Driver’s license option to ease border crossingAn enhanced Minnesota driver’s license — for an extra $15 — will work like a passport, making re-entry from Canada easier.
By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune
An enhanced Minnesota driver’s license will work like a U.S. passport, allowing state residents to re-enter the United States from Canada.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed legislation Thursday to create a new license that will carry encoded data required by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for entry from Canada.
The bill was sponsored state Rep. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, and Sen. Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids.
Washington State has had an enhanced driver’s license option since 2008, and Michigan and New York followed last year. Vermont added the option in January.
The new license option will cost an additional $15 at the time Minnesota drivers renew their licenses. But that’s cheaper than a $100 U.S. passport or $85 passport card now required for U.S. adult citizens to re-enter the U.S. from trips north of the border.
The passport requirement went into effect last June. U.S. citizens 16 and younger can continue to use their birth certificates as identification at the border.
The passport requirement over the past year has been “choking off economic activity and travel vital to Northland communities and businesses,’’ Reinert said in a statement announcing the new law.
According to the Consulate General of Canada, Minnesota residents made 483,000 visits to Canada in 2006. More than 141,250 Minnesota jobs are supported by Canada-U.S. trade. And 28 percent of Minnesota’s foreign-bound goods are purchased by Canada.
The change also will enable many Canadian licensed drivers to enter Minnesota with just their provincial enhanced license. Several provinces have the enhanced licenses but their drivers have been unable to enter the state without a passport until Minnesota passed the new provision, Reinert said. He noted Canadians made more than 614,000 visits to Minnesota in 2006, spending $154 million here, but that their visits have been curtailed some by the U.S. passport requirement.
Minnesotans can purchase the new license at Department of Motor Vehicle locations across Minnesota beginning June 1, 2012, and they will be effective starting January 2013.
Reinert said the delay was requested by the Minnesota Department of Motor Vehicles so the change coincides with when the state will be letting a new contract for drivers licenses, a move that will save significant money.