted to talk about today, anyway.

This is part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) to allow for easier travel by land and sea between America and her neighbors (so, basically, travel between the US, Canada, Mexico, and Carribbean countries, but not when traveling on a plane).  It has an RFID antenna like the new passports, and counts as both proof of identity and citizenship.  There is also some additional level of facial recognition software to help alleviate fraud or identity theft via state-issued IDs.

Of course, there are some who see the RFID as a security concern, though the Department of Licensing is quick to point out that there isn't any personally identifiable information stored on the card itself.  It only includes a unique signature that can be cross-referenced with their identity database to determine validity.  They also provide you with a free protective sleeve that keeps the RFID tag from activating when not in use for border crossings.  Still, for those concerned with complete privacy and who would rather not give the government a way to track them, this may not be an ideal solution.  They also recommend that you carry documentation on the WHTI program, since apparently, not all border guards are getting trained on this new initiative. 

In all honesty, it probably isn't really the ideal solution for me.  I'll still need to get a passport, too, since I will very likely end up traveling outside the WHTI zone again.  I just thought this sounded convenient for the occasional jaunt north of the border, or when I finally get around to looking up and visiting my college roommate from the Cayman Islands.  Besides, the technology is interesting and would be fun to tinker with a little.

If you are interested in getting your own EDL (or driver's license plus, as it is called in Quebec), they are currently available for residents of the US States of Washington, Michigan, New York, and Vermont; and the Canadian Provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec.

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