In just 6 days, on June 1st, US travel document requirements will change for Americans traveling to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean by land or sea. US passports were previously only required for air travel to these countries-people traveling by land or sea could simply use their driver’s licenses and birth certificates (or other proof of citizenship). Now, all adults are required to show a US passport or another approved type of ID to return to the US, no matter what method of travel they are using.
To help residents comply with these travel regulations, some states are offering Enhanced Drivers Licenses, or EDLs. EDLs contain a radio frequency identification chip that contains information about the person the EDL was issued to, so they are harder to fake than a regular driver’s license.
Currently, only 4 states offer EDLs: Michigan, New York, Vermont and Washington. If you live in one of those states, should you get an EDL or a passport?
An EDL will allow you to make quick trips across the border to Canada or Mexico by car or by boat. However, you should be aware that an EDL cannot be used for travel to countries other than Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean nations included in the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. To visit those countries, you would still need a US Passport.
The EDL is also not valid for international air travel. Even if you are only flying in to Mexico or Canada, you still need a passport if you’re leaving the country by air. Which brings us to another good reason to choose a US passport over the EDL-what if there’s an emergency while you’re in another country and you need to fly home unexpectedly? Your re-entry into the US will go much more smoothly if you have the proper form of ID!
What are the advantages of having an EDL? First of all, they are cheaper than getting a passport. Secondly, they fit more comfortably in your wallet than a passport book does, so they are more convenient. If all you need a WHTI-approved ID for is quick excursions on the other side of the border, an EDL may be fine. However, if you’ll be visiting our neighbor to the north (or south) for any length of time, it’s safest to travel with your passport.
Currently, it takes about 2 months to get a passport if you apply directly to the Department of State with normal processing. If you pay the additional $60 to have it expedited, you’ll still be waiting at least 3 weeks. However, a private passport expediting company can often have your passport processed in as little as 24 hours.
June 1st is almost here: Order your US passports today!