Enhanced drivers’ licenses will be an acceptable form of identification when the land and sea phase of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative goes into effect next year.

The departments of Homeland Security and State expect WHTI to be fully implemented by next summer. Once WHTI is implemented, travelers crossing the U.S. Canadian border by land or sea will have to present WHTI-compliant documents—which are expected to include passports and passport cards. But now travelers will have another option.

“Next year we'll be implementing a rule in stages that will require not a passport but either a passport, a PASS card, a NEXUS card, or an enhanced driver's license to cross the land border,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, in a speech last week at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection 2007 Trade Symposium.

Canadian officials, as well as officials from U.S. border states, have been pressing U.S. officials to accept more options for proof of identity, including enhanced licenses. Canadian provinces such as Ontario and Quebec, as well as the state of Washington, are developing these special licenses.

The Washington license will differ from regular licenses by including a special icon on the front indicating the holder is a U.S. citizen. The back of the license will have text that can be scanned by border agents, and the license will also contain a radio-frequency identification chip that is required by the federal government to facilitate checks at border crossings. The license is expected to cost $10 or $15 more than the standard driver’s license.