Information on Real ID and IL Licenses

After push-back from local governments around the country, the Department of Homeland Security acted on Friday to extend the Real ID compliance deadline until January 22, 2018. This means that your state driver’s license will still be a valid form of identification for boarding aircraft.

It’s been over ten years since the Real ID act was signed into law. Many states resisted and are still resisting the unfunded federal mandate. According to the Secretary of State’s office, Real ID implementation in Illinois will cost 57.3 million dollars over its first four years.

Read below for a full report from the Secretary of State's office: 


Report to the General Assembly from the Secretary of State Regarding the Denial of an Extension for Illinois to come into Compliance with the REAL ID Act - January 8, 2016

The Illinois Secretary of State’s office (SOS) has made numerous and ongoing improvements to the integrity and security of the process for issuing driver’s licenses and identification cards and to the security features of the cards themselves. With these steps SOS has satisfied 84% of the requirements for full compliance with the REAL ID Act. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recognized these efforts when granting Illinois an extension of time to comply with all of the requirements of the REAL ID Act in January of 2014 (this coincided with the DHS deadline for phase I of enforcement of the REAL ID Act). This initial extension lasted until October 10, 2014, and was renewed with a subsequent extension until October 10, 2015. On September 30, 2015, SOS requested another extension for compliance until October 10, 2016. On December 21, 2015, DHS denied that request (along with similar requests from Missouri, Minnesota, New Mexico and Washington). In its letter of denial DHS stated, in part: 

“Although the Department recognizes the State of Illinois’s efforts in enhancing the security of its driver’s licenses and identification cards, Illinois has not provided adequate justification for continued noncompliance that would warrant granting your request for another extension. As a result, federal agencies may not accept driver’s licenses and identification cards issued by your State for official purposes, in accordance with the phased enforcement schedule announced on December 20, 2013. The Department is allowing a grace period until January 10, 2016, before the expiration of the existing extension becomes effective.” 

A subsequent inquiry was made to DHS regarding the basis for the denial of Illinois’s extension request. In this inquiry SOS noted that the State of Louisiana was granted an extension even though its governor had vetoed a bill authorizing that state to participate in REAL ID. DHS responded as follows: 

“For this round of extensions it was not a requirement that the state commits to full compliance. There are a number of states such as Oregon, Maine, Idaho, Montana, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and South Carolina that received extensions but have laws prohibiting full compliance. The extensions were based on the progress a state has made in meeting the standards. However there are a few standards like requiring lawful status and access to SAVE that by themselves would prevent a state from getting an extension. Your primary issue is lawful status like New Mexico and Washington. With the exception of committing to full compliance Louisiana meets most of the standards including lawful status and SAVE verification.” December 29, 2015 email from DHS Senior Policy Advisor, Office of State Issued Identification Support, (emphasis added). 

SOS intends to request a meeting with DHS officials to discuss our progress in complying with REAL ID requirements and to renew Illinois’s request for an extension while we address the steps necessary for full compliance. 

Statutory Changes Required for REAL ID Compliance 

Under current procedures, every applicant for an identification card or a standard driver’s license is required to provide the Secretary of State’s office with his or her social security number. That number is verified with the federal government by means of the social security online verification program (SSOLV) – which verifies the number is valid, was issued to a person with that name and date of birth, and the recipient is still alive. To possess a valid social security number the applicant must either be a U.S. citizen (by birth or through naturalization) or an immigrant who entered this country on a visa that entitled the applicant to obtain a social security number. Therefore, by requiring a social security number the Secretary of State’s office does require proof of legal presence for identification cards and standard driver’s licenses. 

However, DHS does not consider these SSOLV procedures to be adequate for purposes of establishing legal presence under the REAL ID Act. To comply with the Act, every applicant for a REAL ID compliant DL or ID card will be required to comply with the following REAL ID rule: 

6 CFR 37.11(c) Identity. (1) To establish identity, the applicant must present at least one of the following source documents: 
(i) Valid, unexpired U.S. passport. 
(ii) Certified copy of a birth certificate filed with a State Office of Vital Statistics or equivalent agency in the individual's State of birth. 
(iii) Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) issued by the U.S. Department of State, Form FS-240, DS-1350 or FS-545. 
(iv) Valid, unexpired Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551) issued by DHS or INS. 
(v) Unexpired employment authorization document (EAD) issued by DHS, Form I-766 or Form I-688B. 
(vi) Unexpired foreign passport with a valid, unexpired U.S. visa affixed accompanied by the approved I-94 form documenting the applicant's most recent admittance into the United States. 
(vii) Certificate of Naturalization issued by DHS, Form N-550 or Form N-570. 
(viii) Certificate of Citizenship, Form N-560 or Form N-561, issued by DHS. 
(ix) REAL ID driver's license or identification card issued in compliance with the standards established by this part. 
(x) Such other documents as DHS may designate by notice published in the Federal Register. 

While DHS highlighted the proof of legal presence issue in its explanation of the denial of our extension request, there are two other areas where Illinois law is inconsistent with the requirements of the REAL ID Act. First, Illinois law allows a person to hold both a driver’s license and an identification card. Having both a REAL ID compliant driver’s license and a REAL ID compliant identification card is prohibited under the REAL ID Act. Second, Illinois law allows the issuance of non-expiring identification cards to applicants over 65 years of age, and persons with disabilities are issued identification cards that are valid for ten years. Under the REAL ID Act no card may be valid for more than eight years, and an updated photo of every Real ID holder must be taken no less frequently than every sixteen years. 

