Real ID Act finally sees light of the day

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) calls the Real ID Act a nationwide effort intended to prevent terrorism, reduce fraud, and improve the reliability and accuracy of identification documents that State governments issue. Dogged by controversies, the Act has been sitting under the hammer since 2005, when George Bush signed it into law. After more then two years of debating, on January 29, 2008, the DHS published the final regulations implementing the REAL ID Act, which will come into effect from May 11, 2008.

The REAL ID Act of 2005 establishes the security and authentication standards of identification required by people entering federal buildings, boarding airplanes or opening bank accounts. According to the agency press release, the rule will set uniform standards of integrity and reliability of drivers’ licenses and identification cards, strengthen issuance capabilities, and increase security at drivers’ license and identification card production facilities.

REAL ID will address document fraud by setting specific requirements that states must adopt for compliance, to include:

1. Information and security features that must be incorporated into each card;
2. Proof of the identity and U.S. citizenship or legal status of an applicant;
3. Verification of the source documents provided by an applicant; and
4. Security standards for the offices that issue licenses and identification cards.

The first deadline for compliance with REAL ID is Dec. 31, 2009. By then, all states must upgrade the security of their license systems, which includes a check for lawful status of all applicants. Some states are expected to be compliant well before that time.
However, all States have not decided to comply with REAL ID yet. In case of non-compliance the DHS has issued the warning that their state-issued driver’s licenses or ID cards will not being recognized as identification for boarding an airplane or entering a federal government building beginning May 11, 2008.

Any of the State’s can put in a request for extension within March 31, 2008 from DHS, on the premises that the state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards may not meet the DHS standard requirement. In that case, the state issued licenses and identification cards will be accepted nationally until December 31, 2009.

The State’s are allow a second extension until May 11, 2011, under the condition that it meets the 18 requirements of the DHS’ Material Compliance Checklist by December 31, 2009.

DHS is making approximately $360 million available to assist states with REAL ID implementation. A 73 percent cost reduction – from an original estimate of $14.6 billion to approximately $3.9 billion – was achieved mainly by giving states greater flexibility in issuing licenses to older Americans. The dead line for replacing old state-issued cards has been set in accordance to birth dates.

 By December 1, 2014 for individuals born after December 1, 1964; AND
 By December 1, 2017 for individuals born before December 1, 1964.

The new set of driver’s licenses and identification cards issued under Real ID Act will have an eight-year validity.
For foreign national with nonimmigrant status, the State’s will issue temporary driver’s license and identification card, which will be valid as long as his or her immigration status and expire along with the Visa. If the foreign national does not have a set date on his immigration document, their license or ID card will be valid for one year and will need to be renewed.

The Real ID Act has faced severe criticism over the years. Organizations like Electronic Privacy Information Center believe the REAL ID database can rather become a major security concerns and actually lead the way for identity fraud. As one would remember, the electronic passports have also received similar criticism.