Currently only five states offer an enhanced driver’s license (EDL) option – and since February 2014, approximately 2000 EDL/enhanced identification cards (EID) have been issued in Minnesota, where there are currently 4.4 million people in the state with a valid driver’s license. This is, admittedly, a small proportion of eligible license holders, but the enhanced documents are not required. They are available as a convenient option for those traveling to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, or the Caribbean and returning to the United States via sea or land. The EDL and EID contain a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip, with which border agents can verify citizenship and identity in a federal database. The RFID encodes a random number as well as biographical data, but not biometric information, such as fingerprints.
The front of the EDL/EID looks strikingly similar to the standard Minnesota license and identification card, but a close inspection will reveal two differences: 1) the word “enhanced” appears across the top of the document and 2) the American flag appears on the enhanced documents.
Interestingly, the back of the cards are also different, but in a non-obvious way: while both standard and enhanced documents feature magnetic stripes and 2D barcodes, the data encoded by the 2D barcode differs. The 2D barcode on standard licenses and identification cards contains all the information from the front of the card, including the cardholder’s address. The 2D barcode on EDL/EIDs contains only the cardholder’s name, date of birth, and card number. However, swiping the magnetic stripe on EDL/EIDs will provide address information.
The enhanced documents are available to Minnesota residents 16 years and older and carry an additional fee of $15 (compared to a standard license or identification card).