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Definition

Real ID

Real ID is a specification for driver's licenses mandated by the United States Real ID Act of 2005. The deadline for implementation is 2011. After the Act is in effect, any driver's license that does not conform to the federal mandate will not be accepted for authentication. Under the law, individuals without a Real ID would be unable to enter federal buildings, board airplanes or open bank accounts.

The Real ID Act orders that state agencies issue driver's licenses with:

  • The full legal name, signature, date of birth, gender and address of the principal residence of the holder.
  • A driver's license or identification card number.
  • A photograph of the license holder's face.
  • Physical security features designed to prevent counterfeiting or duplication of the ID, including a hologram.
  • Machine-readable bar codes that can include additional data.

The Real ID Act also mandated that each state must share its driver's license records with all other states, creating a nationally interlinked database. Industry experts have raised concerns about the practicality and dangers of such a database with respect to identity theft.

The original deadline for implementation of May 2008 was extended when the proposal encountered considerable opposition from state governments. Many state governments oppose the program because of the considerable costs of implementation, most of which would be shouldered by individuals and state agencies.

This was last updated in March 2009

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