State Of Arizona To Offer WHTI-Compliant Driver’s License

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the state of Arizona recently signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to enhance the security of state driver’s licenses to offer a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI)-compliant document to U.S. citizen residents and to pledge future compliance with the requirements of REAL ID.

The Arizona agreement, much like those established with the states of Washington, Vermont and New York earlier this year, will serve as an option available to U.S. citizens to satisfy WHTI requirements. DHS announced in June that U.S. and Canadian citizens will need to present either a WHTI-compliant document or government-issued photo ID and proof of citizenship, such as a driver’s license and birth certificate, beginning on Jan. 31, 2008, for admissibility into the United States. The department intends to end the routine practice of accepting oral declarations alone at land and sea ports of entry at that time.

“I value the governor’s leadership in making Arizona licenses more secure,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. “America knows too well how dangerous unsecured licenses can be. The public is way ahead of government when it comes to secure identification. They want protection from identity theft, and they want greater facilitation of lawful trade and travel. Agreements like this one, and the others before it, move secure identification in the right direction, and I urge other states to do the same.”

“Arizonans deal every day with the many complex issues surrounding border security and immigration," said Governor Janet Napolitano. "I believe this enhanced identification will be a useful tool. It is my hope that the partnership with the Secretary and the agency will support work on this new project throughout the process of its development.”

The state of Arizona will develop a technologically-enhanced driver’s license that will securely validate the identity and U.S. citizenship of Arizona residents who voluntarily apply and qualify. The enhanced driver’s license, which is proposed to be accepted for border-crossing purposes under WHTI, is expected to be slightly more expensive than a standard Arizona driver’s license and will require proof of citizenship, identity, and residence. The enhanced document also will be aligned to comply with REAL ID over time.

DHS, in turn, will provide the technology and data sharing specifications to facilitate the use and verification of the enhanced driver’s license at a port of entry.

In addition, Arizona has pledged to become compliant with REAL ID as soon as practicable. DHS will soon issue the REAL ID final rule, which is intended to strengthen identification through both physical security features and a secure issuance process. Arizona’s REAL ID-compliant license would be available to U.S. citizen residents who do not wish to obtain an enhanced driver’s license.

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