Canadian tests to begin on border-crossing license

Mon Jan 21, 2008 6:46pm EST
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By Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - The western Canadian province of British Columbia is set to start testing the country's first high-tech driver's license, aimed at allaying U.S. security concerns while also allowing spontaneous trips across the border.

The province unveiled new licenses on Monday that contain an electronic microchip that will give border guards access to the driver's citizenship information and serve as an alternative to a passport.

The licenses are initially designed to ease travel between British Columbia and Washington state, which is already taking applications for its own enhanced license project.

The first Canadian licenses are expected to be issued this spring.

The Pacific Coast province and state agreed to develop the licenses after the U.S. federal government said it would require all drivers and adult passengers -- including Americans -- to present a passport when entering the country from either Canada or Mexico.

Critics of the passport requirement, which will take effect by June 2009, say it will hamper routine trade and ignores the fact that border residents often make short and impromptu trips across the line for shopping or to visit friends.

"It's not simply a trading relationship its a social relationship," British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell said.

The provincial and state governments are keen to have their license systems in full operation before the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, which are expected to cause a spike in border crossings.   Continued...