Canadian hybrid driver's license initiative stalls

The Canadian government still has some work to do before the U.S. Homeland Security Department approves plans for hybrid driver's licenses that would substitute for passports, DHS said today.

This means that efforts by Canadian provinces such as British Columbia for its residents to use hybrid driver's licenses are temporarily stalled.

Secretary Michael Chertoff is strongly encouraging Canadian provincial governments to consider producing the combination license and border-crossing identification cards to meet the requirements of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, DHS spokeswoman Amy Kudwa said. The enhanced licenses could be used in lieu of a passport at the border.

But DHS is waiting for the Canadian government to deliver plans on how Canada will meet the initiative's data-sharing requirements, and how it will certify that applicants for the Canadian enhanced driver's licenses are legal Canadian citizens, Kudwa said. Details on the data to be shared were not immediately available.

Until those plans are received and accepted by DHS, Canadian provinces will not get permission to produce cards acceptable to cross the U.S. border. British Columbia has applied to DHS for permission to produce the enhanced license/border cards.

"Under the WHTI, we cannot designate a document until we are assured of its ability to meet the requirements," Kudwa said.

Canada and DHS have been discussing the possibility of hybrid licenses for many months. Chertoff is promoting enhanced licenses in Canada as well as in Arizona, New York, Washington State and Vermont, Kudwa said.

The travel initiative notice of proposed rulemaking in June stipulated that an enhanced Canadian license must offer proof of citizenship to be used to cross the border into the United States.

"Various Canadian provinces have indicated their interest or intention in pursuing pilots of enhanced driver's licenses similar to the Washington State and DHS pilot," the NPRM stated. "Because documents accepted for border crossing under WHTI must denote citizenship, the participation of the Government of Canada in determinations of citizenship on behalf of its citizens, and recognition of this determination, is a strong consideration by the United States in the acceptance of documents by Canadian citizens."

Chertoff's remarks at a Nov. 15 trade conference were viewed in the Canadian media as a sign that the Canadian hybrid licensing programs would move forward soon.

Canadian government officials were not immediately available for comment.

Enhanced driver's licenses in Canada present a major opportunity for contractors active in the identity card industry. The cards, if they resemble their U.S. counterparts, may include new technologies such as radio frequency identification chips.

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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