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Enhanced Minnesota ID allows easier travel to Canada

An enhanced version of the driver's license or identification card that will allow re-entry into the United States via land and sea from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda or the Caribbean is shown here.

Minnesota drivers can now apply for an enhanced version of their driver's license or identification card, allowing for an easier border crossing from Canada.

The new licenses and ID cards allow residents re-entry into the United States via land and sea from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda or the Caribbean, eliminating the need for a passport, the state Department of Public Safety said in a statement Monday.

Since June 1, 2009, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative has required U.S. and Canadian travelers to present a passport or other document denoting identity and citizenship when entering the U.S., according to the federal Department of Homeland Security.

That passport requirement had been "choking off economic activity and travel vital to Northland communities and businesses," state Sen. Roger Reinert of Duluth said in 2010. Reinert and fellow DFL Sen. Tom Saxhaug of Grand Rapids were authors of the state's enhanced license bill signed by then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty a year after a federal anti-terrorism act requiring the passports took effect.

The cards were originally slated to be available for purchase at Department of Motor Vehicle locations beginning June 1, 2012, for use starting January 2013, the News Tribune reported in 2010.

Minnesota is the fifth state to enact the enhanced cards. The others -- all border states -- are Michigan, New York, Vermont and Washington.

To apply for an enhanced license, one must be: a U.S. citizen, Minnesota resident and at least 16 years old, have a driving record that doesn't prevent the legal operation of a motor vehicle (unless applying for an enhanced ID card), a Social Security card and proof of residency. The applications take two to four weeks to process. The first cards will be in use Feb. 17.

The cost for the enhanced license is $15 in addition to the fee charged for a regular driver's license or ID card.