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B.C. phasing out travel ID cards

B.C. is phasing out the enhanced driver’s licence (EDL) and enhanced identification card (EIC), originally offered to ease entry into the U.S.

The popularity of other cost-effective travel documents that are valid longer and allow for air travel are among the reasons for the discontinuation.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ICBC, which administers the application process on behalf of government, suspended the application process in March 2020, due to the requirement for a lengthy in-person appointment. No new cards have been issued since. Applications for new cards are no longer being accepted.

Introduced in 2008, B.C.’s EDL served as a single piece of identification allowing the bearer to enter the U.S. through ports and land crossings only. It cost $35 more than a regular B.C. driver’s licence. Non-drivers and youth could obtain an EIC with similar benefits. These options coincided with a then-new law requiring travellers to present a valid passport or other secure document when entering the U.S.

However, since then Canada has simplified its passport application process and introduced a 10-year passport option. As well, the NEXUS expedited border control card has grown in popularity. With either of these alternatives, the bearer can also enter the U.S. by air, which is not possible with the EDL or EIC.

Interest in B.C.’s EDL and EIC continues to wane: 26% fewer cards are active now than in January 2018, and in 2019, only four in 10 holders of expiring cards chose to renew. As a result, the program – originally envisioned as self-funding – has run deficits consistently since 2014 and in all but two years of its operation. To date, the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General has provided $7.5 million to cover costs incurred by ICBC for administering the program.

Phasing out of the EDL program will occur over a five-year period, ending in September of 2025, when all current cards will have expired. Active licences and ID cards will remain valid through their expiry, and existing cards will not be renewed.

In addition to B.C., the EDL program was offered in Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba. Ontario began winding down its program in July 2019, Quebec retired its program in 2014 and Manitoba has recently announced it will be winding down its program in 2022.

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