Ontario considers enhanced driver's licenses

Ontario would become the second Canadian province to issue enhanced driver's licenses that also serve as border-crossing cards for travel to the United States under legislation submitted June 3.

Ontario, which is the most populous Canadian province with 12 million people, would begin issuing the photo card by spring 2010 if the legislation becomes law. The bill was introduced by the administration of Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.

In January 2008, British Columbia became the first Canadian province to issue enhanced driver's licenses showing proof of citizenship in cooperation with the U.S. Homeland Security Department. Washington state also is enrolling drivers for hybrid licenses/border crossing cards, and the governors of Arizona, New York and Vermont have announced plans to do so.

Ontario's government said it wants to offer the new licenses in response to the U.S. Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which by June 2009 will require Canadians to carry specific identity documents when entering the U.S. by land. Thousands of documents, including local birth certificates, are adequate proof of identity to cross the border.

"Our government is making it easier for people to travel to and from the [United States] by giving drivers the option of using an enhanced driver's license as a passport alternative at land and sea border crossings," Ontario Transportation Minister Jim Bradley said in a statement.

Ontario driver's licenses would be available with or without the border-crossing features, and both enhanced and nonenhanced photo identification cards would be available to nondrivers.

The licenses and photo cards would have anti-fraud features introduced by the McGuinty administration in December 2007. These include laser engraving on the photos, signature and personal information; a 2-D barcode; micro- and rainbow printing; secondary photo and signature images; and ultraviolet features, according to a news release. The features are in line with recommendations from the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, the release said.

Giesecke and Devrient, of Markham, Ontario, is the contractor for the anti-fraud card. Information was not immediately available on whether G&D would also be the contractor for the enhanced card.

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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