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Enhanced drivers licenses to be accepted at border

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The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has softened a requirement that all U.S. citizens who travel abroad and all visitors to the U.S. will need to hold a passport in the future.

The final stage of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, involving land and sea crossings, was originally supposed to be implemented by Jan. 31, 2008 but was delayed until at least June due to long waits for passports and the objections of state and provincial governments and local governments on both sides of the border.

As well, the Department of Homeland Security confirmed last week that it will now allow travelers to use enhanced driver’s licences at land border crossings, once they are available.

“Next year, we’ll be implementing a rule in stages that will require not a passport, but either a passport, a PASS card, a Nexus card, or an enhanced driver’s license to cross the land border,” said Michael Chertoff, Homeland Security Secretary.

The enhanced driver’s licences will include standardized security features and can be scanned to provide personal information such as citizenship and criminal records. The exact parameters still need to be approved by the DHS and participating governments, but the Insurance Corporation of B.C. confirmed that it is already working on the program for early 2008.

“Where things are at currently is that ICBC is working with the province, and we’re still waiting for final approval to launch enhanced driver’s licenses,” said ICBC spokesperson Doug Henderson. “That will depend on reaching an agreement with the U.S. government as to what the licenses would look like, but right now we’re still targeting early 2008 to launch the first phase where we would issue a number of enhanced licences.”

ICBC has also not finalized details on costs for the enhanced driver’s licences, but all jurisdictions are expecting that there will be additional fees for the licences on top of regular fees.

The government of Manitoba also confirmed last week that it would be producing the licenses by fall of 2008 at the latest, and other provincial governments are expected to announce their own plans shortly.

As of Jan. 1, 2008, any child under 15 entering the United States must have parental consent a certified copy of their birth certificate. Teens 16 to 18 travelling with groups and teams, will require copies of their birth certificates and adult supervision.

The full WHTI requirements are expected to go into effect this summer, with 60 days notice. That includes the provision to allow Canadians to use enhanced driver’s licenses.

Americans returning home by land or sea will not be required to have a passport or enhanced driver’s license until June of 2009, but will require other photo ID and proof of citizenship in the meantime.

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