About the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI)
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), which the U.S. Congress passed into U.S. law in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (2004), regulates entry into the U.S. It requires all travellers, including U.S. and Canadian citizens, to present a passport or another secure document or a combination of documents that establishes citizenship and identity when travelling to, or through, the U.S. from within the western hemisphere. A passport or a NEXUS card is now required to enter the U.S. by air. Beginning June 1, 2009, the U.S. requires all travellers (including U.S. citizens) to present a passport or another approved document when entering the U.S. by land or water ports of entry. The new U.S. law recognizes Enhanced Driver’s Licences (EDLs) issued by Canadian provinces and U.S. States for travel to the U.S. at land and water ports of entry.
The EDL Program
In anticipation of the June 1, 2009 WHTI requirements, the Government of Canada worked closely with the provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, as well as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to develop the Enhanced Driver’s Licence (EDL) and Enhanced Identification Card (EIC) programs. Participation in the EDL program, open to Canadian citizens only, is voluntary.
An EDL is a secure driver’s licence that denotes a person’s identity and Canadian citizenship. The card is similar to a regular driver’s licence in most respects, with additional features such as citizenship information, a machine readable zone, and a radio frequency identification chip.
The EIC also denotes a person’s identity and Canadian citizenship, and is available to eligible Canadian citizens who do not wish to obtain or cannot obtain, an EDL (i.e. for medical reasons or age). The EDL and EIC are acceptable documents that may be presented for entry into the U.S. by land and water only. For the purposes of this summary, all further references to the EDL include the EIC.
Roles and Responsibilities
The EDL Program is a joint federal, provincial/territorial responsibility. The provinces/territories hold the primary responsibility for the ongoing delivery of the program, including taking applications and issuing EDL cards to Canadian citizens. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is the overall Government of Canada lead on this program with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) also playing a key role.
CIC, as the federal department responsible for all matters relating to citizenship, has the following role in the EDL program:
- Provide guidance to provinces/territories on the requirement of Canadian citizenship status including the provision of:
- A list of documents which are acceptable evidence of Canadian citizenship; and,
- A citizenship questionnaire for EDL applicants.
- Develop training materials and tools to assist provinces/territories as it relates to the examination and review of an EDL applicant’s documentary evidence filed in support of their claim to Canadian citizenship and responses to the citizenship questionnaire, and delivering training to the provinces/territories.
- Perform quality assurance reviews to monitor the provincial/territorial decision-making process as it relates to the examination of documentary evidence of Canadian citizenship on an EDL application. The quality assurance process will also review the EDL applicant’s responses to the citizenship questionnaire.
Collection and Use of Personal Information
CIC will collect minimal personal information (i.e. full name, birth date, gender, EDL application number, etc.) on EDL applicants from the provinces/territories to conduct quality assurance reviews. Before sharing the information with CIC, provinces/territories must obtain signed, informed consent from EDL applicants through a detailed consent form.
CIC will use the information strictly for the quality assurance review process and will not share it with any outside parties unless required by law to do so.
CIC has conducted a privacy impact assessment (PIA) on the sharing of the EDL applicant information between the provinces/territories and CIC to ensure compliance with all relevant federal and provincial privacy laws. The PIA determined that the privacy risks were low. CIC has developed an action plan to mitigate these risks. CIC submitted a report on the findings of the PIA to the federal Office of the Privacy Commissioner in April 2009, and remains committed to taking any further action as necessary.
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