Frequently asked questions: EDL/EID

Choose a topic:

Getting enhanced driver licenses/ID cards (EDL/EID)

Is an EDL/EID required for entry into Canada or re-entry into the U.S.?
No, the Enhanced Driver License Program is completely voluntary. However, all U.S. and Canadian travelers must present a passport or other acceptable document that proves identity and citizenship when entering the U.S by land or sea. The EDL/EID is a low-cost alternative to the passport for U.S. citizens. For more information about:
Are children required to get an EDL/EID?
No, minors under age 16 are exempt from federal Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) requirements, and only need to present a certified birth certificate or other citizenship documents to re-enter the U.S. at land and sea border crossings. However, parents are encouraged to get an Enhanced ID card for their children for faster identification checks when they’re traveling with a parent or guardian.
Are any groups exempt from getting a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) travel document like the EDL/EID?
The Department of Homeland Security sets the requirements for travel documents. Please visit the WHTI website and click the country of your citizenship to learn more about document requirements.
How long will it take to get my EDL/EID?
You should receive your EDL/EID within 2–3 weeks after your application is approved.
I didn’t receive a protective sleeve for my EDL/EID. How do I get one?
You can get a protective sleeve at any driver licensing office. The protective sleeve protects the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag from being read when the card isn’t being used for border crossing.
My protective sleeve is worn, damaged, or lost. Can I get another one?
Yes. You can get another protective sleeve at any driver licensing office.
Can I get an EDL/EID if I have a green card or work visa?
No, only United States citizens who can provide proof of citizenship are eligible for an EDL/EID.
Can I get an EDL/EID if I have a “military” license?
Yes, but it won’t have a “military” expiration. An EDL/EID must have an expiration date. If you get one, you must turn in your “military” license and pay fees. However, we’ll keep the “military” indicator on your driving record.
 
The Department of Homeland Security allows military personnel to travel across land and sea borders with an expired EDL/EID if you have a valid military ID card and traveling orders. When you return to Washington, visit an EDL/EID office to get a new EDL/EID.
Do I need to pass the knowledge or driving tests to get an enhanced driver license?
  • If you want an EDL for your first WA driver license, you must pass both the knowledge and driving test.
  • If you already have a valid driver license from WA or another state, you don’t need to pass the knowledge or driving test unless you have a medical or physical condition that indicates testing is required.
  • If you have an expired driver license from another state, you must pass the both the knowledge and driving test.
Can I get an EDL/EID if I live outside of Washington?
No, you must be a resident of Washington State and show us proof of residency when you apply.
Can I apply for an EDL/EID online or by mail?
No, you must apply in person at one of our EDL/EID office locations so you can be interviewed by our staff, provide documents to prove your citizenship, identity, and residence, and have your photograph taken.
Can I get an enhanced driver license if I have a license from another state but am living in Washington while on active military service?
No, you must be a resident of Washington State and be able to show us proof of residency when you apply.
Why is Washington State issuing EDL/EIDs?
The federal government recently passed the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), which requires a passport or other federally-approved identification or proof-of-citizenship document for all travel into the United States. To preserve travel, trade, and cultural ties with British Columbia and increase security at the border, we are offering EDL/EID Cards to Washington residents who choose to participate. The EDL/EID meets federal requirements, and is an approved alternative to a passport for re-entry into the U.S at land and sea borders between the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean.

Back to top

Crossing a border

How do I use my EDL/EID to cross the border?
Hand your EDL/EID to the border agent for scanning and verification of your identity. The EDL/EID is a new border crossing document and some border agents may be unaware it is acceptable identification. To help eliminate any confusion, we recommend you take with you the sheet from U.S. Customs and Border Protection that lists the EDL/EID as an acceptable border crossing document.
Can I travel into Canada and return to the U.S. by land or sea using an expired passport and driver license?
No. We recommend you bring a valid (current) passport, birth certificate, or a valid alternative travel document, to avoid additional screening at the border crossing.

