The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently announced a final rule establishing minimum security standards for state-issued drivers' licenses and identification cards as mandated by the REAL ID Act. According to DHS, the final rule establishes uniform standards to enhance the integrity and reliability of drivers' licenses and identification cards, strengthen issuance capabilities and increase security of drivers' licenses and identification card production facilities.

By May 11, 2008, states will be required to notify DHS if they will be complying with the requirements of the final regulation. States that indicate that they will comply with the REAL ID requirements will be able to obtain an extension of the compliance deadline until December 31, 2009. Additionally, states may seek a second extension until May 10, 2011, if they need certain benchmarks towards the security of their credentials, licensing and identification processes (including a check for lawful status of all applicants to ensure that undocumented foreign nationals can not obtain REAL ID compliant state drivers' licenses or identification documents). Already, six states have indicated that they will not be complying with the REAL ID requirements. Citizens of these states will not be able to use their state issued drivers' licenses and identification cards for official federal purposes, including boarding federally regulated commercial aircrafts and entering federal facilities, on or after May 11, 2008. Instead, the citizens of these states will be required to present another form of acceptable identification (e.g. U.S. passport) or may "suffer" delays due to special screening requirements. The state of Illinois has indicated that it will comply with the REAL ID requirements.

After states have implemented the new REAL ID program, individuals born on or after December 1, 1964 will have to apply in-person and obtain a REAL ID compliant drivers' license or identification document by December 1, 2014. Individuals born before December 1, 1964 will have until December 1, 2017 in order to obtain the REAL ID compliant document. DHS said that after conducting a risk-based assessment based on age, it determined that it should allow an extra three years for individuals over the age of 50 to obtain REAL ID compliant drivers' license or identification documents in order to decrease the costs of implementation and lessen the impact on lines at state drivers' license facilities. By December 1, 2017, all individuals will have to have obtained a REAL ID compliant drivers' license or photo identification document in order to use it for a federal purpose. As part of the application process, the drivers' license facilities will be required to verify all source documents (i.e. documents verifying identity, lawful immigration status, date of birth and social security number) presented by the applicant with the issuing agency and check with other States to ensure that the applicant does not have multiple drivers' licenses or identification documents before the drivers' license facility will be able to issue a REAL ID compliant drivers' license or identification document. The maximum validity period for a REAL ID license or identification document will be eight years.

Additional information about the implementation of the REAL ID Act as it pertains to the new state drivers' license and identification documents will be contained in our firm's future Immigration Updates when it becomes available.