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Enhanced ID not available on Whidbey Island

This summer’s vacation plans may require a little extra preparation if the travel itinerary includes a U.S., Canada border crossing.

While islanders can get a driver’s license in Oak Harbor, the “enhanced” version of the license that allows you to get into Canada is not available here. Instead, residents have to go to Mount Vernon or some other mainland licensing bureau, and they can expect a long wait.

Something called the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative requires travelers to carry a passport, enhanced driver’s license or other acceptable international travel identification, effective June 1. However, only 11 Washington state licensing offices offer the enhanced drivers license, and that does not include Oak Harbor.

Border agents aren’t stopping people from crossing yet, but are doing timely background checks on those not properly documented.

The newly implemented initiative that allows Washingtonians to use an enhanced drivers license in place of a passport is causing longer wait times at the 14 accredited licensing offices in Washington that distribute the enhanced licenses. The enhanced license may be purchased for the regular cost of a drivers license plus an additional $15. Passports cost $100.

According to Selena Davis, a communications consultant for the Washington state Department of Licensing, more than 60,000 enhanced drivers licenses have been issued since January 2008.

And recently the demand has doubled, she said.

Licensing officials ask for applicants to be patient.

The nearest offices to Whidbey Island are located in Mount Vernon, Bellingham, Smokey Point and downtown Seattle. In comparison to May 2008, the average Mount Vernon office wait time is 45 minutes longer this year, according to Davis. Enhanced drivers licenses are not available anywhere in Island County.

Travelers age 16 or older must show a passport, passport card, enhanced drivers license or other documentation such as the Nexus card. Young travelers, 16 and under, who travel with both parents must show an original birth certificate or certified copy. Children traveling with only one parent are required to carry proof of custody, according to the Washington state Department of Transportation.

According to U.S. Customs and Border protection the new rules enable the Department of Homeland Security to quickly and reliably identify a traveler and strengthen U.S. border security.

Travelers can learn more about requirements for crossing the border at www.getyouhome.gov. More information about the EDL is available at www.dol.wa.gov/about/news/priorities/edl.html.

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