Schenectady County

State to issue drivers new enhanced licenses

Officials are preparing to perform fingerprinting and background checks on clerks as part of plans t
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Officials are preparing to perform fingerprinting and background checks on clerks as part of plans to issue the new Enhanced Driver’s License for New York residents by the end of this summer.

The new licenses, called EDLs for short, are touted as a cheaper alternative to getting a passport.

State officials in May announced an agreement with the federal Department of Homeland Security which allows New York to issue the licenses which are expected to make border crossing easier for businesses while helping citizens comply with federal passport requirements.

Starting on June 1, 2009, the federal government will require New York residents to provide a passport or an EDL when entering the United States from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda.

The EDL will cost $30 more than a standard driver’s license which costs $50 to renew or up to $85 for a new one, depending on one’s age.

The $85 cost for an original license is collected from people aged 17 to 17ÿ1D2, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles’ Web site.

A passport costs $100.

The EDL will be valid for eight years, as is a regular state driver’s license, officials said.

The idea for the licenses, which will include a radio frequency identification tag, grew out of the post-Sept. 11 border security concerns, so clerks involved in collecting applications for the EDLs will have to undergo fingerprinting and background checks.

The checks are part of an agreement between the state and the federal Homeland Security.

Montgomery County Clerk Helen Bartone provided an update to county legislators Tuesday, and said she discussed the requirement with staff at the DMV office in Fonda already.

Seven people will be impacted by the requirement in the Fonda office, Bartone said.

Bartone said the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department will perform the fingerprinting and background checks, and said the state will pay for it.

Bartone said the background checks cost $110.

The state Division of Criminal Justice Services, once it completes its review of the fingerprints, will forward them onto the FBI for a federal check, according to program documents.

Schenectady County Clerk John J. Woodward said the new background check procedure will affect about 16 people in the department.

Woodward said he sees the requirement as a way for the government to instill public confidence in the process of collecting information for the new licenses.

Woodward said the new license could represent a cheaper alternative to people uninterested in getting a passport, but said he’s not expecting many people to come looking for one.

“A lot of people already have a passport,” Woodward said.

“I’m not really sure how much of this business we’re going to have, but we’re getting ready to offer this service to constituents,” Woodward said.

Woodward said many people in government work, those who seek pistol permits and substitute teachers are among those he believes routinely undergo the background check and fingerprinting process.

“It’s becoming much more of a commonplace thing,” Woodward said.

Felonies found during a search of a clerk’s background would disqualify them from processing the EDLs, Woodward said.

Information obtained from that check would be locked in a file in case the state sought proof of the check in the future, Woodward said.

When the state Division of Criminal Justice Services performs fingerprint checks, the fingerprints themselves are scanned and compared with those in the system to see if they match the fingerprints of felons.

If there are no matches, officials will get “no report.” If there are, the officials requesting the check will be notified, DCJS spokesman John Caher said.

Caher said the agency maintains the fingerprints in a file, and if a match from elsewhere comes up in the future, those requesting the background checks are notified.

People whose fingerprints are stored with DCJS in this manner have to make a formal request that the records be expunged if they get another job, Caher said.

Residents looking to get the new license, which is optional, have to provide a variety of information, according to the state DMV Web site.

At its simplest, the process requires an applicant to produce his or her current New York State driver’s license, birth certificate, a Social Security card and two forms of proof of residency, according to DMV.

Proofs of residency include jury duty notices issued within a year, a property deed, property or school tax bills and other documents.

The new EDL is expected to speed up border crossings with the help of a radio frequency identification tag.

Similar to devices used in car keys, highway toll tags and security access cards, the RFID tags to be inserted into all the new enhanced driver’s licenses will allow border crossing guards and other government officials to read the cards remotely.

State DMV Spokesman Ken Brown said the tag will only hold a single number.

“The chip itself won’t contain personal information,” Brown said.

The number the tag holds, when entered into a database, will bring up the information found on the face of the enhanced driver’s license, including the person’s photograph, address and other information, Brown said.

Officials are hoping to get the enhanced drivers licenses available by the end of this summer.

More information about the enhanced drivers license can be found on the state Department of Motor Vehicles Web site at www.nydmv.state.ny.us.

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