Public Safety Canada

Public Safety Canada
Office of the Premier, Intergovernmental Relations Secretariat

January 21, 2008 16:06 ET

Canada's First Enhanced Driver's Licence Launched in B.C.

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - Jan. 21, 2008) - Canada's first enhanced driver's licences (EDLs) will be available in British Columbia for use by eligible B.C. residents driving to the United States, Premier Gordon Campbell and Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day announced today. EDLs are proposed as an alternative to the passport that will be required to enter the United States at its land and water borders no earlier than June 2009.

"The enhanced driver's licence is a new, voluntary option for drivers that allows for more convenient travel to the United States," said Premier Campbell. "Since 2006, British Columbia has worked with the Government of Canada and Washington state to develop an enhanced driver's licence that will meet the new U.S. requirements at the border. This new licence will encourage closer social ties with our U.S. neighbours and support economic growth on both sides of the border. I congratulate Washington Governor Chris Gregoire for her persistent and hard work with me in reaching this step."

"We have worked hard with the U.S. government to ensure that legitimate trade and travel across our borders are not disrupted as a result of the U.S. Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI)," said Minister Day. "We are encouraged to see that our efforts are leading to recognition that enhanced driver's licences can serve as an acceptable alternative to passports to enter the United States at its land and sea borders."

"We have strong social and economic ties with British Columbia; it is our number one trading partner," Washington Governor Chris Gregoire said. "We wanted to find a way to boost security at our border without hampering trade and tourism. This is particularly important with both the 2009 World Police and Fire Games and the 2010 Winter Olympics in British Columbia fast approaching. I commend Premier Gordon Campbell and Minister Stockwell Day for collaborating with us in Washington to ensure we maintain our strong relations."

The B.C. EDL program will begin as an initial phase, in which 500 EDLs will be offered at the designated Driver Services Centre in Richmond and Cloverdale. Eligible participants must be Canadian citizens, born in British Columbia and hold a valid B.C. birth certificate and a valid B.C. driver's licence.

This initial phase will allow the governments of Canada and British Columbia to test the effectiveness of the program, and based on the results, the program could be extended to all Canadian citizens residing in British Columbia.

The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia is now accepting volunteers. For information about eligibility, the B.C. EDL Participant Guide is available online at www.icbc.com, or by calling 1-866-296-6054. Appointments must be booked in advance.

The WHTI is a U.S. law, now in effect for air travel, which will eventually require all travellers, including U.S. and Canadian citizens, to present a valid passport or other secure document when travelling to the United States from within the western hemisphere. Alternate documents to a passport include NEXUS and FAST cards.

More information about the U.S. WHTI is available at www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca.

This news release is available online at www.gov.bc.ca and www.publicsafety.gc.ca.

Backgrounder

ABOUT THE B.C. ENHANCED DRIVER'S LICENCE

The Province of British Columbia and the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), in cooperation with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), are developing an optional enhanced driver's licence (EDL) which will authorize holders to drive and could serve as an alternative to a passport for entry by land or water into the United States under the U.S. Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI).

The WHTI is a U.S. law that requires all travellers, including U.S. and Canadian citizens, to present a valid passport or other approved secure document or combination of documents demonstrating identity and citizenship when travelling to, or through, the United States from within the western hemisphere. The U.S. WHTI was put into effect for air travellers on January 23, 2007, and now only a valid passport or a NEXUS card is accepted at airports. It will be put into effect for travellers entering the United States by land or sea no earlier than June 2009.

The EDL program will be implemented in phases. In phase one, 500 EDLs will be issued to individuals who:

- are Canadian citizens;

- were born in British Columbia and hold a valid B.C. government-issued birth certificate;

- hold a valid B.C. driver's licence;

- intend to use the EDL to travel to the United States by land or water; and

- agree to share select personal information in connection with the EDL with Canadian and U.S. border authorities.

How to apply?

Refer to the B.C. EDL Participant Guide available online at www.icbc.com and then call 1-866-296-6054 to book an in-person appointment at a designated Driver Services Centre in Richmond or Cloverdale. Appointments must be booked in advance by phone before attending a Driver Services Centre. Applicants will be required to complete citizenship and entitlement questionnaires, be interviewed by specially trained ICBC staff, and provide their consent to the ICBC to share their personal information with Canadian and U.S. border authorities.

How much does the EDL cost volunteers?

