Vermont issues IT-enhanced driver's licenses

Vermont has become the third state to begin issuing enhanced driver’s licenses with radio frequency tags that also serve as official identification cards at U.S. border crossing points. It did so under a program authorized by the Homeland Security Department.

The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles began accepting applications for the enhanced licenses on Feb. 18 through its Montpelier office. The new card is voluntary and costs $25 more than a standard license.

New York, Washington State and British Columbia in Canada offer similar licenses designed to comply with DHS’ Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which goes into effect in June. Officials in Arizona, Michigan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec have indicated they intend to issue similar cards.

The enhanced drivers licenses have embedded radio frequency identification (RFID) chips that can be scanned at a distance of 20 to 30 feet at U.S. border crossings. The RFID chips n the licenses emit a reference number that must be checked against a DHS database to obtain personal information.

The card technology is strongly supported by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. In 2007, while governor of Arizona, she  proposed similar enhanced licenses for that state.

Napolitano said on Feb. 25 that enhanced licenses and other identification cards with RFID are valuable in easing the processing of people and traffic at the borders.

“The high-tech RFID system works in tandem with RFID-enabled documents such as passport cards, Customs and Border Protection’s trusted traveler programs, and enhanced driver’s licenses,” Napolitano said at a congressional hearing. “The technology expedites the travel of law-abiding border crossers and allows agents to focus on where they are most needed.”

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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