Lines have been snaking out the doors at some Washington state licensing offices, with drivers waiting for hours to get a special new license that also functions as ID for crossing the U.S.-Canada border.
Called the Washington state enhanced driver’s license, it’s so popular that the state Department of Licensing announced new procedures Monday to unclog the offices that issue them.
“Remarkable demand for this new product is driving up wait time,” said DOL deputy director Alan Haight.
Licensing offices in Western Washington have been particularly busy.
The DOL will screen applicants waiting outside licensing offices starting at 7:15 a.m.; will put greeters at front doors to steer applicants the right way; and is encouraging those who simply need to renew a standard driver’s license to do so online.
Hours for walk-in applications for the enhanced licenses will be reduced.
They won’t be accepted after 2 p.m. weekdays and noon on weekends to cut the afternoon crowds.
To get the enhanced license, drivers must show up for an in-person interview and bring documents that prove their identity, U.S. citizenship and Washington state residency.
The enhanced license can be obtained at 14 DOL offices around the state, four by appointment only and the other 10 offering same-day service for walk-in customers – which is where the lineups have been long.
After being interviewed, applicants will get a temporary enhanced license.
It can be used for driving but not to cross the border; drivers must wait for the permanent license to arrive in the mail in about two weeks.
More than 73,500 enhanced licenses have been issued in recent months after the federal government approved their use as border-crossing ID.
The licenses, which look like a standard Washington license but contain a radio chip encoded with personal information, serve both as a driver’s license and identification for land or sea border crossings between the U.S. and Canada.
A passport is required for all international air travel.
The demand for the enhanced licenses results from a new U.S. law that took effect June 1, tightening border-crossing requirements for land or sea travel between the U.S. and Canada.
U.S. citizens now must have either a passport, a passport card, a Nexus “trusted traveler” card or an enhanced driver’s license to take a car, train, bus or ferry between the U.S. and Canada.
There are looser ID requirements for children under 16 and youth groups of 16- to 18-year-olds, and for some active-duty military personnel.
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