2009-09-18 / Top Stories

First Anniversary Of Enhanced Driver License

Commissioner David J. Swarts of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles has noted that on the first anniversary of the availability of the Enhanced Driver License (EDL), approximately 200,000 residents have obtained the document in New York State.

The EDL was first made available on September 16, 2008 as a secure document that would meet new federal identity requirements going into effect the following June for land and sea border crossings between the United States, Canada, Mexico, and some nations in the Caribbean.

New York was the second state in the nation to offer EDLs to its residents and the first state to do so at all of its DMV licensing offices.

Last month, nearly 55,000 travelers crossed a U.S. border using a New York issued EDL. No state has issued more EDLs than New York State.

"The DMV began issuing EDLs not only to provide a cost effective document that met the new travel requirements, but also to help facilitate commerce with our land and sea neighbors, especially Canada with which we share more than 400 miles of border and $500 billion of merchandise trade annually," said Swarts. "The popularity of the EDL program continues to grow, enforcing the idea that it truly is the smart way to travel."

Customers can apply for an EDL in person at any DMV office by providing proof of U.S. citizenship, two proofs of New York State residence, proof of identity and an original Social Security card if they are a first-time applicant for a driver license in New York State.

If the applicant already has a valid New York driver license, then printed proof of his or her Social Security number on a W-2 form, 1099 Income Tax Earning Statement, or computer generated pay stub will be accepted.

All license classes, including commercial and motorcycle, can be converted to an EDL, which is valid for eight years. Applications take less than two weeks to process.

The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) limits the types of documents U.S. citizens can present as proof of citizenship when returning to the United States from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and some nations in the Caribbean.

The new requirements went into effect on June 1, 2009. The EDL meets the WHTI requirements, is available for drivers as well as non-drivers, is wallet-sized and cheaper than a passport, costing $30 more than a regular driver license.

The document, which can also be used as proof of identification for domestic air travel, is available to any New York resident who is a United States citizen.

The EDL is equipped with a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag containing a unique number with no personal information.

The number can be read only by specialized equipment at select border crossing locations. On November 24, 2008, the first RFID Vicinity reader lanes opened in Buffalo. Buffalo was the first city in New York to add the RFID lanes and only the third area in the nation.

Three additional New York ports of entry, including Champlain, Massena and Alexandria Bay, had this equipment installed in April 2009. The entire network in the U.S. was installed by the end of May 2009, encompassing the 39 busiest land border crossings in the nation.

Much like an EZ Pass lane, these lanes allow the RFID tag to become activated as a motorist approaches the crossing.

The RFID technology used allows border patrol officers to quickly access a traveler's information from secure databases without interfering with the flow of traffic at the border.

Expediting border crossings also benefits the economy in Western New York. In 2007, more than $3 billion worth of exports to Canada passed through the five bridges in Buffalo. The total United States-Canada merchandise trade was estimated at more than $500 billion — an increase of more than $100 billion since 2006. More than 400,000 jobs are supported by U.S./Canadian trade.

Canadians made nearly 3 million visits to New York in 2007, contributing more than $800 million to the Empire State's economy.

In turn, New Yorkers made nearly 2 million visits and spent close to $600 million during their time in Canada.

Swarts also noted that DMV staff has received several national and state awards for the development of the EDL program. In June, the DMV Enhanced Driver License Project Team was named recipient of the 2009 American Council for Technology's "Intergovernmental Solutions Award" for its work to produce EDLs. The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) also named the EDL program as a finalist in its 2009 Recognition Awards for "Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Information Technology." And the Center for Digital Government selected the EDL program as a recipient of the "Best of New York" award as the "Project Demonstrating Best IT Collaboration Among Organizations."

More information on New York State's Enhanced Driver License program can be found by visiting the DMV's website at www.nysdmv.com.

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