Enhanced Driver’s License

An enhanced driver's license or EDL is a form of identification that allows holders to enter the United States from Canada, Mexico, and some Caribbean countries without needing a passport.

An enhanced license is a type of driver’s license that uses RFID technology. The chip contains information beyond what is printed on the credential itself and can be scanned either directly or remotely. This type of information can help to speed up border crossings and may allow authorities to identify a person more quickly. An Enhanced Driver’s License or Enhanced ID is a form of identification that can be used in lieu of a passport at land and sea border crossings with Canada, Mexico, and some Caribbean nations, but it cannot be used for airplane travel. It contains a unique identification number that links to information in a safe Department of Homeland Security database, but the card does not contain any personally identifiable information.

In addition to the name, photo, and other standard information, a person with an EDL will have a star or flag on their license. This symbol indicates that the license is a REAL ID-compliant credential needed to board a flight and access secure federal facilities. Also, an EDL includes a machine-readable zone (MRZ) barcode on the back that CBP officers can use to quickly identify individuals and link them to their records in the department’s database. This can save time at border crossings and can be a useful backup to RFID when the system fails.

What States Have EDL Licenses?

Five US states currently offer enhanced driver’s licenses (EDLs) – with the star in the right corner of the US flag – which allow you to cross into Canada, Mexico, and some Caribbean states via land or sea. These are Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, and Washington state.

However, it’s important to remember that an EDL is only good for travel to the Western Hemisphere – so if you’re thinking of traveling to any other country or region, you’ll still need to get a passport. The good news is that the process of getting a passport has also become much easier than ever, thanks to the streamlined application process. That’s why it’s worth comparing the costs of an EDL with a passport to see what works best for your specific needs and budget.

Can I Enter Canada with an Enhanced Driver's Licence

Can I Enter Canada with an Enhanced Driver’s Licence?

Whether you can enter Canada with an enhanced driver’s license or another form of identification depends on your citizenship, the purpose of your trip, and what kind of transportation you’ll be using to travel. Americans who want to drive to Canada must present a passport or other acceptable travel document, such as an NEXUS card, U.S. Passport Card, FAST card, or a state-issued EDL with security features (either a star circled in gold or a small American flag printed on it).

If you’re traveling by land or sea, an NEXUS or Fast Travel program card is an acceptable alternative to a passport for most people. The NEXUS and FAST cards are pre-approved trusted traveler documents that allow for expedited border clearance for low-risk travelers. However, a DUI arrest or conviction could make you criminally inadmissible to Canada and prevent you from being allowed to enter with either a NEXUS or FAST card or an enhanced driver’s license. If you have an impaired driving offense on your record, it’s important to find out if you qualify for a Criminal Rehabilitation or Temporary Resident Permit so you can fix the problem before trying to cross the border.

Do You Need an Enhanced License to Fly in the US

Do You Need an Enhanced License to Fly in the US?

If you want to fly domestically or enter certain federal facilities (like airports) after May 7, 2025, you will need a REAL ID-compliant license or identification card. You can check out your state’s DMV website to see what you need to do to upgrade to a REAL ID, but most states will require you to visit a DMV office in person. The good news is that there are alternatives to a REAL ID that will still allow you to travel internationally. For instance, New York offers an EDL that is compliant with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative and can be used to enter the country by land or sea from Canada, Mexico, and some Caribbean countries.

It will not, however, be valid for air travel, so you will still need a passport to enter the US by plane. In addition, an EDL will not be valid as a replacement for your passport if you’re traveling to international destinations that are not in the Western Hemisphere. This includes Mexico, Canada, and any countries in the Caribbean that are not a part of the Western Hemisphere.

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