In the first phase, there is no cost for the EDL. When the program is fully implemented, there will be an additional charge which has not yet been determined.

Why only 500 EDLs in phase one?

Limiting the number of EDLs in the first phase allows the government of British Columbia, as well as the CBSA and CIC to test the effectiveness of the EDL program, to ensure all citizenship, privacy, and security requirements of the Canadian and U.S. governments are met, and to gather feedback from participants and the various agencies involved before it is offered to more Canadian citizens residing in British Columbia who drive and wish to travel to the United States by land or water.

What makes this driver's licence enhanced?

The EDL contains the same information as the standard B.C. driver's licence, with the addition of a Canadian flag to distinguish the EDL from a standard driver's licence, a machine-readable zone and a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip that contains a unique identifier to help border officials identify EDL holders at the border.

Radio frequency identification (RFID) chip

The EDL contains an RFID chip in the card. This chip contains a unique identifier to help U.S. border officials identify EDL holders and helps to speed processing at ports of entry. U.S. land and water border entry locations equipped with RFID readers will read the unique identifier and access the EDL holder's personal information from a secure U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) database.

This unique identifier is not a person's driver's licence number, and there is no other personal information stored on the RFID chip.

The ICBC is providing security sleeves to protect the RFID chip from being read when it is not being used to cross the border.

Tampering with or deactivating the RFID chip will invalidate the EDL as a border document.

Protection of privacy

An EDL is a voluntary and optional alternative document, and it requires certain personal information be shared much like what is now done with NEXUS and FAST cards. If Canadians do not wish to share this information, there are other eligible documents to use to enter the United States by land or water.

In applying for an EDL, applicants will be asked to complete a citizenship and entitlement questionnaire and sign a personal information consent form that authorizes the ICBC to disclose information related to the EDL to CIC and the CBSA, which in turn will share specific information with U.S. CBP.

The personal information consent form authorizes the ICBC to disclose the following information to B.C.'s Vital Statistics Agency to verify the information on the applicant's birth certificate that was provided as part of the EDL application process: name, birth date, gender, place of birth, registration number, certificate number (if available), and certificate issuance date.

Once an information-sharing agreement is signed between the CBSA and U.S. CBP, the CBSA will transfer specific information to U.S. CBP, which will store the information securely in a database and use it for the purposes of the EDL program, such as verifying identity and citizenship, for purposes connected with its use as a standard driver's licence, as well as for purposes authorized by Canadian or U.S. law. Driving qualifications, driving conviction history, penalties or medical conditions are not disclosed to the CBSA or CIC, or to the United States, under the EDL program.

Applicants have the right to access the personal information collected about them under B.C.'s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) and the federal Privacy Act and the Access to Information Act. The information collected by the ICBC can be accessed through a request to the ICBC Driver Services Centre where the in-person EDL application was made. A formal access request under FIPPA is not normally required.

The Province of British Columbia, the ICBC, and the Government of Canada are committed to respecting and protecting privacy rights. Both the federal and provincial privacy commissioners have been consulted on the development of the EDL program.

What other documents are accepted under the U.S. WHTI?

Canadian citizens flying to, or through, the United States must present a valid Canadian passport or a NEXUS card when used at a NEXUS kiosk at the eight participating international airports in Canada.

Beginning on January 31, 2008, Canadian citizens will require, at a minimum, government-issued photo identification, such as a driver's licence, together with proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or citizenship card, to enter the United States by land or water. Canadian citizens 18 years of age and under may present a birth certificate. As always, a passport, a NEXUS and a FAST card will be acceptable.

The United States has yet to issue the final rule for travel by land and sea under the U.S. WHTI, but it is expected that, in addition to passports, NEXUS cards, FAST cards and enhanced driver's licences will be acceptable. The Government of Canada continues to recommend that travellers carry a valid Canadian passport for all visits abroad, including to the United States.

Contact Information

  • Office of the Honourable Stockwell Day
    Minister of Public Safety
    Melisa Leclerc
    Director of Communications
    613-991-2863
    or
    Office of the Premier
    Dale Steeves
    Director of Communications
    250-387-6605
    or
    Insurance Corporation of B.C.
    Doug Henderson
    604-982-1332 or 604-786-2579
    or
    Intergovernmental Relations Secretariat
    Jamie Edwardson
    Manager, Strategic Communications
    250-356-7373