DHS Releases REAL ID Regulation

Published: January 21, 2008

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced its final rule on the federal REAL ID law, which sets minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards.

Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005, however the effort has been delayed by opposition from states concerned about the cost of the program and civil libertarians troubled by what they contend are invasions of privacy.

DHS says the standards will enhance the integrity and reliability of drivers’ licenses and identification cards, strengthen issuance capabilities and increase security at drivers’ license and identification card production facilities.

The law takes effect later this year, but it allows states to delay compliance until 2010. In its final ruling, DHS left the door open for states to decide for themselves if they want to adopt the higher standards outlined in the law. The final rule also reduces state implementation costs by roughly 73 percent.

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“For an extra $8 per license, REAL ID will give law enforcement and security officials a powerful advantage against falsified documents, and it will bring some peace of mind to citizens wanting to protect their identity from theft by a criminal or illegal alien,” says DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff.

REAL ID addresses document fraud by setting specific requirements that states must adopt for compliance. The requirements include: information and security features that must be incorporated into each card; proof of the identity and U.S. citizenship or legal status of an applicant; verification of the source documents provided by an applicant; and security standards for the offices that issue licenses and identification cards.

DHS is making approximately $360 million available to assist states with implementation – $80 million in dedicated REAL ID grants and another $280 million in general funding as part of the DHS grant program.

The nonprofit advocacy group Smart Card Alliance released a new brief emphasizing the benefits of smart card technology in response to DHS’s final ruling.

“A state-issued driver’s license enhanced with [smart card] chip technology would enable strong authentication for e-government applications, giving citizens secure, cost-effective and convenient access to services such as electronic filing of forms and online identity proofing for licenses and registrations,” says Randy Vanderhoof, executive director of the Smart Card Alliance.

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