Smoother Border Crossings in Washington

Washington will become the first state to use radio frequency identification-enabled driver licenses that will also serve as border crossing cards under a pilot program authorized by the Department of Homeland Security.

The state’s move to Enhanced Driver Licenses (EDLs) comes as the DHS Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative program will require U.S. residents to carry passports when crossing land or sea borders between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda or Caribbean countries. Leaders in Washington and neighboring British Colombia were concerned that the new requirement would hinder trade and tourism, says Gigi Zenk, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Licensing. “The Department of Homeland Security was willing to look at EDL as an alternative travel document,” she adds.

DHS requires radio frequency identification (RFID) in all new federal identification forms, such as newly issued passports. Washington’s driver licenses will include second-generation RFID technology. They will also feature digital watermarking and a machine-readable zone.

At border crossings, patrol officers will scan the RFID card, which contains a chip revealing a pointer number they can use to access a central database containing the cardholder’s photo and proof of residency.

Digimarc Corp. in Beaverton, Ore., will supply Washington’s Department of Licensing with applicant enrollment and screening solutions as well as production of the RFID-enabled licenses. The vendor’s screening system will use data such as name and address and facial biometrics to ensure that only one license is issued to one legitimate card holder.

The voluntary EDL licenses will cost $40 and will be issued on proof of citizenship, identity and residency. The Washington State Department of Licensing will begin issuing the licenses in January 2008.

The licenses are intended to serve as a convenient, cost-effective option for citizens to carry a single credential that meets their driving, identity, and land and sea border crossing needs. “We are pleased to be working with Digimarc to bring a number of innovations and best practices in ID security to our Enhanced Driver License pilot for border crossing,” says Liz Luce, director of the Washington State Department of Licensing.

Aug 16 2007