Jamaica Magazine

An Overview of the Real ID Act of 2005

I trust that you all had a very blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year. As we proceed into the New Year of 2010 it is important to know that there will be some changes regarding your photo identification. Today’s article will briefly discuss the federal Real ID Act of 2005 and its impact on the way in which we use our identification.

The Real ID Act of 2005 was passed as a part of an emergency military spending and tsunami relief bill. The act is aimed at improving the security of driver’s licenses and personal identification cards. Many lawmakers have publicly stated that the Real ID Act is simply a way for the federal government to establish a “national id card” system. The idea of some kind of national identification is an idea that lawmakers have discussed in the past but historically it has been met with vehement opposition. In addition, in the wake of September 11 there was renewed interest in creating a national identification system to root out terrorists.

Proponents of this national identification system believe that it is a unified and consistent way of establishing identification for all persons in the United States. Proponents say that a national identification system will increase national security and guard against illegal immigrants and reduce illegal industries that earn their income by making counterfeit licenses, green cards and other forms of counterfeit identification. Opponents of the Real ID Act of 2005 claim that the new law creates a de facto national identification card which violates the privacy of the persons that it seeks to regulate.

The Real ID Act of 2005 went into effect on May 11, 2008 but states could request for an extension to January 1, 2010. Below is the basic overview of the Real ID Act.

  1. Who is required to get the new identification: Anyone with a driver’s license or state issued identification card who is a citizen, permanent resident, visa holders, and all other individuals who have a pending immigration petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  2. How can you obtain your new identification: The state’s department of motor vehicle offices will require you to visit their offices before May 10, 2013 and provide a photo identification, birth certificate, proof of social security account and proof of residence. Under the Real ID Act, the states are charged with the responsibility of providing assistance to you regarding the requirements of the Act.
  3. What must the federal driver’s license contain: All new licenses must contain your name, address, date of birth, gender, driver’s license or state id number, photo, signature and security feature to prevent tampering and counterfeiting. The date on your driver’s license must be stored on a bar code.

It is interesting to note that the Real ID Act of 2005 is a mandate. Consequently, states can choose to either opt in or opt out of the program. For those states that opt in it means that those states will be responsible for being in compliant with the Act. As such, those states will have to issue the new driver’s license card and upgrade their technology to protect its residents’ personal data. If your state chooses to opt out of the Real ID Act of 2005 then no federal agency will accept your state issued-driver’s license as a valid form of identification. You would then need to use a passport at federal buildings, parks and for domestic air travel.

It is my hope that the states that have chosen to opt into the federal mandate will experience as smooth compliance. However, the new federal mandate also signifies that that there will be a large number of undocumented immigrants who will now be unable to show a valid driver’s license. These undocumented individuals will then have to present passports and therefore it appears that it will now be easier for federal law enforcement to decipher which individuals have no legal status in the United States.

For more information regarding the Real ID Act of 2005 please visit the enclosed links:

About the Writer:
Safiya Byars is a native of Jamaica and a senior immigration attorney in Decatur, Georgia. Her firm is located at 160 Clairemont Avenue, Ste. 200, Atlanta, Georgia 30030. Safiya Byars has served as the senior immigration attorney with boutique immigration firms in both Alabama and Georgia.  Her firm handles all family and business residency petitions, business, tourist and student visas, consular processing, international adoption, deportation court, asylum/ nacara and tps cases. To discuss your case, please contact Attorney Byars at 404-992-6506 or via email.

About the author

Safiya Byars, Esq

Safiya Byars is the founder and senior partner of the Byars Firm. Attorney Byars serves as the Chair of the Family Immigration Continuing Learning Education and the Vice-Chair of the Immigration Law Section of the State Bar of Georgia. She is a native of Kingston, Jamaica. The Byars firm is located at 3720 Chamblee Dunwoody Road, Suite D2, Chamblee, Georgia 30341. The Byars Firm handles Immigration, Family, and Estate Planning matters. We can be reached at 678-736-5600 and email: [email protected].