The drive for a safer Michigan

Image of hand holding ID Card

DECEMBER 5, 2007

Secretary Land proposes enhancing security
of driver's licenses, adding convenient option

Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land today announced an initiative to provide Michigan residents with another layer of protection by enhancing the security of driver's licenses.

"Our world continues to change and Michigan must keep pace," Land said. "This plan ensures the integrity of state-issued licenses and helps to secure America's borders. Of course, our customers' needs are always important to us. That's why we crafted our initiative to provide residents with a convenient option depending on their travel needs. Bolstering the security of our licenses is good for families, good for Michigan and good for America."

Land's proposal contains two packages of bills. One deals with upgrading Michigan's "standard" driver's license and the other creates an optional "enhanced" driver's license that is suitable for border crossing under the federal Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI).

  • The upgraded "standard" driver's license and state-issued identification card will have added security features to prevent fraud. Only people who are Michigan residents and legally present in the United States will be eligible for the license. The upgraded license also can be used by residents for domestic air travel when the federal REAL ID Act takes effect. Without these upgraded documents, all Michigan residents will need a passport to board even domestic flights. Primary sponsors of these bills are state Sens. Alan Sanborn and Tony Stamas and state Reps. Phillip Pavlov and Mike Nofs.
  • The optional "enhanced" driver's license and state ID card can be used for travel to and from Canada and other Western Hemisphere countries once the more stringent policies under WHTI take effect. Only Michigan residents who are also U.S. citizens will be eligible for the enhanced license. Residents who do not have an enhanced license or ID card will need a passport to visit Canada. Land first introduced the concept of an enhanced license in 2005 as a way to prevent the new federal requirements from negatively impacting commerce and inconveniencing residents who visit Canada. This plan has been supported by many in the business community, including the Detroit Regional Chamber. Primary sponsors of the WHTI bills are state Sens. Jud Gilbert, John Pappageorge and Cameron Brown and state Reps. Steve Tobocman, Ed Clemente and Bill Huizenga.

"Southeast Michigan, particularly tourist destinations like downtown Detroit and Mexicantown, and our entire state have strong economic ties to Canada," said Tobocman,

D-Detroit. "The enhanced license will protect that vital relationship by keeping border crossings convenient without sacrificing homeland security."

"Nothing is more important than the safety of Michigan's residents," said Gilbert,

R-Algonac. "By enacting these changes, we will take a critical step in ensuring a secure future for our state and nation."

Both the upgraded standard and enhanced versions will comply with REAL ID Act requirements, a national effort to prevent terrorism, reduce fraud and improve the reliability of identification documents issued by states. Only the enhanced documents - which are optional - will comply with WHTI.

In addition to the latest security features, the upgraded standard license will contain bar code technology similar to the one on current Michigan driver's licenses and ID cards.

Cost of the new licenses and ID cards will be slightly higher than the current versions due to the enhanced security features and additional required document checks. The actual amount won't be determined until all components of the law are finalized.

The federal government has yet to release final rules for the REAL ID Act.