State ID cards may, at first glance, look nearly identical to drivers licenses. In some states, IDs are intentionally printed vertically, instead of horizontally, to make them readily identifiable as non-driver IDs. In either case, a state identification card provides its holder nearly all of the same non-driving privileges and abilities as a drivers license. Holders may use their cards as legally accepted proof of age and identity in formal, commercial and legal settings of all kinds. This includes everything from gaining access to age-restricted venues to requesting Vital Records, or even applying for public assistance programs.

Unlike drivers licenses, ID cards are often available to youths. The age at which parents may request a child ID card varies from state to state. In some states, there are no age restrictions, at all. ID cards are routinely valid for longer than licenses, and cost less than licenses, as well, making them an attractive option for non-drivers of all ages.

DMV ID Requirements

DMV state ID requirements differ between states, but typically align with state drivers license documentation standards. This means that in any given state, applicants can expect that they will need to provide documentation of the following when applying:

  • True full name (identity).
  • Date of birth/age.
  • United States citizenship or other legal presence.
  • Residency in the state in which they are applying.
  • A Social Security Number (or proof of ineligibility for one).

Applicants are commonly required to allow their photographs and fingerprints to be taken during the application process, as well.

ID card requirements frequently include mandates that applicants submit their applications and documents in person. Opportunities to apply online or by mail are rare, and are typically restricted to special circumstances, such as for military service.

Finally, DMV ID card requirements also consistently obligate applicants to surrender any other IDs they current hold, such as drivers licenses issued by any state. (Military and Military dependent IDs are exempt from this requirement.

What do you need to get an ID?

To apply for a DMV ID card, applicants must generally prove their identities, residency, citizenship and that they hold a valid Social Security Number. The exact process of applying, however, can differ, depending on the applicant’s state of residency, age and other factors. For instance, minors generally do not have sufficient documentation of identity, and may need parental affidavits. In some states, minors and young adults are held to different application processes and requirements than adults or seniors. DMV ID card fee scales may vary by age, as well.

The documents needed for state ID cards are fairly consistent from state to state, though the exact combinations of documents applicants decide to use can differ widely. Common proofs of identity include:

  • Original or certified copies of birth certificates.
  • Adoption records.
  • Valid and unexpired United States passports.
  • Foreign passports with U.S. visas.
  • DHS or INS documents proving identity and legal presence.
  • Parental affidavits (minors only).

Some of the above documents may also prove Social Security Numbers and residency. When additional documents are required for state ID for these purposes, applicants can submit:

  • Social Security cards.
  • W-2 forms.
  • W-2 forms.
  • SSA-1099 forms.
  • Non- SSA-1099 forms.
  • Pay stubs.
  • Rental/lease agreements.
  • Bills or tax statements.
  • Employment documents.
  • Insurance documents.
  • Voter registration documents.

Additional documents may be permitted by individual states for each category.

In addition to the above, what do you need to get a state ID? All applicants should bear in mind that if they have changed their names, they will need to provide evidence of that change, regardless of their home states. For example, if an applicant changed his or her name upon getting married, then, to use a certified birth certificate as acceptable proof of identity, he or she would also need a certified copy of a marriage license showing the legal change from the birth name to the married name.

Likewise, divorced applicants using a passport issued under their married names as proof of identity would also need their divorce decrees or a court order showing the change from their married names to the names they used post-divorce.

How to Get an ID

Due to the key role government issued ID cards play in state and national safety, as well as in Americans’ personal lives, ID issuance is strictly controlled. Where to get state ID can range from DMV service centers to state revenue offices, or other venues, but will consistently be the same place from which states issue drivers licenses.

Applicants can almost never get ID online, for both practical and safety reasons. Cards must be applied for in person, at the appropriate offices. This helps prevent fraud and facilitates the taking of photos and fingerprints in the states in which they are required. In specific cases, such as military service or the exchange of a drivers license for a non-driver ID, some states may allow exemptions to this rule.

Other factors, such as age, can affect the process by which any given American must apply for ID in his or her state of residence. In general, however, the process is usually comprised of the following steps:

  • Ordering, gathering or preparing documentation (e.g. birth certificates, Passports, court records and affidavits)
  • Pre-registering online (optional and variable by state)
  • Scheduling an appointment (optional and variable by state)
  • Taking the documentation and application paperwork or a pre-registration receipt to the appropriate office or venue
  • Sitting for a photograph
  • Sitting for fingerprinting (may not apply in all states)
  • Surrendering any other state-issued IDs (e.g. drivers licenses or non-driver ID issued by former states of residence)
  • Receipt of new ID card by mail

Enhanced ID Cards

Currently, only five states offer non-REAL ID enhanced ID card options. They are:

  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New York
  • Vermont
  • Washington

Enhanced state ID cards typically have slightly higher documentation requirements than standard IDs. At the same time, most require somewhat less stringent documentation than REAL IDs. Likewise, enhanced IDs also offer privileges that fall somewhere between standard and REAL IDs. Which privileges are granted will be specific to the state.

REAL ID Cards

All states are required to offer a REAL ID card option by October 2020. Most already offer the option.

REAL ID cards are state-issued identification credentials that comply with all of the requirements of the federal REAL ID Act. As of the October 2020 deadline, Americans will need REAL IDs to access federal buildings or board domestic flights. Americans with non-compliant IDs will need alternative or additional documents (e.g. Passports or certified birth certificates) each time they attempt to do either of those things.

In most cases, the process by which residents apply for REAL ID is the same as that to apply for a standard ID. However, applicants must provide multiple proofs of identity, citizenship, residency and other qualifications, in order to qualify for REAL IDs. Some states only issue REAL ID-compliant identification cards.

How to Renew or Replace a State ID

Procedures for cardholders who need to renew their cards or replace a lost ID card typically mirror states’ initial application processes. Card holders can expect that they will need to go in person to apply for a replacement ID card. They will also often need the same documentation they took initially, to include:

  • Proof of identity.
  • Proof of residency.
  • Proof of citizenship or other legal presence.
  • Proof of Social Security Number.

DMV replacement ID cards frequently have longer expiration dates than drivers licenses from the same state. Some states also offer relaxed renewal procedures for seniors or other qualifying subgroups of cardholders.

DMV ID Costs

DMV ID cost varies widely from state to state. In some states, such as Arkansas, IDs are available for nominal fees (e.g. $5). In others, IDs cost the same, or nearly the same as drivers licenses to apply for, renew and replace.

Depending on individual state rules, the DMV ID price may be the same across age groups, or graded such that children’s and seniors’ cards are less expensive than standard adult cards. Enhanced and REAL ID cards are almost always more expensive than standard cards when a range of options is offered.

Last updated on Tuesday, March 12 2019.

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