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Real ID DHS Update 4 January 13

Posted by Jonathan V. Phillips in Passport, Passport Card, Real Id, traveler advise.
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As the January 15 deadline for the implementation of the provisions of the 2005 Real ID Bill nears, the Department of Homeland Security has reiterated their intention to enforce it.  For domestic air travel, this means a photo id is required to board a plane. The Real ID Bill outlined the criteria for acceptable photo ids and demanded the states issue driver’s licenses compliant to those standards.

Many states have delayed updating their ids and some have even implemented legal barriers to making their issued driver’s licenses and state id’s compliant with the new federal standards. As of January 2013, the DHS has determined only 13 states to be in compliance with the provisions of the  Real ID statute. We have an earlier entry that details which states are in compliance and which are not.

As a result of the backlash the DHS has now issued a revised statement regarding the enforcement of the Real ID law. The agency is giving a deferment to the states  and has allocated over 200 million dollars in grant money for states to update their current id systems to the new standards. The DHS statement does not address the issue created by the states that have passed legislation prohibiting compliance with the federal statute. That situation will probably be arbitrated in the Supreme Court.

The DHS plans to announce in the fall of 2013 when state driver’s licences will need to meet the Real Id criteria. In the mean time, if you have id that is not technically compliant, you will still be able to board a plane in the US. For travelers, this means that the TSA will accept their existing driver’s licences, most likely for the duration of 2013. 

There are other forms of ID that are issued to the standards of the Real ID law besides a state issued driver’s license. Passports and passport cards and most military IDs are considered Real IDs. It is recommended that if you come from a state that does not issue a Real ID driver’s licence, to get a passport or passport card for flying  purposes. We have an earlier article on the advantages of a passport card for travel. These ids are especially useful in cases where the travelers are minors, and don’t have a driver’s license.

Real ID implementation continues to evolve. The DHS has acquiesced on it’s enforcement by delaying the role out date twice. Now it says it is going ahead with the law but has issued deferments for ids that are not compliant.  It remains to be seen what the outcome will be for the states that refuse to be compliant with the standards of their driver’s licences. The issue will most likely be resolved in the courts. In the meantime, the January 15 deadline is coming due and the law will go into effect, albeit in a limited, watered down manner that seems to invalidate the rationale behind the statute. Readers can expect and update as more information becomes available and the policy gets implemented at airports across the country.

Passport Cards: A Good Idea to Have One 14 November 12

Posted by Jonathan V. Phillips in Passport, Passport Card.
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Passport Cards

Passport Cards are a relatively new form of federal id. They are a citizenship document, which allows limited international travel across land and sea borders as well being a valid form of  Real ID. The State Department started issuing these cards in response to the provisions of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) and the Real ID Act, back in July of 2008.

Citizenship Document

Like a passport, the passport card establishes the holder’s US citizenship. Being a federally issued form of identification, it can be used for any domestic purpose that requires verification of US citizenship, such as opening a bank account or entering a federal building that requires an id. The Patriot Act stipulates many more instances that  require a verification of an individual’s citizenship. Having a passport card is a way to satisfy that requirement when required to do so.

Limited Travel Privileges

Traditionally a passport was the international standard for verification of citizenship at a border crossing or when clearing immigration at a sea or an international air port. Since the inception of the passport card, the BCIS officials will recognize the passport card for certain types of US border crossings. Prior to implementation of the (WHTI) US travelers had been allowed to reenter the US with various forms of id that would satisfy the border the officials at that time. These documents ranged from  US birth-certificates, driver’s licenses or an expired passport. Traveler’s coming back into the US from certain border crossings, have indicated that prior to the Patriot Act, and the implementation of the WHTI, entrance back into the US could be granted simply by speaking in non accented American English and convincing the border official that you were a US citizen. Those days of “casually” crossing the US border with out a citizenship document are now part of history.

The passport card does not have all the privileges of the standard passport book Passport cards are only valid for re-entry into the United States at land border-crossings and sea ports-of-entry from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. Travelers entering back into the US by plane or from any other international destination are required to have a passport. Regardless of whether or not you gained entry into a foreign country with out a passport, entry back to the US by plane is granted only by demonstrating a passport to the immigration official. Because of the limited privileges of the passport card, only travelers who are cruising the Caribbean or conducting non air travel between the bordering countries of Mexico and Canada should use a passport card as their primary method for re-entry into the US. All other travelers need the standard passport book.

Real ID

The Real ID Act, which was passed in 2005, is legislation that established the criteria for identification that is acceptable for “federal purposes”.  This includes visiting sensitive sites or entering a federal building that requires an id to gain entry. Also listed as a federal purpose is boarding a domestic flight. Travelers will be required to present a form of Real ID in order to fly inside the US. More information regarding what constitutes a Real ID is available on our recent article “Everything You Need to Know about Real ID“.