Therefore, to be compliant with the REAL ID Act, Illinois laws would have to be amended to require proof of legal presence as set forth in the rule noted above; prohibit anyone from holding both a driver’s license and identification card; and eliminate the non-expiring senior IDs and ten year persons with disabilities IDs. Identification cards for seniors and persons with disabilities could be valid for eight years, and the holders of those cards could be allowed to renew them remotely one time before being required to return to a SOS facility for an updated photograph. 

Estimated Four Year Cost for REAL ID Compliance 

As noted above, it appears states can receive extensions until at least October of 2016 without actually committing to implementing REAL ID. But if it is decided Illinois should fully implement REAL ID, significant financial resources will have to be devoted to this program. 

In our SOS facilities the last step in the process for obtaining a driver’s license or identification card is taking the applicant’s photo. In other words, only persons who are actually issued a DL or ID card have their photo taken. But under Section 37.11(a) of the REAL ID rules, the states are required to capture and maintain an image of each “applicant” for a DL or ID card, even if no card is issued. This means that the layout of all 120 permanent SOS facilities needs to be remodeled or reconfigured so that the cameras that are now at the end of the line (where they take the photo of individuals who have passed all of the tests and are about to be issued a driver’s license or identification card) are physically relocated to a position at or near the front of the line (where they will take the photo of every person who begins the application process). Some of these facilities will require only minimal modifications, while others will require extensive changes to the counters, cabling, and work-flow, etc. We are estimating an average remodeling cost of $25,000 per facility, for a total cost of $3 million. 

In the first four year renewal cycle for driver’s licenses under the REAL ID Act every applicant will be required to prove his or her legal presence in the United States. This will require all 8.5 million Illinois licensed drivers to present SOS with a certified copy of a birth certificate, passport, or one of the other listed documents. SOS must then scan and retain an image of each of those documents. In addition to these 8.5 million driver’s licenses, Illinois currently has approximately 3.4 million identification card holders. It is estimated that 2.3 million of these people have both a DL and an ID. Therefore, approximately 1.1 million ID only card holders will be required to submit the additional proof of legal presence. Processing each applicant and scanning these documents will take additional time and resources. In order to accomplish this in a timely manner SOS will incur additional personnel costs estimated at $44.8 million over a four year period. 

Moreover, although SOS has recently upgraded its abilities to capture, transmit and store digital images, the scope of these new requirements will necessitate even more enhancements to our system. These additional hardware and four year maintenance costs are estimated at $3.3 million. 

SOS conducts criminal background checks on all of its employees, but a different type of background check is required for all employees who will be involved in the issuance of REAL IDs. These additional background checks will cost approximately $53,000. 

REAL ID rules require that each birth certificate presented as proof of legal presence be verified through the Electronic Verification of Vital Events (EVVE) system. It is estimated the cost of these verifications will be approximately $5.4 million over the four year period. Other documents that are submitted as proof of legal presence will have to be verified as well. If one-half of the passport holders in Illinois submit passports as proof of legal presence, the estimated cost of verifying those passports will be $180,000. 

Whenever an applicant presents immigration documents, those documents will have to be verified through the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program operated by the Department of Homeland Security. Based on the estimated number of documented immigrants in Illinois, the cost of these SAVE verifications for a four year period will be approximately $1.2 million. 

Before issuing a REAL ID compliant DL or ID card SOS will be required to check with other states to verify the applicant does not have a REAL ID card from another state. This state-to-state verification system is being developed by AAMVA at this time. There will be a fee for these verifications, but the amount of the fee has not been determined. Assuming a nominal fee of $0.25 per transaction, the cost of these verifications will be $2.4 million over the first four years of the program. 

The total for these REAL ID related costs over this four year period will be $57.33 million. 

Access to Federal Facilities, Travel Restrictions and REAL ID Alternatives 

In its letter notifying Illinois of the denial of our request for an extension of time to comply with the REAL ID Act, DHS stated that federal agencies may not accept driver’s licenses and identification cards issued by Illinois “for official purposes.” While we are not certain what all may be meant by that phrase, it appears that effective January 10, 2016, Illinois driver’s licenses and identification cards will not be sufficient identification for admission to secure federal facilities, including military bases, and nuclear plants. When SOS asked DHS what steps would be taken at these federal sites when someone presented an Illinois DL or ID card (e.g., will additional identification documents be required, or additional screening steps performed, etc.?), we were informed that there are no uniform, nation-wide rules or procedures. Therefore, we encourage people to call ahead to determine what steps they will have to take in these situations. 

However, the denial of Illinois’s application for an extension of time to comply with the REAL ID Act will have no immediate impact on the ability of Illinois residents to board a commercial aircraft. On January 8, 2016 DHS announced the following regarding air travel: 

Starting January 22, 2018, passengers with a driver’s license issued by a state that is still not compliant with the REAL ID Act (and has not been granted an extension) will need to show an alternative form of acceptable identification for domestic air travel to board their flight. Passengers with driver’s licenses issued by a state that is compliant with REAL ID (or a state that has been issued an extension) will still be able to use their driver’s licenses or identification cards. 

Starting October 1, 2020, every air traveler will need a REAL ID-compliant license, or another acceptable form of identification, for domestic air travel. 

Finally, it should be noted that U.S. passports are considered Real ID compliant documents. It is estimated over 4 million Illinoisans (or approximately one-third of the population) have U.S. passports. This is consistent with the national numbers. The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, reports that approximately 126 million U.S. passports were in circulation in 2015. Therefore, any Illinois resident who has a U.S. passport has no need of a REAL ID compliant driver’s license or identification card. Any resident who does not have a passport and who is concerned about immediate access to federal facilities or long-term access to commercial flights may wish to obtain a passport. 

Undocumented immigrants are permitted to obtain a temporary visitors driver’s license (TVDL). These TVDLs are marked “Not Valid for Identification Purposes” pursuant to one of the requirements of the REAL ID rules.