B.C.’s enhanced driver’s licence with U.S. border crossing feature is being phased out as improved Canadian passport and NEXUS card services have made it redundant for most users.
The enhanced driver’s licence and B.C. identity card were introduced in B.C. in 2008 as an option for people entering the U.S. via land or sea without the expense and complicated application of a passport. The introduction of a simplified application, 10-year Canadian passports and the growing popularity of the federal NEXUS card for frequent border crossers by air or land has meant a decline in demand for the $35 option for a driver’s licence.
Applications for new ones were suspended in March 2020 due to COVID-19 border restrictions, and won’t be reopened, as the Insurance Corp. of B.C. has had to subsidize the option to the tune of $7.5 million by 2021.
“Interest in B.C.’s enhanced driver’s licence and enhanced identity card continues to wane; 26 per cent fewer cards are active now than in January 2018, and in 2019, only four in 10 holders of expiring cards chose to renew,” the B.C. ministry of public safety said in a statement Jan. 18. “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.”
Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba also offered enhanced identity cards. Quebec retired its program in 2014, Ontario followed suit last year and Manitoba is winding its program down in 2022. It will take five years for all existing enhanced B.C. driver’s licences to expire before the program is wound up.