The REAL ID Act 

In 2005, U.S. Congress enacted the REAL ID Act upon recommendation of the 9/11 Commission to set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver licenses. This law provided minimum security standards for state-issued driver licenses and identification cards. Federal agencies are prohibited from accepting the non-compliant licenses and identification cards for official purposes including in air travel, access to military bases, most federal facilities and nuclear power plants.

The purpose of the REAL ID Act is to prevent the fraudulent issuance and use of driver licenses and identification cards. Although it was enacted in 2005, its full implementation will not take effect until October 2020. In the meantime, many states are taking steps to establish rules that will make their licenses and identification cards compliant with the REAL ID Act.

States that are working to comply with the federal law have been able to get extensions until October 2018. For this reason, states like California, are ready to release new licenses and identification cards this year that contain security features.

Minimum Requirements

To be REAL ID-compliant, the state must incorporate anti-counterfeit technology into the card, verify the applicant’s identity and conduct background checks for employees involved in issuing driver licenses.

In verifying for a REAL ID-compliant ID or license, the applicant must fall under the following 9 categories: (1) U.S. citizen or national; (2) U.S. lawful permanent resident or lawful temporary resident; (3) conditional permanent resident status in the U.S.; (4) has an approved asylum application or entered in refugee status; (5) has a valid, unexpired non-immigrant visa; (6)has a pending application for asylum; (7) has pending or approved temporary protected status; (8) has approved  deferred action status or (9) has a pending application for adjustment of status to that of lawful permanent or conditional resident.

It is apparent from the list that only applicants who have valid and lawful presence in the United States or who are not in violation of immigration laws are permitted to apply for state licenses that are REAL ID Act compliant. Those who are unauthorized immigrants or who have fallen out status may not be eligible to apply for the REAL ID compliant licenses.