Enhanced Tribal Card

Enhanced Tribal Card


WHTI Made Simple

There is a lot of talk and a lot of confusion about WHTI, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. We have compiled this guide to help you quickly cut through the misunderstandings, misinformation, and accelerated marketing throughout Indian Country.

What is the difference between ETC and WHTI?

The acronym ETC stands for Enhanced Tribal Card. This is not a specific standard, but rather the name for any tribal identification that carries modern security features including machine-readable and verifiable information (optical character data, MRZ and RFID). The WHTI standard is a specific United States federal card and data formatting requirement for what information must be on the card, the areas of the card that information is to be displayed, and how information must be provided for machine automated processing, as well as details on data interchange for card verification purposes.

Why would I want a WHTI compliant identification card?

If you have tribal members that want to use their tribal identification to travel between the United States and Canada or Mexico, you can facilitate their travel with a WHTI compliant card. When the WHTI standard was first issued, it was stated that non-compliant cards would not be honored by 2010. This statement was amended in 2009 to continue allowing for non-compliant but valid tribal identification to be used indefinitely; however the use of non-compliant cards may result in delays at border stations for additional verification of tribal cards unfamiliar to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) staff, as well as increases the risk of identity fraud and entry of illegal persons into the United States.

What are the basic steps to issue WHTI compliant cards?

No matter what vendor you work with, you will have to do these following steps before you can begin issuing compliant cards:

  1. Draft and sign a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
  2. Obtain a GS1 company prefix from EPCglobal (click for more information).
  3. Identify a vendor for your card stock that will pre-encode your unique GS1 identification in a Gen 2 RFID embedded in each card.
  4. Draft and sign an Interconnection Security Agreement (ISA) with DHS for secure data exchange.
  5. Sign either a Data Push or Data Pull service agreement with DHS for data exchange.
  6. Provide a secure card issuing environment and process to prevent fraud. Tribally established security measures must be outlined and provided to DHS.

What is the difference between Push and Pull data transfer, and which is better?

When a tribal member crosses a U.S. border and presents their WHTI compliant card, the CBP will compare the card against a database of known valid cards. That database must be regularly updated to stay current. If the card is verified using the Pull method, you must maintain your own database with the few card validation data fields (name, birth date, photo and card ID) and make it available for CBP to access any time, any day. Alternatively, you can use the Push method to send that basic validation data to CBP when you issue the card and they will maintain their own database. In either case, the database only contains those few validation fields, and only for persons that have requested and received a WHTI compliant ID card.
Regarding which is better, it depends a little on how many WHTI cards you will be issuing, how often you expect the cards to be validated, and the size of your Information Technologies (IT) budget. In most cases, however, we recommend the Push model to reduce your monthly costs and data management responsibilities, and there is a wider selection of data exchange methods.

Can I issue WHTI compliant cards with Progeny?

Yes! We have been working with Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency, and several tribes since 2008 to provide an integrated, seamless, cost-effective solution for WHTI card production that promotes you as the authority of your data and identification process. Progeny includes (at no additional cost!) customizable card templates with the required machine readable zone (MRZ) optical data, support for most modern card printers including Datacard, Evolis, Fargo, and Zebra, and offers integration with RFID reading and encoding peripherals. As your technology solutions provider, we will assist you with installing and configuring your Progeny software, the ID production hardware, and connectivity for data interchange.

I heard Progeny cannot do WHTI cards, is that true?

This is false. We have been providing WHTI-capable technology solutions since April 2009.

I am concerned about RFID, will it permit the US government to track my members?

This is false. The WHTI standard uses Class 1, Gen 2 RFID. This type of RFID is a passive ID that may be read at a limited range of no more than a few meters. There is no active transmission. The ID contains a couple of simple numbers that the Customs and Border Protection agency may use at border crossing stations to search their secure database to determine who issued the card (what tribe or other nation), and who the card holder is. Protective sleeves may be obtained to prevent the RFID from being read when not crossing a national border.

Where can I get more information?

The Progeny support staff are a great resource for immediate answers to many common questions. Contact us via our online Contact Form, or call us at (530) 222-2964. Additionally, we have contact information for key persons with the Department of Homeland Security that can provide you with the most current and up-to-date information packets regarding all the details of issuing WHTI-compliant cards.