As REAL ID Act deadlines loom—and compliant ID documents are developed and issued—our blog seems the perfect place to prepare you for what’s coming up. In the coming months, we’ll explain how REAL ID is rolling out in individual states, target dates for future enforcement of REAL ID, and other news you can use. We’re kicking off our blog series by getting back to the basics of REAL ID.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, nearly 3,000 people were killed in a series of coordinated terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia, using commercial airplanes as weapons. The attacks prompted the creation of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), designed to prevent similar attacks in the future. But efforts to strengthen national security didn’t stop there.
In 2005, another significant–but less obvious–step toward national security took place: Congress passed the REAL ID Act, based on the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the federal government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.” REAL ID is a cooperative effort between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DOH) and U.S. states and territories. Once fully implemented, REAL ID should make it difficult or impossible for terrorists and other criminals to forge identity documents and gain unlawful access to federally-regulated commercial aircraft, nuclear power plants, federal buildings, military bases, and other at-risk locations.
Today, more than half of the states and territories in the United states issue drivers’ licenses and ID cards that comply with REAL ID standards. By October 1,2020 all states should be issuing REAL ID-compliant cards.
Under REAL ID, the responsibility for security and accuracy lies with multiple agencies, and at various points in the “life cycle” of a driver’s license or ID card. This wrap-around approach includes the following:
At the issuing agency (DMV)
The REAL ID Act lays out minimum requirements regarding the data that is collected and verified by DMVs. Personal data on each license or ID card must include:
- The holder’s full legal name, date of birth, gender, driver’s license or ID card number, a digital photograph, address of principle residence, and the holder’s signature.
- Physical security features designed to prevent tampering, counterfeiting, or duplication for fraudulent purposes.
- Common machine-readable technology.
- Indicator on non-compliant cards: The license or ID card for any individual who does not meet REAL ID criteria, or who opts out of applying (and paying) for a REAL ID card (where the option is available) must clearly indicate non-compliance. Several states use the indicator “NOT FOR FEDERAL IDENTIFICATION” on the face of the card.
REAL ID also calls for tighter controls and careful verification of each applicant’s identity. DMVs are to train employees how to recognize fraudulent documents, and they must obtain a minimum proof of identity before a driver’s license or ID card can be issued. Two key requirements are:
- Social Security Number (verified with the Social Security Administration)
- Proof of lawful status (U.S. citizen, or foreigner who is in the U.S. legally), with status verified through an automated system.
At the location where licenses are stored and produced
To cut down on theft and fraudulent use of driver’s license and ID card materials, REAL ID requires issuing agencies to ensure the physical security of locations where licenses and ID cards are produced, as well as security of the document materials from which the cards are made. Further, all individuals authorized to manufacture or produce licenses and ID cards must pass security clearance requirements.
At Federal agencies
The REAL ID Act prohibits federal agencies from accepting for official purposes licenses and identification cards from states that do not meet these standards. This will require awareness and diligence on the part of those agencies.
This comprehensive approach to creating secure ID documents within a carefully-controlled system is the foundation of the REAL ID Act. But implementation of such a system is rarely easy, and the REAL ID Act is no exception. Next month we’ll bust some of the myths and misunderstandings around REAL ID.
Kristin Stanberry is an editor for Keesing Technologies. Her areas of expertise are secure ID documents, education, insurance and health. She gathers her knowledge from multiple sources all over the world including personal contacts with leading experts and agencies. Kristin lives in California and has over 20 years of experience publishing award-winning print and online content.