States control the issuance of driver's licenses, but passage of a federal law in 2005 is changing the rules states will have to follow. Under its REAL ID program, the Department of Homeland Security is asking states to make certain that the identifying documents used by a person to obtain a driver's license have been verified. The federal government has not set a date yet for full implementation of its heightened identification procedures, but someone without a verified license might be denied access to federal buildings and airports.
REAL ID - States trying to catch up
Under the federal initiative, departments of motor vehicles will be asked to offer their residents the opportunity to renew expiring licenses or apply for a new license with original documents to prove the applicant's identity. Only originals of the following documents will be accepted as proof of identity:
- Birth certificates
- Social Security cards
Driver's licenses issued after the individual's identity has been verified will bear a gold star to indicate they are acceptable for use under the new federal program. States are free to establish rules that allow people to opt out of the verification procedures.
The new standards for driver's licenses will do more than allow entry into certain locations. It is believed that identity theft is more difficult when obtain a license is based on identity documents that have been verified by the department of motor vehicles.
Effects of the REAL ID program
Entry into a federal building or facility and entry onto a military base require proper identification. As of last year, unless a person had another form of acceptable identification, driver's licenses were no longer accepted unless they were issued by a state using the REAL ID procedures or a state that had obtained an extension from the government for implementation of the program.
The Department of Homeland Security plans to implement its REAL ID policies at airports beginning in January 2018 by requiring REAL ID-compliant driver's licenses or other acceptable form of identification such as a passport for domestic travel. The DHS will continue to accept licenses issued by states that have not fully implemented the program but have requested an extension.
On October 1, 2020, domestic air passengers will have to produce a REAL ID driver's license or passport in order to board a flight. Beginning on that date, the DHS will no longer accept licenses issued by states in which identity documents have not been verified.
Questions and concerns about REAL ID
Once it is fully implemented at airports and federal facilities, the verified identity program will not apply to children under 18 years of age. The DHS has said that only the adult accompanying the minor will have to produce identification.
The government is stressing that the goal of the REAL ID program is to establish standardized criteria for states to implement. By doing so, it is anticipated that identity that has been verified will improve national security and make it safer for air travelers.
Click here to check other public record resources for Background Check information.