Connecticut drivers can opt out of Real ID, but there are consequences

Drivers must show additional identification for licenses starting in October

Connecticut is joining the slow but steady parade of states issuing driver's licenses that comply with the once-controversial Real ID Act.

The state's Department of Motor Vehicles in October will begin requiring drivers renewing licenses to present additional identity documents. Connecticut also is offering drivers a choice to avoid Real ID, but that choice will likely have negative consequences — such not being able to use a driver's license as identification at U.S. airports -- starting in 2017 .

Under Connecticut’s SelectCT ID program, people who renewing driver's licenses will need to show additional documents such as passports and birth certificates to receive a driver’s license with verified identity. The Real ID-compliant licenses will display a gold star, the agency announced in an April 26 news release.


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People who decline the additional verification can get a standard driver’s license without a gold star that is stamped “Not for Federal Identification,” the department said.

Congress passed the Real ID Act in 2005 as a counterterrorism measure. Under the law, states must comply with certain standards for drivers’ licenses, including standards for collecting and storing personal information from drivers and sharing that information with agencies in other states. There also are physical standards for the card itself to limit tampering.

Real ID has been controversial among governors and state legislatures because of its cost and its possible risks to privacy. As a result, several states have rejected the law and deadlines for compliance have been pushed back to 2013. Licenses that are not compliant with Real ID by 2017 cannot be used as official identification at federal facilities, including airports.

The Connecticut program begins Oct. 3 and will be phased in during the next six years as all licenses come up for renewal.

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The identity documents required for verification vary by individual status. For example, a U.S. citizen may show a birth certificate and U.S. passport, while a legal immigrant married to a U.S. citizen would have to show immigration and marriage documents.

Several other states are taking steps toward Real ID compliance. New Jersey in January announced its new driver’s license with 25 security and anti-fraud features.

New Jersey officials said they would begin complying with the identity verification standards of Real ID in late 2012 following an overhaul of computer systems.

In recent years, Washington State, Vermont, Michigan and New York have issued Real ID-compliant “enhanced drivers’ licenses,” which are special hybrid cards issued with Homeland Security Department approval that can be used as driver’s licenses and as official identification for crossing the borders. The enhanced licenses include radio-frequency identification tags that wirelessly communicate with readers at border crossings.






About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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