State - Misinformation sparks need to set record straight on RIFD

Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land recently corrected misinformation being circulated regarding the technology incorporated into Michigan's enhanced driver's license and ID card.

The false information deals with the radio frequency identification, or RFID, chip embedded in enhanced licenses and ID cards. The misinformation, typically passed along by e-mail, is needlessly confusing and concerning the public, Land said.

"Facts are essential to the integrity of any public policy discussion," Land said. "No one is well served by information that is misleading or flat-out untrue. We're proud that Michigan is at the nation's forefront in providing secure, convenient technology for the benefit of our customers. We encourage anyone interested in an enhanced license to visit our Web site or ask questions. It's a popular option for many satisfied customers."

Land emphasized that:

* The RFID chip is not part of the standard driver's license or ID card. It is only in the enhanced license and ID, which are entirely optional. Customers are not required to purchase an enhanced license or ID if they prefer the standard version.

* Michigan has no plans to put the chip in the standard license or ID, nor is it required under the federal REAL ID Act of 2005.

* The U.S. Department of Homeland Security requires RFID technology in all border-crossing documents. Without it, Michigan residents will not have the option of using the enhanced license or ID card for border-crossing purposes. The RFID technology is required for documents such as enhanced licenses that are in compliance with the federal Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, or WHTI.

* RFID technology is commonly used to secure documents as well as prove identity and citizenship. For example, U.S. passports have an RFID chip.

* The RFID chip does not have personal information about the license holder. It merely contains a number that links to the person's record stored in a secure U.S. Department of Homeland Security database.

* Customers receive a protective sleeve in which to carry their enhanced license or ID card. The RFID chip cannot be detected by a remote "reader" until the document is removed from the sleeve.

RFID technology is used for customer convenience as well as border security. When travelers approach an American border station in a vehicle, they simply hold up their enhanced license or ID card. Border officials quickly retrieve the unique identifier number embedded in the RFID microchip when it is scanned by a remote "reader." This saves time and allows the license holder to cross the border faster.

Land proposed the enhanced license in response to WHTI. It requires anyone entering the United States, including U.S. citizens, to present a single document - either a passport or other WHTI-compliant document - showing their identity and citizenship. The RFID technology is needed to make the enhanced license and ID card WHTI-compliant.

The enhanced license is only available to Michigan residents who are U.S. citizens. It was first offered in April 2009 and is extremely popular, with more than 216,000 enhanced licenses and IDs being issued. It eliminates the need to carry multiple ID documents when returning to the U.S. by land or sea from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda or the Caribbean.

Land worked in conjunction with key lawmakers, municipal leaders and business groups to secure an agreement with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to develop the enhanced license.

A first-time enhanced driver's license costs $45 and ID cards are $30. Visit for more information on the enhanced license, ID card and fees.

Published: Thu, Sep 2, 2010