Enhanced license earns approval from federal authorities

Image of hand holding ID Card

OCTOBER 13, 2008

Editor's Note:  As of October 19, 2009, all Secretary of State offices offer enhanced driver's licenses and personal ID cards.

Michigan motorists will have the option next year of applying for an enhanced driver's license that also meets tougher federal document requirements at America's borders, Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land announced today.

Land and U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials met in Detroit to sign a memorandum of agreement and a business plan that pave the way for Michigan's enhanced license program. Business, municipal and political leaders as well as members of the general public enthusiastically support Land's initiative, citing its convenience for drivers and its ability to keep cross-border commerce flowing smoothly.

"This is a victory for Michigan families and job providers," Land said. "It offers motorists an affordable, single-document option that meets their driving and border crossing needs. Equally important, it allows commerce between Michigan and Canada to continue uninterrupted. I applaud the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for being an outstanding partner and the Detroit Regional Chamber for its leadership. With their support and the efforts of all others involved, we're balancing customer and economic needs with our shared goal of a safer America."

In June 2005, Land proposed the creation of a driver's license that also could be used in lieu of a passport, making it easier for residents of border states to meet federal Western

Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) requirements for entry into the United States through land and sea ports of entry. State legislation authorizing Land's department to pursue the enhanced driver's license plan with federal officials was passed in February 2008.

"With this agreement, Michigan's leadership has shown both its innovative spirit and its commitment to national security," said DHS Assistant Secretary for Policy Stewart Baker. "The state enhanced driver's license will bolster security through advanced technology, and at the same time it will make travel faster and easier."

Richard E. Blouse Jr., president and chief executive officer of the Detroit Regional Chamber, explained that the availability of enhanced licenses is a crucial step if southeast Michigan is to expand its role as an international trade center.

"Today's agreement is vital to the Detroit region's prosperity because it keeps the borders open and secure for tourism and business," Blouse said. "The new license protects $100 million in economic activity in the region each year by making it more convenient for people to cross the border. We were proud to work with the Michigan Secretary of State and Department of Homeland Security on this important initiative that balances national security with economic security."

Under WHTI, all travelers -- including U.S. citizens -- will need to produce a passport or approved secure document to enter the country by land or sea as of June 1, 2009. Today's agreement is a move toward making Michigan's enhanced license an approved secure document that denotes identity and citizenship. Because passports cost in the neighborhood of $100 and take weeks to receive, Land was concerned that providing no alternative would discourage people from crossing the Michigan-Canada border for business and tourism.

Michigan's enhanced licenses and state-issued enhanced ID cards will be voluntary and available only to Michigan residents who also are U.S. citizens. While the actual cost has yet to be determined, the law limits it to not more than $50. Michigan will continue offering its standard driver's license as well.

Enhanced licenses will be available at all Secretary of State SUPER!Centers and other select branch offices beginning next spring.

Primary sponsors of the Michigan legislation are Sen. Cameron Brown, R-Sturgis; Rep. Steve Tobocman, D-Detroit; and Rep. Ed Clemente, D-Lincoln Park.

The laws require:

  • Security measures to protect against unauthorized disclosure of personal information.
  • Applicants to provide documentation demonstrating their U.S. citizenship, full legal name, Social Security number and other information.
  • That a person making a false certification or statement when applying for an enhanced license or ID card be guilty of a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

Visit www.Michigan.gov/sos for more information about Secretary of State services and requirements.