So what exactly is an enhanced driver’s license? It’s a license that can be used in place of a passport when returning to the United States from Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean via land or sea. Air travel requires a passport. Gone are the days when one could wander across the Canadian or Mexican border with nothing but a regular driver’s license or birth certificate.
As of August 2010, only 4 Canadian border states, Michigan, New York, Vermont and Washington offer Enhanced Driver’s licenses, aka EDLs.Passports can cost $130 or more and require getting and sending off a lot of materials. In New York an EDL is $30 more than a regular driver’s license, and simply required a trip to the DMV with the right documents.
Before you go to the DMV to get your Enhanced Driver’s License, make sure you have the proper documentation. No one wants to wait on that line for nothing! You will need to bring your social security card, current driver’s license, Birth Certificate or proof of citizenship, and two proofs of residency. These include things like recent utility bills, Social security statements, Jury duty notices, pay stubs etc. For a complete list, check your state DMV website. (Note, to CDL holders, in NY you will have to fill out an MV-44, make sure you bring your DOT Medical examiner’s certificate.)
You should get your new license in the mail in 2 weeks. In NY it looks very similar to a regular driver’s license. The word “enhanced” is written in red on top, the back is a little different; there is a small American flag in the lower right hand corner, and it feels a bit stiffer than the regular license. It will come in a white and metallic envelope that you are supposed to keep it in to prevent it from accidentally being read. (Even if it was read it just has a number encoded)
I recently tested out my enhanced driver’s license at the rainbow bridge into Canada. I was driving and the two passengers I was with both had passports. My license was not treated any differently than the passports, and the border crossing was a success!