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Real ID requirements affect millions of immigrants

Starting on October 1, 2020, all U.S. citizens will need a Real ID card or a passport to board a flight or enter secure federal buildings or military bases. Congress mandated Real ID in 2005 as part of the 9/11 Commission recommendations.

Real ID cards aren’t much different than driver’s licenses, except for safeguards designed to keep them from being illegally copied. The concerns are over the application process. Civil rights groups objected to the notion of a national ID card, but in July of 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the October 2020 deadline for states to comply. California was declared compliant by DHS earlier this year.

Undocumented immigrants may be the most vulnerable

An opinion piece in the LA Times says Real ID could help foster a “two-tier America, based on immigration status and economic opportunity” for the estimated 1 million-plus undocumented immigrants living in California. The DHS denies that Real ID is a national identification system, even though not having a card could raise a red flag over immigration status.

What documents are needed to get a Real ID card?

To get a Real ID, applicants must bring the following certified documents to a California Department of Motor Vehicle field office:

  • Proof of identity: U.S. birth certificate, U.S. passport, permanent resident card, employment authorization or unexpired foreign passport with a valid U.S. visa
  • Social Security number: Social Security card, W-2 or a paystub with the full number displayed
  • Proof of residency: Two different documents with a home address such as a home utility bill, car registration card, bank account, property tax bill, or a mortgage or lease agreement

Who is eligible?

Applicants must fall under one of nine categories to receive a Real ID card:

  • Must currently be a U.S. citizen or national
  • Be a lawful permanent or temporary resident
  • Have conditional resident status
  • Have approved asylum application or refugee status
  • Have a valid, unexpired nonimmigrant visa
  • Have a pending asylum application
  • Have pending or temporary protected status
  • Have deferred action status
  • Have a pending application for adjustment of status to a permanent or conditional resident

Many immigrants face an uncertain future

Millions of immigrants are affected by the many changes to the U.S. immigration system as well as shifting laws such as the requirement they get a Real ID. Contacting an experienced immigration attorney here in California can help explain how these changes could affect them as well as understanding their rights and the steps they can take to achieve their immigration or legal goals.

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  • American Immigration Lawyers Association
  • State Bar of California | California Board of Legal Specialization
  • Avvo
  • Orange County Bar Association
  • Irvine Chamber