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DHS and Arizona state officials will partner in development of the 'enhanced' driver's license to meet the department's Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative requirements.
Arizona became the third state today to volunteer for a Homeland Security Department program in which it will develop a hybrid identification card that combines a state driver's license with a U.S. border-crossing card.
DHS and state officials announced an agreement last week to partner in development of the 'enhanced' driver's license that is expected to meet the department's Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative requirements as well as align with future driver's license requirements of the Real ID Act, DHS said in a news release.
'Arizona's new driver's license is poised to be one of the nation's first to comply with Real ID requirements,' said an announcement by the state.
The 2005 Real ID Act was passed by Congress to set national standards for driver's licenses. Preliminary regulations were released by DHS in February 2006 and the final requirements are expected within several weeks or months. The identification program has been controversial because of its $11 billion price tag as well as concerns about privacy and security of the personal information.
Under the western hemisphere initiative, U.S. citizens returning to the United States by land will need to show either a passport or a DHS-approved border-crossing card, among extensive requirements to take effect at an unspecified date in summer 2008. As an interim step, starting in January 2008, a passport, specific border documents, or a driver's license with a birth certificate will be required.
Two other states, Washington and Vermont, have announced similar agreements with DHS. In Washington, officials intend to deploy a card with an embedded Generation 2 Radio Frequency Identification chip that can be read at distances of 30 feet. For Vermont, the card technology and design has not yet been determined, a DHS spokeswoman said.
The Arizona project requires legislative approval, which Gov. Janet Napolitano said she will seek. 'Arizona has been a leader among the states on issues related to border security and immigration. My hope is that this project will lead to an effective permanent program that can be implemented nationwide,' Napolitano said.
'I applaud the leadership of the state of Arizona who came forward to join us in our effort to bolster security through secure identification,' DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff said. 'This partnership helps us strike the right balance between security and facilitation, incorporating 21st-century technology and innovation.'
Under the project, the identification card to be developed in Arizona will be 'slightly more expensive' than a driver's license and will require proof of citizenship, identity and residence, DHS said.
Alice Lipowicz writes for Washington Technology, an 1105 Government Information Group publication.
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