Enhanced licenses contain computer chip for border crossing

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(Host) What exactly are the enhanced driver’s licenses that are the centerpiece of the new agreement between the State of Vermont and the federal Department of Homeland Security ?

VPR’s Bob Kinzel explains.

(Kinzel) The new license will look just like Vermont’s current photo license with two exceptions. The word "enhanced" will be printed at the top of the license and the document will contain a small computer chip.

Vermont Motor Vehicles commissioner Bonnie Rutledge says the new licenses will be good for all travel in the western hemisphere beginning in September of next year.

Rutledge says this proposal has a lot of advantages over passports.

She says the turnaround time to get a license will be less than 10 days – for a passport it can 3 or 4 months and Rutledge says the cost of an enhanced license will be far less than a passport.

Rutledge says anyone who wants to get an enhanced license will have to come to the DMV office in Montpelier with their birth certificate:

(Rutledge) "Yes you will have to verify who you are, but it is a voluntary program. It will be a lot simpler a lot less expensive a lot faster for you to get an enhanced driver’s license if the only thing you’re going to want to use it for is to go to Canada or Mexico or North America actually."

(Kinzel) Privacy concerns have been raised about the storage of information on the chip that’s embedded in the new license. Rutledge says this part of the pilot program has been misunderstood:

(Rutledge) "What’s being put on is a passive RIFD chip. You know many people think the RIFD chip has all kinds of information about you in it but this chip will not. This chip will simply be something that will point the border back to Vermont as being the verifying state the information that we already have in your file will then go to the border agent for them to look at to verify you are who you say you are at the border."

(Kinzel) The Vermont Chamber of Commerce has been actively fighting the effort to mandate passports for travel to Canada because it believes this requirement will hurt travel and tourism between Vermont and Quebec.

Chamber spokesperson Curtis Picard says the pilot program is a step in the right direction and he hopes state and federal officials will be willing to make adjustments to the plan if any changes are needed:

(Picard ) "Whatever the solution is has to be simple, low cost and easy to use… … …it seems like a practical solution but the reason they put together this pilot program was to figure out if it would really work."

(Kinzel) The Department of Motor Vehicles estimates that it will cost roughly one and a half million dollars a year to operate this program.

The fees that will be charged for the new licenses will offset some of these costs.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.



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