Canada is a popular destination for many Americans who want to enjoy its natural beauty, cultural diversity, and friendly people. Whether you are visiting for tourism, business, or family reasons, you need to have the right identification documents to cross the border. One of the options that some Americans have is an enhanced driver’s license (EDL) or an enhanced identification card (EIC). These are special cards that function both as a driving license and an identity card with limited passport features. They are issued by some states in the U.S. and some provinces in Canada, and they are compliant with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), which requires travelers to present a WHTI-compliant document when entering the U.S. by land or sea from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, or the Caribbean.
In this article, we will explain what an EDL/EIC is, how you can get one, how you can use it to enter Canada, and what are the benefits and drawbacks of having one.
What is an EDL/EIC and how do you get one?
An EDL/EIC is a card that denotes your identity and citizenship, and allows you to travel to Canada by land or water without a passport. It also has a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip that can be scanned by border officials to verify your information. However, an EDL/EIC is not valid for air travel, and it does not replace a passport for other international destinations.
To get an EDL/EIC, you must be a citizen of the U.S. or Canada, and a resident of a state or province that offers the program. You also need to provide proof of your identity, citizenship, residency, and driving eligibility (if applying for an EDL). You may also need to complete a citizenship questionnaire and pay a fee. The application process and requirements vary by state or province, so you should check with your local issuing authority for more details.
The following states in the U.S. offer EDL/EIC:
- New York
The following provinces in Canada offer EDL/EIC:
- British Columbia
Quebec used to offer EDL, but discontinued the program in 2014. However, Quebec EDLs that are still valid can be used for cross-border travel until they expire.
How do you use an EDL/EIC to enter Canada?
If you have an EDL/EIC, you can use it to enter Canada by land or water without a passport. You just need to present your card to the border officer, who will scan the RFID chip and verify your information. You may also be asked some questions about your trip, such as your purpose, duration, and destination. And you should also be prepared to declare any goods or currency that you are bringing into Canada, and follow the rules and regulations regarding prohibited or restricted items, such as firearms, alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, or animals.
However, having an EDL/EIC does not guarantee your entry into Canada. You still need to meet the basic requirements for admission, such as being in good health, having enough money for your stay, and having a valid reason to visit. And you also need to comply with the COVID-19 travel restrictions, which may include providing proof of a negative test result, submitting your travel and contact information through the ArriveCAN app, and quarantining for 14 days upon arrival. You should check the latest travel advice from the Government of Canada before you plan your trip.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of an EDL/EIC?
An EDL/EIC can be a convenient and cost-effective option for frequent travelers who only visit Canada by land or water. It can save you time and hassle at the border, as you don’t need to carry a passport or fill out a paper form. It can also enhance your security, as the RFID chip can prevent identity theft and fraud.
However, an EDL/EIC also has some limitations and risks. It is not valid for air travel, so you still need a passport if you want to fly to Canada or other countries. It is also not accepted by all countries, so you may need a visa or other documents depending on your destination. Moreover, the RFID chip can pose a privacy concern, as it can be read by unauthorized devices or hackers. You should protect your card with a shielded sleeve or case, and report any loss or theft immediately.
Additional points to consider
Before you decide to get or use an EDL/EIC, you should also consider the following points:
- An EDL/EIC is not a substitute for a passport, and it does not guarantee your entry into Canada. You still need to meet the eligibility and health requirements, and follow the rules and regulations for cross-border travel. You should also be aware of the potential privacy and security issues associated with the RFID chip, and take precautions to safeguard your card and information.
- An EDL/EIC is only valid for land and water crossings, not for air travel. If you want to fly to Canada or other countries, you still need a passport. You should also check the visa requirements for your destination, as some countries may not accept an EDL/EIC as a valid travel document.
- An EDL/EIC is only available in some states and provinces, and the application process and requirements may vary. You should check with your local issuing authority for more details on how to get an EDL/EIC, and what documents you need to provide. You should also keep in mind that some states and provinces may discontinue the EDL/EIC program in the future, as some have already done so.
- An EDL/EIC may have a different expiration date than your regular driver’s license or identification card. You should check the validity of your EDL/EIC before you travel, and renew it if necessary. You should also keep your EDL/EIC in a safe place, and report any loss or theft immediately.
An EDL/EIC is a useful document for Americans who want to travel to Canada by land or water without a passport. It can simplify and expedite the border crossing process, and prove your identity and citizenship. However, it is not a substitute for a passport, and it does not guarantee your entry into Canada. You still need to meet the eligibility and health requirements, and follow the rules and regulations for cross-border travel. You should also be aware of the potential privacy and security issues associated with the RFID chip, and take precautions to safeguard your card and information.