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High-tech driver’s licences could ease border crossing

SEATTLE, Wash. -- According to a report on, high-security driver's licences which would allow US citizens r...

SEATTLE, Wash. — According to a report on, high-security driver’s licences which would allow US citizens return from Canada without a passport could be adopted elsewhere if an experiment by Washington is successful, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Friday.

The pilot project, signed into law by Gov. Chris Gregoire and formally approved by Chertoff on Friday, calls for Washington to begin issuing new “enhanced” driver’s licences in January. They will look much like conventional driver’s licences, but will include proof of citizenship and other information that can be easily scanned at the border. Radio frequency ID chips and other advanced security features also would make the enhanced licences less vulnerable to forgery. At about US$40, they also would be less expensive than a US$97 passport.

Chertoff’s endorsement of the pilot project comes as border states prepare for new federal security requirements mandating a passport for travellers — including US citizens — who enter the country by sea or land from elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere.

That requirement is expected to take effect between early 2008 and mid-2009. Washington state officials say they are particularly sensitive to the new rule because of the extensive tourist traffic between the state and neighbouring British Columbia, home of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

The announcement comes shortly after the Ontario government okayed the launch of a similar state-of-the-art licence.

While there is not yet any word on whether or not a drivers citizenship will be included on the licence, officials did say they will continue to pursue efforts to have the high-tech licence accepted in place of a passport under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.

The new card will be available in late 2007.

–with files from Associated Press

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