Impact of REAL ID on Immigrants in Illinois

October 23, 2019
Marjorie M. Filice

After initially opposing the REAL ID law, Illinois is now providing optional REAL IDs. The REAL ID Act Passed in Congress in 2005. Illinois only started issuing compliant IDs in April 2019. REAL ID sets national standards for how people prove their identity when seeking a driver’s license or other state ID. Illinois was initially opposed to the REAL ID law, partly out of concern that it would create a federal database of license holders that is available to the federal government and may be used to identify those who are undocumented. The Department of Homeland Security, however, affirmed that it is not creating a federal database. However, because it is not required, even those eligible for REAL ID licenses should consider whether they need one and the State of Illinois assures that a REAL ID is not required.

What is REAL ID?

Beginning on October 1, 2020, federal agencies will only accept REAL ID compliant state-issued identification. This means that individuals who plan to fly within the U.S. using a state-issued ID or license as identification will need to make sure that it is a REAL ID. Similarly, individuals who wish to enter a federal building or nuclear facility using state-issued ID or license will only be able to enter if it is REAL ID compliant.
REAL IDs are optional for Illinois residents because passengers and visitors will still be able to use a passport instead of a REAL ID, and they are not required by the State of Illinois in order to drive. Illinois residents can continue to use a non-REAL ID compliant Driver’s License or a Temporary Visitor Driver’s License (TVDL) to drive in the State of Illinois, even after October 1, 2020. Further, those who are not able to secure a REAL ID from the State of Illinois or any other state, including undocumented immigrants and immigrants who have overstayed their lawful status, may still fly within the U.S. using other documents, such as:

• U.S. passport;
• U.S. passport card;
• DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST);
• U.S. Department of Defense ID, including IDs issued to dependents;
• Permanent resident card;
• Border crossing card;
• State-issued Enhanced Driver’s License;
• Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID;
• HSPD-12 PIV card;
• Foreign government-issued passport;
• Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card;
• Transportation worker identification credential;
• U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766); or
• U.S. Merchant Mariner Credential.

What is Needed to get a REAL ID in Illinois?

To obtain a REAL ID, Illinois residents will have to comply with heightened federal security requirements and must present evidence of each of the following:

1) Proof of identity, date of birth, and U.S. citizenship or lawful status requires showing ONE (1) of the following:

• U.S. birth certificate issued by state in which the person was born;
• U.S. passport or passport card;
• Consular Report of Birth Abroad issued by the U.S. Department of State;
• Certificate of Citizenship issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security;
• Certificate of Naturalization issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security;
• Employment Authorization document (EAD) issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security;
• Foreign passport with a valid U.S. visa and valid I-94 record;
• Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551) issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (or U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service); or
• Real ID Driver’s License or ID (along with other proof of lawful status).

2) Proof of Social Security Number requires showing ONE (1) of the following:

• W-2;
• Pay stub or electronic pay deposit listing name and SSN; or
• SSA-1099 Form or non-SSA-1099).
Social Security Number requires showing ONE (1) of the following:

3) Proof of residency requires showing TWO (2) of the following:

• Bank statement (dated within 90 days of application);
• Canceled check (dated within 90 days of application);
• Certified grade/high school or college/university transcript;
• Credit report issued by Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion (dated within 12 months of application);
• Deed/title, mortgage or rental/lease agreement;
• Insurance policy (homeowner’s or renter’s);
• Medical claim or statement of benefits from insurance or government agency (dated within 90 days of application);
• Pay stub or electronic deposit receipt;
• Official mail from federal or local government entity listing name and address;
• Pension or retirement statement;
• Report card from grade/high school or college/university;
• Tuition invoice or other official mail from college/university (dated within 12 months of application);
• Utility bill (electric, water, refuse, phone, cable or gas, dated within 90 days of application); or
• Voter registration card.

4) Proof of written signature on an official document requires showing ONE (1) of the following:

• Illinois DL/ID;
• Temporary DL/ID or commercial learner’s permit;
• Out-of-state DL/ID;
• Cancelled check (dated within 90 days of application);
• Cooperative Driver Testing Program certificate;
• Court order;
• Credit card/debit card;
• Driver’s license or identification card issued by the U.S. government (e.g. Department of State);
• Foreign passport;
• Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) ID Card Verification From;
• Medicare Card (suffix A, J, H, M or T);
• Mortgage or installment loan;
• Social Security card;
• Certain immigration documents:
i. Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551 or “green card”);
ii. Employment Authorization Document Card (Form I-766 or EAD);
iii. Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record) with valid passport.
• U.S. military DL/ID; or
• U.S. military service record (e.g. DD 214).

In summary, Illinois residents do not have to get a REAL ID, even if they plan to travel by plane within the U.S. or enter federal buildings. There are various other documents that may be presented, including a foreign passport. Beginning on October 1, 2020, a REAL ID will only be necessary for those who wish to travel by plane or enter federal facilities using a state-issued ID or license. Contact an attorney at Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan, P.C. if you have questions about how your immigration status impacts your ability to obtain a REAL ID in the State of Illinois. For more information about the REAL ID in Illinois, visit:

The material contained in this alert does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only. An attorney-client relationship is not presumed or intended by receipt or review of this presentation. The information provided should never replace informed counsel when specific immigration-related guidance is needed.

© 2023 Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan, P.C. All rights reserved. Information may not be reproduced, displayed, modified, or distributed without the express prior written permission of Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan, P.C.

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