Washington state, DHS team on enhanced ID

Washington State and the Homeland Security Department will test a driver's license with enhanced security features so it can be used as a border-crossing card.

If successful, the new ID card is expected to comply with the department's Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative requirements going into effect January 2008.

Under the initiative, all U.S. citizens re-entering the United States from Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean or Bermuda will have to present a U.S. passport or other specific identification document to be approved by DHS. Currently, the department checks birth certificates, drivers' licenses and many other types of documents for re-entry.

"The Washington pilot program is one possible compliance alternative to WHTI requirements," Gov. Chris Gregoire, D, said in a news release. "This pilot project is a way to boost security at our border without hampering trade and tourism."

The state is anticipating higher security needs for the 2009 World Police and Fire Fighter Games and the 2010 Winter Olympics in British Columbia.

"Security and efficiency at our borders can be harmonized, and I appreciate Washington's leadership in realizing this goal," DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff said in the release.

Under the agreement, the state of Washington will develop an enhanced driver's license that will provide state residents with a card acceptable as an alternative to a passport for reentering the country. Application for the new card is voluntary.

The enhanced driver's license will be slightly more expensive and will require proof of citizenship, identity and residence. It will contain security features similar to a U.S. passport, the news release said.

Since October 2006, U.S. passports have included personal information contained on a microchip that can be transmitted wirelessly by use of radio frequency identification technology. Security features include encryption and a mesh covering over the chip that prevents it from being read when the passport is closed.

DHS also has proposed issuing a Pass (People Access Security Services) card containing RFID that would be distributed to people who frequently cross the U.S. borders.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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