News Local/State

Illinois Must Tweak Driver’s License Process To Meet Real ID Rules


You may have heard rumors that, as an Illinois resident, if you were planning to board a plane anytime soon, you'd better hurry and get a passport because the state's drivers licenses don't meet federal Real ID standards.

But last week, Illinois residents got a reprieve.

The Real ID Act was passed in 2005.  It was meant to help keep the country safe after the 9/11 terror attacks by setting standards to clamp down on the potential for fraudulent IDs.

Illinois and 26 other states don't comply. And Illinois is one of only a handful that hasn't been granted an extension. Nor, for that matter, has neighboring Missouri.

That remains true. But Friday afternoon, the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security Announced that a valid ID, issued by any state, will get you past TSA through all of this year, and next.  It'll be late January of 2018 before using an Illinois driver's license won't get you past airport security.

Again, though, Illinois has to make changes if it's going to meet Real ID muster.

Henry Haupt, with the Illinois Secretary of State's office, says Illinois is close to meeting requirements. 

"The fact of the matter is we meet 84% of the requirements of the Real ID Act, including the manufacturing of drivers' licenses and ID cards that meet or exceed the standards. We also use a nation-leading facial recognition system."

The problem isn't with the actual licenses; it's with more with the process used when someone's getting a license.

Haupt says Illinois comes up short in three ways.  

First, the process. A couple of changes are needed here, actually. Both of which are expensive. Haupt says the Secretary of State's office estimates it'll cost $60 million to reach compliance.

"Number one, in Illinois we require a social security number when you renew or when you obtain a license or an ID card. We then verify that number electronically with the SSA. That's our way of proving that you're here legally. DHS has said that's not adequate for REAL ID. They require an additional document. And the document that would impact most of your listeners, that they would have to bring in, would be either a U.S. passport or a certified birth certificate," Haupt says. "We would then be required to take that birth certificate, scan it, and send the information electronically to DHS. Each time we do that, there's a fee. So that's part of the cost we've built in." 

Haupt says the other change Illinois would need to make at DMVs is, "When you get a driver's license or an ID, the last step is your photo. Real ID calls for that to be the first step. So we would have to reorganize and reconfigure and remodel our facilities to make that happen."

The other two ways Illinois is out of step could be fixed with changes to state law. 

The second, according to Haupt: "In Illinois, an individual can have both a driver’s license and an ID at the same time. Real ID does not allow that."

And, last, Haupt says, "In Illinois, we have non-expiring ID cards for senior citizens 65 and older. That is not allowed in Real ID. Those would have to have expiration dates, and the individuals would need to come back in and renew those periodically."

Haupt says it's an unfunded federal mandate.  There's a chance that eventually, the cost of fulfilling it could get passed along to you, the next time you renew your driver's license.

For now, he says the Secretary of State will continue working with the feds. And he reiterates: go ahead, make a flight reservation. For another couple of years, your license will get you past security.