Back to top

Security and privacy

What security features does the EDL/EID have?
The EDL/EID is designed with enhancements that are industry best practices for security, including:
  • An icon on the front of the card to indicate it is an EDL/EID.
  • A machine readable zone like a bar code on the back of the card that can be scanned at the border like a passport.
  • A radio frequency identification (RFID) tag to speed identification checks at border crossings. For more information about RFID tags, see the “Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)” section on this page.
  • A security sleeve to protect the RFID tag from being read when the card isn’t being used for border crossing.
What about data security?
We work hard to keep your personal information secure by:
  • Encrypting personal identifying information transmitted between Washington State and the border agent.
  • Using a dedicated and secure circuit to transmit the unique reference number embedded in your EDL/ID to the Customs and Border Protection network.
  • Using a closed and secure network design, including firewalls.
  • Limiting and controlling access to the network, network equipment, and data centers.
  • Recognizing the network address of an information query as a legitimate requestor and rejecting requests from all unrecognized network addresses.
Does the EDL/EID card transmit my personal information?
No. The RFID tag embedded in your card doesn’t contain any personal identifying information, just a unique reference number. Plus, the tag doesn’t have a power source and cannot transmit data. An RFID reader at the border crossing station sends radio waves to the tag in your card and collects the reference number so it can be matched to our records to verify the information printed on the front of your card.
I heard the EDL/EID has a computer chip embedded in it. Can someone use the chip to get my personal information?
No. The radio frequency identification (RFID) tag embedded in an EDL/EID doesn’t contain any personal identifying information, just a reference number. Your card also comes with a security sleeve which prevents the RFID tag in your card from being read when it isn’t being used at a border crossing station.
Are there any laws against reading the radio frequency identification (RFID) tag in my EDL/EID without my permission?
Yes, RCW 19.300: Electronic communication devices makes it a Class C felony to intentionally read, capture, or possess information from a person’s Enhanced Driver License/ID Card without that person’s knowledge or consent.
Can I turn off the radio frequency identification (RFID) tag?
No, tampering with or deactivating the RFID tag embedded in your EDL/EID will invalidate the card so it cannot be used for border crossing.
Who has access to the personal information I give when I apply for an EDL/EID?
Only Department of Licensing employees who have passed a thorough background check have access to your personal information. By law, we cannot share this information with anyone unless we are required by court order to release the information to a law enforcement agency.

Back to top

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)

What is RFID?
Radio Frequency Identification is a wireless technology that stores and retrieves data remotely. An RFID system typically includes an RFID tag with a microchip and antenna embedded in a card or other item, an RFID reader, and a database. To learn more, see What is Radio Frequency Identification (RFID).
How does it work?
  1. The RFID tag embedded in your EDL/EID contains a unique reference number. At the border crossing station, an RFID reader uses electromagnetic waves like the waves coming to your car radio to energize the tag and collect this reference number.
  2. The reader converts the radio waves reflected back from the RFID tag into digital information and transmits it to the Customs and Border Protection network. Data encryption, secure networks, and firewalls protect the information while it is being transmitted.
  3. The reference number is compared to our records to verify that your identity matches the information printed on the front of your EDL/EID card.
Does the EDL/EID use a special kind of RFID tag?
To provide added security and convenience when crossing the border, an ultra-high frequency passive vicinity RFID tag is embedded in each EDL/EID. We use this type of tag because:
  • Ultra-high frequencies typically offer better range and can transfer data faster.
  • Passive RFID tags are more secure because they don’t have a power source, and cannot transmit information until they get power from the RFID reader.
  • Vicinity RFID tags are faster and easier to use because they can be read from several feet away from the reader.
Why does my EDL/EID card need an RFID tag?
To speed up identification checks at the border, the federal government requires RFID technology in identification cards used to re-enter the United States. To meet this federal requirement and follow best practices for card security, each EDL/EID contains an RFID tag like the one used in U.S. passports.
Can someone use the RFID tag in my EDL/EID to get my personal information?
No. The passive RFID tag embedded in your EDL/EID doesn’t contain any personal identifying information, just a unique reference number. In addition, the tag doesn’t have a power source and cannot transmit data unless it is activated by an RFID reader. When you get an EDL/EID, we will give you a security sleeve to protect the RFID tag from being activated when you are not at a border crossing station.

Back to top

Biometric identification

What is biometric identification?
Biometrics is the use of digital technology to identify individuals based on their unique physical features. Facial biometric technology focuses on facial features that aren’t easy to alter, such as eye sockets, cheekbones, and the sides of the mouth. It measures characteristics such as the distance between pupils and the size and shape of facial features. To learn more, see the fact sheet:
How does it work?
When you get an EDL/EID, we will take a digital photo of you to print on the front of your card. Facial biometric identification software reduces this photo to a digital code, or template. Then, the software analyzes the template for certain facial features and compares them to other facial templates in the database to verify your identity.
Why do you need to use facial biometric identification?
It is a non-invasive method of confirming your identity when you apply for an EDL/EID. This helps prevent identity theft and the creation of duplicate cards.
Is my biometric information kept private?
We protect your biometric information with the best security practices of the travel card security industry, including encryption of all transmitted data. For more information about the security measure we take, see the “Security and privacy” section on this page.

Back to top

Washington Healthcare Finder
Access Washington