Guide to Enhanced Driver Licenses (EDL)

Get in-depth information on EDLs and learn about Radio Frequency Identification RFID.

Where you can use your Enhanced Driver License

You can use your Enhanced Driver License (EDL) as identification in the following ways:

Using your EDL return to the U.S.

You can use your EDL to return to the U.S. by land or by sea only. For more information about:

Using your EDL to board a plane

You can use your EDL to board domestic flights. It isn't accepted for international flights.

Registering to vote

We'll register you to vote, or we'll update your voter registration when you get an EDL. If you don't want to register to vote when you get your EDL, we'll give you the opportunity to decline. See RCW 46.20.156 for more information, or read about voter registration eligibility.

Getting your enhanced driver license (EDL)

See what steps to take to get an EDL.

Where to get your EDL

You must make an appointment to apply in person at one of our driver licensing office locations. Our staff will interview you. You'll need to provide documents to prove your citizenship, identity, and residence. You'll also have your photograph taken.


When you apply for your EDL, you must establish (or re-establish) your identity, U.S. citizenship, and WA residence.

When to expect your EDL

You should get your EDL within 2-3 weeks after we approve your application.

Residency and citizenship requirements

You must be a resident of Washington State and show us proof of residency when you apply. Only United States citizens who can provide proof of citizenship are eligible for an EDL. You can't use a green card or work visa to get an EDL.

If you are living in Washington while on active military service and have a license from another state, you can get an EDL if you:

  • Surrender your out of state license
  • Are a resident of Washington State
  • Show us proof of residency and citizenship when you apply

Security and privacy

The federal government designed the EDL with enhancements that are industry best practices. This includes:

  • An icon on the front of the card to show it is an EDL.
  • A machine-readable zone like a bar code on the back of the card that a border agent can scan like a passport.
  • A radio frequency identification (RFID) tag to speed identification checks at border crossings.
    • For more information about RFID tags, see Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) below.

Data security

We work hard to keep your personal information secure. We do this by:

  • Encrypting personal identifying information transmitted between Washington State and the border agent
  • Using a dedicated and secure circuit to send the unique reference number in your EDL to the Customs and Border Protection network
  • Using a closed and secure network design, including firewalls
  • Limiting and controlling access to the network, network equipment, and data centers
  • Recognizing the network address of an information query as a legitimate requestor
  • Rejecting requests from all unrecognized network addresses

Only our employees who have passed a thorough background check have access to your personal information. By law, we can't share this information with anyone. We'll share this information if a court requires us to give it to a law enforcement agency.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)

Radio Frequency Identification is a wireless technology that stores and retrieves data remotely. An RFID system can include:

  • An RFID tag with a microchip
  • An antenna embedded in a card or other item
  • An RFID reader
  • A database

The federal government requires RFID technology in ID cards used to re-enter the United States. This helps speed up identification checks at the border. Each EDL contains an RFID tag like the one used in U.S. passports.

To learn more, see What is Radio Frequency Identification (RFID).

How does it work?

  1. The RFID tag embedded in your EDL/EID contains a unique reference number. At the border crossing station, an RFID reader uses electromagnetic waves to collect the number.
  2. The reader converts the radio waves sent back from the RFID tag into digital information. It then transmits it to the Customs and Border Protection network. Data encryption, secure networks, and firewalls protect the information while it's in transit.
  3. The network compares the reference number to our records. This verifies that your identity matches the information printed on the front of your EDL/EID card.

RFID and security

For extra security and convenience when crossing the border, each EDL/EID has an ultra-high frequency passive vicinity RFID tag in it. We use this type of tag because:

  • Ultra-high frequencies offer better range and can transfer data faster.
  • Passive RFID tags are more secure because they don't have a power source. They can't send information until they get power from the RFID reader.
  • Vicinity RFID tags are faster and easier to use because readers can scan them from several feet away.

The RFID tag embedded in your card doesn't contain any personal identifying information. It only has a unique reference number. The tag doesn't have a power source and can't send data. An RFID reader at the border crossing station sends radio waves to the tag in your card. It collects the reference number so the system can match it to our records. This helps to verify the information printed on the front of your card.

Tampering with or deactivating the RFID tag embedded in your card will invalidate it. You won't be able to use it for border crossing.

It a Class C felony to intentionally read, capture, or possess information from a person's Enhanced Driver License/ID Card without that person's knowledge or consent.

Need additional help? Here's how to contact us:

call Phone: 360-902-3900
(TTY: Call 711)
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