By C.N. Staff Writer
In May D.C.’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will begin issuing drivers licenses to undocumented residents.
Last year, the D.C. Council passed a bill creating a second-class license for people who cannot prove their legal status. Under the DC Drivers Safety Amendment Act of 2013, the DMV can now issue a driver’s license, learner’s permit or identification card to undocumented District residents. The act is meant to help address a federal problem by allowing these residents the opportunity to obtain an official credential thereby helping to improve public safety and alleviate hardships experienced by undocumented residents.
Starting May 1, the DMV will offer these “limited purpose” drivers licenses by appointment only. The announcement was made by Mayor Gray at the Georgetown DMV service center, which is set to reopen later this month after being closed for nearly two years. The limited purpose license will be identical to the new REAL ID licenses that the District is now issuing, but will bear “NOT VALID FOR OFFICIAL FEDERAL PURPOSES” at the top right corner of the license.
The council’s original plan — which was supported by immigration advocates — called for licenses for everyone, regardless of immigration status, but it would’ve defied a federal law known as the “Real ID Act of 2005” and the council backed off. According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the REAL ID Act prohibits the federal government from accepting driver’s licenses and ID cars that do not meet the minimum security standards set by DHS no later than May2017. The minimum standards require applicants to provide documentary proofs to confirm true identity.
The “limited purpose” license allows anyone, including foreign immigrants, to obtain the credential without proof of a social security number by using a passport or consular car as proof of identification. According to the DMV website, people seeking the new driver’s license will be required to take and pass a knowledge test, skills road test and meet eligibility requirements. Applicants must be a resident of D.C. for at least 6 months from the date of application. Although a person doesn’t have to have a social security number, the person must also prove that they are no longer eligible to be issued a social security number.
The federal demarcation on the license will not allow a person carrying this card to enter federal facilities, enter a nuclear plant or board a plane and certain entities may or may not accept the id for identification purposes. Many have speculated that the license is targeted towards “undocumented residents,” but the card doesn’t.
The REAL ID is a coordinated effort by US jurisdictions and the federal government to improve the reliability and accuracy of driver’s licenses and ID cards helping to deter terrorist activities using fraudulent ID cards. The Act establishes minimum standards for the production and issuance of driver licenses and ID cars and authorizes grants to assist jurisdictions in implementing the requirements. It also prohibits federal agencies from accepting credentials unless the DHS has determined that a jurisdiction has met their standards.
Along with the “limited purpose” licenses the REAL ID cards will also begin issuance on May 1 and, most immediately, will only impact residents obtaining a DC license for the first time, those who need to renew their license or who need to replace their license for being lost or stolen. Residents will have to bring in documents that verify their proof of identity, proof of social security and proof of address.
For existing id card holders, their current license or identification card is valid until its expiration date, but once it is time to renew or reissue the DMV will need to revalidate their existing cards in-person and will not reissue a card over the internet or by mail. Once a person’s identity has been revalidated the REAL ID credential will be issued. Residents will be notified by mail when their current license is up for expiration, thus there is no reason to go and renew until notification.
The REAL ID will look the same as the current DMV issued driver’s license, except it will have a star in the upper right hand corner of the credential. The fees will stay the same as the current fees associated with obtaining an identification card.
To find out more about the REAL ID and the “limited purpose” id please visit www.dmv.dc.gov