Four US states (Washington, Michigan, New York and Vermont) have started offering enhanced driver’s licenses (EDL’s), which can be used instead of a passport to travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.  If you live in one of these states, should you trade your old license in for an EDL, or should you get a passport?

Ultimately, the decision is yours to make, based on how often you travel out of the country and whether you usually drive or fly. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Cost: EDL’s are less expensive than getting a passport, but they still cost more than a traditional driver’s license. In Washington, it’s an additional $15 over the cost of a regular driver’s license renewal. In Vermont, it’s an additional $25. In Michigan, it’s $45. In New York, it’s $30.
  • Time: Because EDL’s are accepted as proof of citizenship, you must bring your official birth certificate or other proof of citizenship to apply. Also, you may have to go to a special DMV office to get an EDL.
  • To apply for a passport, you’ll still need proof of identification and proof of citizenship, but the process may go a little bit faster since you can apply at a passport acceptance facility (often your local post office) instead of having to go to a DMV.
  • EDL’s are only good for land or sea travel to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean. They won’t work if you’re traveling by plane, or if you’re traveling to any other countries.  Passports are good everywhere.
  • Passports are valid for 10 years, which is usually longer than the EDL validity.

If you decide to get an EDL, you’ll have to wait for your application to processed and the license to be sent to you in the mail. The processing time depends on the state, but may take around 3 weeks. Processing time for a passport varies: at least 6 weeks with regular processing and at least 3 weeks with expedited processing.

The bottom line is that an EDL is great for someone who frequently drives into Canada or Mexico for day trips. If you prefer to travel by plane or you plan to visit countries that are not in the Western Hemisphere, getting a passport is probably a better idea for you.

If you need to a get a passport for an upcoming trip, getting a passport through a private passport expediting company is your best bet. Expediting companies simplify the process of getting a passport by making sure you know exactly how to fill out the paperwork and which documents are needed. By hand-delivering your documents to the US Passport Agency, they can also drastically reduce the time that getting a passport takes, sometimes to as little as 24 hours!

Get ready to travel this summer-apply for a passport today!