Under the U.S. Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), an enhanced driver's licence (EDL)/enhanced identification card (EIC) is an acceptable document to present when entering the United States by land and water only.
The EDL/EIC is not a national identity card. An EDL is a secure driver's licence that denotes a person's identity and Canadian citizenship and is issued by certain provinces. The EIC offers the same advantages as an EDL for those who do not drive.
Note: all subsequent information about EDLs in this Web section equally applies to EICs.
EDLs are available in the provinces of British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. EICs are available in the provinces of British Columbia and Manitoba. For more information and to apply for an EDL or EIC, contact the respective provincial licensing authority.
Obtaining an EDL is voluntary. The U.S. government has reviewed the EDL programs of provinces on a case-by-case basis to ensure the EDLs satisfy the U.S. WHTI document requirements.
The EDL features a machine-readable zone and a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip.
The RFID chip in each EDL has a unique identifier number that points to information in a secure database stored at the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). No personal information is stored on the chip. U.S. land border crossings equipped with RFID readers will read the unique identifiers as travellers approach (RFID chips can be read by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) from a maximum of 4.5 metres away). Officers then use the identifiers to access information about specific EDLs from the CBSA's secure database, which helps to facilitate and expedite traveller processing at the U.S. border.
The EDL also has a machine-readable zone that can be scanned by a border officer should the border crossing not be equipped with RFID reading technology or if the RFID readers are not functioning.
The inclusion of RFID technology in the EDL is a U.S. requirement; however, no personal information can or will be transmitted via the EDL RFID chip.
As an additional security measure, all provincial EDL programs are required to provide holders with a security sleeve. EDL holders can use this sleeve to stop their unique identifier from being skimmed from the RFID chip when their EDL is not being used to cross the border.
The Government of Canada is committed to working with provinces, government privacy officials and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada to ensure that all Canadian privacy requirements are met in the development, testing and implementation of EDLs.
The CBSA is the intermediary between the provincial licensing authorities and U.S. CBP. Provinces share their EDL data with the CBSA and the information is stored in the CBSA's secure database. EDL cardholder information that is disclosed to the CBSA is protected under the provisions of the federal Privacy Act and respective provincial privacy legislation.
When an EDL holder seeks to enter the United States by land, U.S. CBP will use the unique identifier from the traveller's EDL RFID chip to contact the CBSA's secure database. The CBSA will then forward encrypted information over a secure line connection. This is the only information that the CBSA will disclose to U.S. CBP:
Federal and provincial privacy laws do not apply to information in custody and control of U.S. authorities. The Government of Canada has signed an information-sharing agreement with the U.S. government that restricts the use of personal information related to the EDL program. When an EDL holder enters the United States, his or her information is retained in a secure U.S. CBP database as a border-crossing record. This process is no different than if a traveller were to use his or her passport. U.S. CBP may store, use and disclose a traveller's personal information to determine his or her eligibility to enter or remain in the United States or for any other purpose authorized by U.S. law.
EDL applicants are asked to sign a personal consent form that authorizes the province to share their information with the CBSA, other agencies and U.S. CBP.
EDL applicants are required to attend an interview at a provincial EDL-issuing office with documentation that supports their identity and Canadian citizenship. They are also required to complete a short citizenship questionnaire.
Provincial authorities will review the answers to the citizenship questionnaire and examine the citizenship documents presented. If applicable, they will cross-check the information applicants provide about their citizenship with vital statistics data from the applicant's respective province. If the applicant's documentary evidence of citizenship is not satisfactory, provincial EDL-issuing authorities will refer the applicant either to Citizenship and Immigration Canada or to the issuing authority of his or her citizenship documents to obtain the proper documents.
The EDL program is not designed to determine a person's citizenship. Provincial authorities only confirm that applicants submit satisfactory documentary evidence of citizenship.