Regulatory Compliance
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What’s the Deal with REAL ID?

I’m sure it sounds familiar, it has been a long time coming! The REAL ID Act was passed in 2005 and is a piece of legislature that imposes much stricter measures on how people can obtain a driver’s license or identification card, and sets more thorough standards as to what will be displayed on them. A REAL ID-compliant identification card or driver’s license, when it becomes available, can be used for domestic air travel and federal facility access, but not for U.S. border crossings (although it can be issued to both U.S. and non-U.S. citizens). And it can be used for lawful driving privileges and general identification.

The REAL ID is a sort of “national ID” that agencies are rolling out in phases to comply with federal security standards, which will be imposed by The Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It has been a bit over 12 years since the REAL ID Act was passed and half of all the states have already met the REAL ID minimum standards. The remaining jurisdictions, some granted extensions, are now actively in the process of implementing the secure identification.

People will not be required to get a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card if they decide they won’t need one or are unable to provide proper documentation. In lieu of a federally compliant identification, states are permitted to issue individuals federally non-compliant driver’s licenses or identification cards that will clearly state on their face and in the machine readable zone that the card is not accepted for official purposes. A REAL ID-compliant card is not needed for the following:

  • Being licensed to drive.
  • Voting or registering to vote.
  • Entering federal facilities that do not require a person to present identification.
  • Applying or receiving federal benefits.
  • Accessing health or life-preserving services (including hospitals and health clinics), law enforcement or constitutionally-protected activities (including a defendant’s access to court proceedings).
  • Participating in law enforcement proceedings or investigations.

States providing driver’s licenses and identification cards to non-citizens/undocumented immigrants

REAL ID allows compliant states to issue driver’s licenses and identification cards where the identity of the applicant cannot be assured or for whom lawful presence is not determined.  In fact, some states currently issue such non-compliant cards to undocumented individuals. These cards must clearly state on their face and in the machine readable zone that it is not acceptable for official purposes and must use a unique design or color to differentiate them from compliant cards.  Department of Homeland Security (DHS) cautions against assuming that possession of a non-compliant card indicates the holder is an undocumented individual, given that several states issue non-compliant licenses for reasons unrelated to lawful presence.

How will this affect my Credit Union?

If they haven’t already, your members and potential members will bring in REAL IDs as identification. Again, because of extensions granted, some states have not started issuing them just yet, but they are inevitably coming soon to a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) near you! Get familiar with what they will look like in your state and train your frontline staff. Your state DMV likely has a page dedicated to providing information on what documents will be required to obtain a federally compliant REAL ID, dates they are adhering to for compliance and roll out, and images of sample REAL IDs that compare the federally compliant and non-compliant ones. Review specific security features of the REAL ID in your state and address them in your Customer Identification Program (CIP).

For the Current Status of States/Territories click here.
For REAL ID FAQs click here.
For REAL ID statute and regulations click here.

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