Will Enhanced Driver’s Licenses Replace Passports?

It is amazing what you can learn from simply perusing the travel community forums.

Until HannahSoCal posted on the Travellerspoint forums to seek advice about whether a trip to Tijuana for dental treatment might result in permanent residence in Tijuana if she weren’t careful, I had no idea such a thing as an Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL) existed.

Perhaps you also have not heard of an EDL. It’s quite possible this item might have escaped your attention, as currently only a very limited number of states offer such a thing – Michigan, New York, Washington and Vermont.

The EDL is essentially a driver’s license that also works as a passport when crossing between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean through a land or sea port of entry. EDLs are outfitted with RFID chips that “will signal a secure system to pull up your biographic and biometric data for the CBP officer as you approach the border inspection booth”.

Very interesting stuff. And these EDLs are being (slowly) rolled out as part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative – another thing I had not heard of until I stumbled across Hannah’s Tijuana thread.

What do you think about EDLs? Once they become more commonplace, is there any reason they shouldn’t replace passports altogether? Do the RFID chips concern you? While passport stamps offer a pleasant form of travel nostalgia, surely we are rapidly approaching the day when an ink stamp on a piece of paper is no longer a necessary part of the international travel process.

And back to Hannah’s main point – if you are a U.S. resident, have you ever traveled internationally for dental treatment and/or utilized a university dental program for treatment here in the U.S.? If you have tried both methods, which in your opinion was the better option?

Read the thread in its entirety: Crossing the border at San Ysidro back into USA – Green Card Holder

Image republished from the Vermont DMV website.


  1. I paid extra for the passport card last time I renewed. I think it was worth it and I’m sure an enhanced DL would be. It’s nice to have something to fall back on. I use my passport card a lot when I go on cruise ship shore excursions. It’s nice because it’s small, I can leave my regular passport locked in a safe on board and it’s waterproof. I’m sure these are great for those that cross into Canada or Mexico on a regular basis.
    Not crazy about the chips and I like to keep mine in the foil sleeve but I think most ID will have chips soon. Can you imagine those that don’t want to require photo ID to vote with the chip added into the mix.

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