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Enhanced Driver's Licenses

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Written by Dr. Madeleine Roberts
Published on January 31, 2024
Research Highlights

Enhanced driver’s licenses are offered in five states to provide proof of identity and U.S Citizenship in crossing a U.S. border.

Please see our full Science Note on Citizenship Markings on Driver’s Licenses.

Enhanced driver’s licenses are offered to residents of 5 states (MI, MN, NY, VT, and WA) to serve as proof of identity and U.S Citizenship (Department of Homeland Security (DHS) 2023). This document is used both as a driver’s license and as a replacement for a U.S. passport at a U.S. border. Enhanced driver’s licenses are marked by the word “Enhanced” or can show a yellow star icon in the top right corner (Figure 1).

Enhanced driver’s licenses contain additional technology to improve the experience of crossing the border, including a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip, Machine Readable Zone, or barcode that provides a unique reference number to the RFID system, allowing the border agent to access the holder’s personal identifying information (DHS 2023).

In order to hold an enhanced driver’s license, the applicant must present a document from each category:

  • Proof of legal presence: U.S. Passport, Certified U.S. birth certificate, Consular report of birth abroad issued by the U.S. State Department, or Certificate of citizenship or naturalization
  • Social Security number: W-2, Social Security card, SSA or non-SSA 1099 Social Security benefits tax form, or pay stub containing name and Social Security number
  • Proof of identity: U.S. passport, driver’s license, or other Government, military, or tribal ID
  • Proof of state residency
  • Name change document (if applicable)

Because these documents meet the security requirements of the REAL-ID Act, enhanced driver’s licenses are automatically REAL-ID licenses (MI Department of State 2023).

Figure 1. Examples of enhanced drivers licenses in two participating states. These licenses are marked by the word “Enhanced” and/or have a yellow star icon indicating that they meet requirements for Federal Identification.

*NOTE: This memo was written in response to a specific legislator request and is meant to supplement the research contained in the following full Science Note: Citizenship Markings on Driver’s Licenses.

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