A passport card is a form of Real ID. Domestic air travelers with a valid passport card will be able to pass through TSA’s Real ID checkpoint. This applies to minors as well.

Passport Card Attributes

Aside from meeting the criteria for a Real ID, a US passport card is also an enhanced ID. This form of identification  also meets the standards outlined in the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.  The US Customs and Border Protection, the folks checking your id when you come back into the USA, have a list of certified WHTI IDs.

  • Limited Use – As mentioned earlier, passport cards are only good for travel across certain land and sea borders. They are a valid Real ID and will allow the bearer to board a domestic flight.
  • Validity – Passport cards, like passports are valid for ten years for adults and five years for Minors under 16.
  • RFID Chip – Passport cards, like passports have a radio chip in them that enables it to be read by a vicinity radio scanner. Passport details are stored in the chip.
  • Biometric Information – Passport cards contain a compressed image of the bearer’s  face, other items like fingerprints and retinal scans are not included in the card.

The State Department has a passport card FAQ a document on the differences between a passport book and a passport card

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection has a list of Ready Lanes that are in place at US border stations that allow special privileges for travelers with RFID chips in their travel documents.

How to Apply

Getting a passport card is a relatively quick and easy process. Basically, applicants for the new cards must,

  • prove your US citizenship (original birth certificate, naturalization document or existing passport),
  • complete the form,
  • submit a color, frontal portrait photograph with a plain background

Printable passport card instructions are available from the G3 Passport Section.

Traveling with Minors

The value of a passport card might not be in it’s ability to get one across the US but rather as a form of ID for traveling domestically inside the US. Beginning in 2013, TSA officials are going to be demanding that all travelers present some form of acceptable Real ID from passengers. Due to opposition to the law, some states driver’s licenses will not be an acceptable form of Real ID. Many states  have passed legislation that bars them from making their driver’s licenses compliant with the criteria established by the DHS. The fact that most minors are not old enough to have a state issued id such as a driver’s license makes the passport card a doubly attractive form of id if they come from a state that is not Real Id compliant.

A passport card is an excellent option to traveling with a full passport book. Being compact and the size of a credit card, passport card fit inside a wallet and are considerably less bulky than a standard passport book. Costing less than a passport book, passport cards are an excellent form of identification for minors, a group that is usually with out any type of official identification until they are driving a car.

Convenience and a Back Up Plan

Passport cards are easy to obtain, cost less than a passport and are compact. They can also act as a back up form of citizenship identification. Carrying a passport card while traveling over seas in addition to your regular passport book, allows bearers to be able to verify their citizenship easily if they loose their passport. Travelers who loose their passports while traveling have to go to a US Embassy or consulate and get their lost passport replaced before they can be allowed to travel back to the US. Having a passport card will assist in getting the lost passport reissued quickly as it verifies the individual’s identity and right as a US citizen to a passport. The citizenship verification process can cause delays for citizens who have lost their passport while traveling overseas and have difficulty proving their identity.

If you have any questions regarding getting a passport card, passports or replacing lost passports, our expert staff is glad to lend assistance. Inquires can be directed to passports@g3visas.comImage

Everything you need to know about Real ID 6 November 12

Posted by Jonathan V. Phillips in Passport, Passport Card, traveler advise.
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Real ID

Real ID is legislation passed by Congress and  signed into law by President Bush in 2005. The legislation is officially known as the REAL ID Act of 2005. Officially, it is Division B of an act of the United States Congress titled Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief. Basically, the law stipulates that entry on to domestic flights as well as federal installations and other secure locations requiring an ID to enter, is dependent on the individual possessing and demonstrating a photo ID that is up to the standards and specifications outlined in the statute. It provides a timetable for the states to implement these standards on their driver’s licenses and ID cards. For those that like to look at the actual text of the statute, the Department of Homeland Security, who has regulatory authority over the law, has it online for your reading pleasure.

The deadline for compliance is coming. Beginning on fifteenth of January 2013, an ID that is compliant with the Real ID guidelines will be required of passengers as a prerequisite to boarding  domestic flights in the US. Although the DHS has extended the deadline in the past, they have indicated that there are committed to the January date and that will be no more extensions. On January 15 agents of the TSA will be enforcing the law at airports around the country.

The Real ID Act lists the forms of ID that are considered in compliance and hence acceptable for entrance onto an airplane. The TSA, who will be checking the ids at airports has a list of what they will accept.

