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  • Passport Card & Enhanced Driver License

    It's a different game for travelers at today's border crossings. You now, due to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), need government-approved documentation to make the cross.

    A couple new products have entered the marketplace, each designed to make border crossings by land and sea quicker and less costly. Think of the U.S. Passport Card (also known as the PASS Card) as a limited-use passport. It's issued by the State Department, and good for border populations that do frequent crossings. The Enhanced Driver License (EDL) is another option gaining momentum at the state level. Think of the EDL as your driver license on steroids, with enhanced security features to meet the more stringent requirements set by WHTI and the Department of Homeland Security.

    U.S. Passport Card

    Why a passport card?

    The U.S. Passport Card (PASS Card) is a less expensive, more portable version of the traditional passport book. As a response to the new security measures imposed by Homeland Security and WHTI, PASS Cards come equipped with a microchip that assigns a distinct number to its owner. This number, through vicinity-read radio frequency technology, matches up with a Custom and Border Protection (CBP) database to promote more secure crossings with faster queuing. The PASS Card is a new form of approved identification targeted at border communities who make frequent crossings. It's wallet-sized, less expensive than the full passport book, and a suitable alternative for anyone who travels by land or sea between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, or the Caribbean.

    NOTE: The PASS Card is not approved for air travel. Unlike the passport book, the card is not considered an international travel document recognized worldwide.

    Specifics

    • Valid for land and sea crossings only, not air
    • Valid for travel to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean
    • Valid for 10 years if you're at least 16 years old, just like a passport book. Or, 5 years for applicants under 16 years old.
    • Wallet-sized, with a protective sleeve

    How do I apply?

    The first PASS Card was issued in the summer of 2008, and already more than 7,000,000 applications have been processed.

    To get your PASS card if you already have a passport book, just apply for the card as a renewal with U.S. Passport Renewal Application For Eligible Individuals (Form DS-82).

    First-time applicants should apply in person using Application For a U.S. Passport (Form DS-11). Check with the Department of State for your nearest passport application facility.

    What does it cost?

    • $55 for first-time applicants ($40 for minors).
    • $30 for renewals from an expiring passport book.

    This compares to $110 (plus a $25 execution fee) for a first-time passport book or passport book renewal.

    Enhanced Driver's License (EDL)

    Why an enhanced driver license?

    Much of the spirit behind the PASS Card also applies to the Enhanced Driver License (EDL). Convenience, portability, and cost are the big selling points here. If you are a licensed driver, check to see if your state has developed an enhanced drivers license program in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security. Currently, only Washington State, Vermont, New York, and Michigan are fully up and running with EDLs. However, Arizona, Texas, and California are making progress with their programs, too.

    Like PASS Cards, EDLs are only accepted at land and sea border crossings, not for air travel. The license contains radio-frequency microchipping that uniquely identifies you in CBP databases, which should promote a more expeditious cross. Enhanced driver's licenses will be approved forms of identification, in full compliance with the new WHTI security measures.

    Specifics

    • Same as your driver license, with enhanced security features.
    • Currently only available in Washington State, Vermont, Michigan, Minnesota, and New York.
    • Approved for border crossing by land or sea, not by air.

    How do I apply?

    If you live in Washington, check our page about the application process, and specific forms of identification that might be required. In brief, you are required to apply in person, and you must be a Washington resident. Enhanced drivers licenses are available to anyone at least 18 years old, and Enhanced Intermediate Driver Licenses are available to teen drivers.

    If you live in Minnesota, New York, Michigan, or Vermont, check your state's central driver's license agency for more information.

    Everyone else interested in EDLs should keep an eye on our News & Alerts page for information as new states come online with EDL programs. As with standard driver licenses, the specific guidelines for obtaining an EDL may vary from state to state.

    What does it cost?

    • Washington: $35.
    • Vermont: $25 more than the standard driver license
    • New York: $30 more than the standard driver license
    • Michigan: $45.
    • Minnesota: $15 on top of your standard driver license fee.

    This compares to $110 for a first-time passport book, so the costs savings can be material if the license works for your specific travel needs.