Connecticut will move on "Real ID" license program this fall
STAMFORD -- This fall state drivers will need to go through a new system for renewing and obtaining licenses that will require a variety of identification to obtain a new photo ID to flash as they enter airports, courthouses and other federal buildings.
The program, called CT Select ID, would start Oct. 3, and has been recognized as compliant with the security guidelines of the federal Real ID Act, Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles spokesman William Seymour said.
The Real ID Act was enacted by Congress in 2005 in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington to require state motor vehicle officials nationwide to create a process to check the legal immigration or citizenship status during license application or forfeit federal recognition of the documents for official purposes such as travel.
DMV customer service staff and employees of American Automobile Association branch offices who conduct renewal processing will be trained throughout the month of May in how to process the licenses and winnow out phony documents, Seymour said.
"We've been looking at the federal government's vision for this program working towards compliance with it for several years as a result of the evolution of security standards since 9/11," Seymour said.
Eligibility and what combination of birth certificate, U.S. passport and documents showing legal presence in the country are needed to gain the license will vary from scenario to scenario based on whether applicants are U.S. citizens, married, and a variety of other factors, Seymour said.
For instance an unmarried male U.S. citizen applying for the license could present their birth certificate, a U.S. passport, social security card, and proof of residence to get the license.
A divorced female whose name is different on her driver's license than on her birth certificate would additionally need marriage licenses and divorce records to demonstrate their name change.
Foreign citizens studying or working in the U.S. would be required to show a variety of additional documents to corroborate their claims, such as an I-94 form which shows when you entered the country, and for students various proof of enrollment from an academic institution.
A full list and discussion of the requirements can be found on the DMV's website at ct.gov/selectCTid.
"It is difficult to discuss exactly what documentation they will need to bring because it will vary from person to person," Seymour said.
Drivers who wish to avoid the more extensive check of immigration status and background information can still renew their licenses using the old renewal process which only requires providing your current license, Seymour said.
Those applicants will receive a non-compliant license, that can subject them to more scrutiny at airports, courthouses, or other federal government buildings, Seymour said.
"There is nothing in the Real ID law that prevents us from continuing our current process which does not involve a check on people's legal status so all we're doing is continuing the current process," Seymour said. "We also felt some people may not need the new license to travel and we thought we should give them the option to opt out."
Foreigners with legal presence in the U.S. expected to last less than six years, including those with student and work visas, will be ineligible at the time of renewal to seek the Real ID compliant licenses and can only apply for the non-verified licenses.
Earlier this spring, the federal government granted an extension of the deadline to states to implement the new standards, which were created in direct response to recommendations of the 9/11 Commission to create more secure driver's license standards to help prevent similar attacks.
More than 20 states including Maine, Georgia, Washington, and New Hampshire have adopted legislation rejecting the requirements of the act out of a range of concerns for privacy and potential increased risk for identity theft.
Connecticut lawmakers discussed proposed legislation in 2009 to opt of Real ID, which was supported by the ACLU of Connecticut.
State Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, said that meeting the federal government's requirement to incorporate new security features was a priority to avoid having Connecticut's state-issued license being eliminated as a valid form of identification for residents for travel and other purposes.
"If you don't make your licenses compliant with the federal law they may not be accepted by the federal government and they won't be allowed to board a plane," Duff said. "The states that aren't complying are putting their residents in the crosshairs."
Seymour said immigrants without legal presence who initiate an application for the new license will have their current licenses seized when the DMV checks with federal immigration officials about their status.
Despite Connecticut's retention of the less extensive renewal process, Philip Berns, a Stamford immigration attorney, said he feared the program is likely to result in the revocation of licenses for a wide group of both illegal and legal immigrants working and living in Connecticut towns.
Berns said the Real ID concept is a flawed method of foiling terrorists from getting helpful credentials because of the ability to purchase legitimate paperwork on the black market to obtain licenses.
Foreign born passengers could still board airplanes with international passports, he said.
"You've done nothing to slow them down from getting on planes and crashing into buildings," Berns said.
Berns said revocation of licenses for illegal immigrants would result in less information on undocumented workers and a range of other problems.
"Denying driver's licenses to illegals prevents testing them on how to drive, getting their photographs and fingerprints, making sure their vehicles are registered, and getting their addresses in our databases," Berns said. "On a national security level, refusing to take photographs and fingerprints of people who are here seems to hurt us from a public safety point of view."
Maryann Handley, the retired state senator who proposed the failed 2009 state legislation to require Connecticut to opt out of the Real ID program said she had concerns about the new identification providing the potential for more wide ranging surveillance of the public.
"I was at the time very concerned about the whole concept that Real ID creates a mechanism for a type of supervision or oversight of people which we have never accepted as proper in this country," Handley said.
Staff Writer Martin B. Cassidy can be reached at email@example.com or at 203-964-2264.