Prompted in part by post-9/11 security concerns, the Real ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005 in an effort to make it more difficult to acquire fraudulent driver licenses and other identification documents. It took effect on May 11, 2008, although several states have been granted extensions.
What Is Real ID?
The Real ID Act creates a uniform national list of minimum requirements for state-issued driver licenses and identification cards. The Act also sets standards for requiring and verifying documents proving citizenship status, identity and current residence. A central verification hub is being developed to allow all 50 states to easily check the validity of ID cards issued in other states.
Citizens will be able to hold only one Real ID card. They will not be permitted to receive a Real ID if they currently hold another driver license unless the first driver license is canceled.
The Department of Homeland Security is also working with interested states to develop Real ID driver licenses that will serve as alternative travel documents for travel throughout North America. Those ID cards will substitute for passports for Americans traveling to Canada and Mexico.
State Concerns Regarding Real ID
Nearly every state has applied for an extension of the May 11, 2008 deadline. The new technology and standards required for Real ID are forcing state governments to entirely reconfigure computer systems and driver license processing.
Entirely new driver licenses must be designed by most states. The Act requires extensive anti-counterfeiting measures and magnetically encoded data. Data storage is also a concern, as the Act has specific requirements on the length of time that records must be kept.
Finally, many states are concerned about the new role being thrust upon the DMV. In addition to issuing driver licenses, many experts feel that the DMVs are now being asked to act as immigration and Social Security fraud officers.
Privacy Concerns Regarding Real ID
Given the risks of identity theft, many experts have expressed concern about the centralized nature of Real ID verification. Without proper controls, it is possible that the database could become an easy target for identity thieves.
There are also growing concerns about the possibility of Real ID being the first step toward a national identity card. Many opponents believe that Real ID will gradually grow to include additional data, allowing personal tracking of individuals.