List of TSA Acceptable Real IDs

  • a U.S. passport,
  • a U.S. passport card,
  • a DHS “Trusted Traveler” cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST),
  • a U.S. Military ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents, and DOD civilians),
  • a U.S. Permanent Resident Card,
  • a Border Crossing Card
  • a DHS-designated enhanced driver’s license
  • a Drivers Licenses or other state photo identity cards issued by Department of Motor Vehicles (beginning January 15, 2013, these must be Real ID compliant licenses)
  • a Native American Tribal Photo ID
  • an airline or airport-issued ID (if issued under a TSA-approved security plan)
  • a valid foreign government-issued passport
  • a Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) card
  • a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC)

Passports and Passport Cards

It is no surprise  that a passport is the first item mentioned  on the DHS list of acceptable IDs. Being not just a federally issued identity document, a passport is also a citizenship document. IDs issued from the individual states have to meet the criteria laid out by the federal government in order to be accepted as a valid real ID, whereas a passport is issued by the federal government through the Department of State and actually sets the standard for secure identification.

Most people know what a passport is but are unaware of the existence or the specifics surrounding the US passport card. Passport cards are a relatively new form of federal identification that can be used in place of a passport for international travel in certain cases.  The State Department Passport Card FAQ answers most of the questions regarding what it takes to get one, and when you can use one to travel internationally and other attributes of the new form of federal ID.

Information on the issuance of expedited passports and passport cards is available through the passport section of the g3visas.com website. Applicants can apply for new passports, add pages to filled booklets and  renew expiring ones  in 24 hours, if required.

Passport questions and inquiries into  professional passport expedite services can be directed to passports@g3visas.com .

Real ID Drivers Licenses, What You Need to Get One

The DHS has published the criteria for the states that define what documents applicants will need provide to the state DMV in order to have these IDs and driver’s licenses  considered as valid “real IDs” and hence in compliance with the law and valid for travel. Applicants for Real ID compliant IDs will have to prove they are eligible for one. They will have to submit to their DMV  official documents to satisfy each of the following four categories,

  • Identity and Date of Birth
  • Lawful Status in the United States
  • Social Security Card
  • State Residency and Current Address

Proof of Identity, Date of Birth and Lawful Status

This proof comes in the form of one of the following,

For US Citizens:

  • a valid US passport or passport card,
  • a certified copy or original US birth certificate. These documents include official, certificates issued by any US state also including Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa or the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Hospital issued birth certificates are not acceptable and Puerto Rican certificates must be certified on or after 1 July 2010,
  • a State Department issued Consular Report of Birth Abroad (form FS 240, FS 545 or DS 1350),
  • an original Certificate of Naturalization (form N 550, N 570, or N 578),
  • an original Certificate of Citizenship (form N 560, N 561 or N 645).

For Non US:

  • a valid Permanent Residence Card (I 551),
  • a non US passport stamped “ Processed for I 551“,
  • a valid Employment Authorization Document (I 766),
  • a Record of Arrival and Departure (I 94) with attached photo and stamped ” Temporary Proof of Lawful Permanent Resident“,
  • a Record of Arrival and Departure (I 94) with attached photo and stamped either “Refugee“, “Parolee” or “Asylee“,
  • an unexpired, valid, non US passport accompanied by an approved I 94 showing latest entry into the United States,
  • a Travel Document indicating Permit to Re-enter ( I 327),
  • A Refugee Travel Document ( I 571),

Poof of Social Security Number

Your social security number must be verified. Proof comes in the form of an original of one of the following,

  • an original social security card,
  • a W-2 form,
  • a Social Security Administration Form 1099,
  • a Non-Social Security Administration Form 1099,
  • a Pay stub with your name and Social Security number on it.

Temporary foreign nationals who are not authorized for employment will have to verify their US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) number instead.

Proof of State Residency and Current Address

Your address in the state where you are applying for a license must be verified. Proof of address varies between the states but must jurisdictions are requiring two items for this category. Two of the following from the list should be presented as evidence,

  • a voter identification card,
  • a vehicle registration,
  • a utility bill,
  • a statement from a financial institution,
  • a rental or lease agreement,
  • a paycheck or pay stub from an employer in the state,
  • an enrollment document from a school in the state,
  • a homestead filling,
  • a military tax exemption in the state.

Existing, state issued, non-Real ID compliant driver’s licenses are not acceptable as evidence of residency and current address.

Minors will have a consent form signed by a parent, guardian or custodian  that will be sufficient in most states to satisfy the state residency and address verification requirement.

Applicants with Temporary Lawful Status

Foreigners with temporary Lawful status in the US can also be issued Real ID compliant driver’s licenses.  These licenses are stamped “Limited Term” and are valid for the period of Lawful stay, not to exceed two years. For applicant’s whose Lawful stay status is not defined or has an expiration day, their Real ID compliant driver’s licenses will be valid for no longer than a one year period.

State DMV Links

Since the responsibility  of issuing driver’s licenses is a state power, each state, although acting under the same federal real id guidelines, will have their own procedures.  The CSDL , a pro Real ID lobby group, has a list of the state DMV’s websites to verify the specific driver’s license requirements per state.

States React to Real ID

Even if you want to apply for a Real ID compliant driver’s license, you might not be able to get one. Depending on which state you reside in, the reaction to the Real ID law from the states has been mixed and varied.  Some states have embraced  the legislation and have made their driver’s licenses and ID cards compliant with the DHS guidelines, some states have  implemented some but not all of  the provisions in the guidelines, while some states have simply rejected the law and have passed legislation forbidding state compliance with the DHS guidelines. So, depending on your state of residence, your state issued ID or driver’s license may or not be valid for entry onto a plane or federal building requiring an ID.

The ACLU , a vocal opponent of Real ID on the State level, provides a state by state status of Anti- Real Id legislation on their anti Real ID website.

Current status of Real ID Compliance by State & Territory

REAL ID  Status State / Territory
Submitted full compliance certification packages to DHS1 Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, South Dakota, Tennessee. (5)
Self-certified: Issuing materially compliant licenses (meeting the first 18 benchmarks) +  the gold star compliance mark Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Utah (4)
Self-certified: Issuing materially compliant licenses (meeting the first 18 benchmarks) Arkansas, District of Columbia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Jersey. (7)
Committed to meeting material compliance but require more time Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Nebraska, Ohio, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming. (12)
Certifiable Enhanced Driver’s License programs New York, Michigan, Vermont, Washington. (4)
Committed to meeting 15 of 18 benchmarks Arizona, California, Georgia, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, U.S. Virgin Islands (12)
Will not meet four or more benchmarks in the next 12 months Alaska, American Samoa, Guam, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Northern Marianas Islands2 (12)
1 According to DHS, other states have assured DHS that once DHS proves its willingness to certify states’ compliance packages, they will take the extra steps to assemble and submit the required packages.2 Montana, Oklahoma, and Washington have laws preventing REAL ID implementation, although Washington state has tried to repeal the law, and does have an Enhanced Driver License. Montana has strict issuing standards but they are not intended to be in line with REAL ID.

An online list of minimum standards for Real Driver’s Licenses and acceptable Identification cards is available from the USCIS.

Real ID Conclusion,  Traveler Recommendation

The statistics very on the exact number, but evidence points to the US having a surprising low rate of passports issued to it’s citizens in comparison to passport issuance rates from other countries. The past arguments defending the relatively low number of  US passports in circulation relative to population, range from the historical fact that US citizens haven’t been required to have passports for many international destinations and the US being so large, that most travel is domestic, not requiring  passport, are no longer valid. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), which is in effect, requires a passport for reentry into the US by persons arriving by plane. This law not only applies to Non US travelers by  also to US citizens entering back into the US as well. Additionally, the new Real ID legislation not only demands an id to enter a plane, it defines rigorous criteria on what IDs will meet the standard of a Real ID.

Real ID is the law and is going to be enforced in January 2013. Regardless of what state you are from and when your driver’s license was issued, a valid passport or an equivalent passport card will satisfy the requirements for a Real ID. Acquisition of these documents is a routine procedure for G3’s processional passport associates. There is no excuse not to have one or both.

It is understandable not to want to take your passport on a domestic flight for a number of reasons. The passport card is a great alternative to a passport or state issued compliant driver’s license and is also a good back up ID when you need one. This federal ID is a card the same size as a driver’s license or credit card, can fit your wallet and meets all the DHS standards of a Real ID. Passport cards are also a good idea for minors traveling via air  inside the US, as these travelers usually don’t have any state issued, photo identification documents, as most of them aren’t eligible for driver’s license; even if they are from a state that issues compliant IDs. Passport cards provide minors and adults with an easy form of ID that meets the standards of a compliant Real ID.

Regardless of what form of ID you have you are going to be required to show a Real ID before you board a plane.  It remains to be seen what will happen to travelers who have misplaced, lost or have had their ID stolen while traveling. Having multiple forms of IDs, such as a compliant driver’s license, passport, or passport  card provides a back up if you misplace your ID while traveling. Savvy travelers know from experience to have a back plan in case of emergency. A passport and passport card can provide that Plan B coverage if your driver’s license is lost or, in the case of residents of Alaska, American Samoa, Guam, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Northern Marianas Islands, not valid for travel.