Frequently asked questions


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What is the REAL ID Act?

In response to acts of terrorism committed against the United States, and in an effort to ensure the safety of citizens, Congress passed the REAL ID Act of 2005. [The REAL ID Act of 2005 is Division B of an act of the United States Congress titled Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 2005, Pub. L. No. 109-13, 119 Stat. 231 (May 11, 2005)].

The REAL ID Act is implemented through federal regulations administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (6 C.F.R. § 37, as amended by 76 FR 12269). The current federal regulations can be viewed at: www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2008-01-29/html/08-140.htm and www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-03-07/html/2011-5002.htm

The REAL ID Act is extensive and detailed. This website contains only a brief overview of some of the provisions applicable to the issuance of REAL ID-compliant driver’s license and identification (ID) cards. Here is a link to the full legislation: www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/real-id-act-text.pdf.

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How does the REAL ID Act affect issuance of driver's license and ID cards?

The REAL ID Act promotes security in the issuance of driver's licenses and ID cards, and deters identity theft and fraud by requiring states to meet certain physical and procedural security standards for production and issuance of driver's licenses and ID cards, as well as certain documentation standards, including authentication and verification standards for proof of identity, date of birth, Social Security number, residence, and lawful status or presence.

Unlike some federal programs, the REAL ID Act does not condition receipt of federal funding on compliance. Rather, the REAL ID Act conditions access of a state’s citizens to certain federally controlled facilities or activities on compliance.

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When do I need a REAL ID-marked card?

There is no reason to rush out and get a REAL ID.

Many Iowans can wait until their driver's license renewal date to apply for a REAL ID, if they are interested in obtaining one.

The original individual compliance deadlines were based on your date of birth: Dec. 1, 2014 for persons born after Dec. 1, 1964, and Dec. 1, 2017, for persons born on or before Dec. 1, 1964. The Iowa DOT understands the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will set and announce new, delayed compliance dates for individuals from compliant states like Iowa later this year. In the meantime, individuals from compliant states, including Iowa, may continue to use Iowa driver’s licenses or IDs for all official federal purposes. Based on initial information provided by DHS, it appears the new individual compliance dates will begin no earlier than 2016. The Iowa DOT will continue to update Iowa citizens as DHS makes these dates known.

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What are the differences between current Iowa driver's license and ID cards and REAL ID-marked cards?

Because Iowa already produces cards that met the REAL ID security standards, there will be almost no material differences. They will be made of the same materials; offer the same security features designed to prevent tampering, counterfeiting or duplication; contain the same information; and have the same general appearance.

The only significant physical difference will be a star verification mark on the front of the card in the upper, right-hand corner.

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How do I decide whether I need a REAL ID-marked driver's license or ID card?

New applicants

New applicants are already appearing and bringing all the documents needed to qualify for a REAL ID-marked card, so no decision is needed. If you are a new applicant and you successfully complete the requirements for an Iowa driver's license or ID card, you will be issued a REAL ID-marked card.

Current driver's license or ID card holders

If you currently hold a driver's license or ID card, you can decide whether you want to apply for a REAL ID-marked card. To decide, consider whether you will use your card for federal official purposes (i.e., boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft, accessing federal facilities that require identification to enter, or entering nuclear power plants). If you will, you may want to apply for a REAL ID-marked card.

If you do not currently use your card for these purposes and do not expect to in the future, you may decide you don’t need a REAL ID-marked card.

Also, if you have another form of federal identification you can use for these purposes, such as a valid U.S. passport or passport card, you may decide you don’t need a REAL ID-marked card.

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If I am interested, when should I apply for a REAL ID-marked card?

All Iowa cards, whether marked for compliance with the REAL ID Act or not, will remain acceptable for the defined federal official purposes until the federal individual compliance dates (see above).
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What will happen if I do not have a REAL ID-marked card after my individual compliance date and attempt to board a commercial aircraft, access a federal facility that requires identification to enter, or enter a nuclear power plant?

The federal agency responsible for security of the airport, federal facility or nuclear power plant will determine whether to permit access/entrance or subject you to additional screening as prescribed by that agency. No federal agencies have yet issued any guidance on how they will screen applicants after the individual compliance dates. The Iowa DOT will update this information as guidance or information becomes available.

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Can I still drive if I have a valid driver's license that is not marked as REAL ID compliant?

Yes. Even after your individual compliance date, your driver's license remains valid for all lawful driving purposes.

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Can I still use my valid driver's license or ID card for identification after my individual compliance date if it is not marked as REAL ID compliant?

Yes. Even after your individual compliance date, your card is still a valid form of identification.

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What if I change my mind? Can I get a REAL ID-marked driver's license or ID card after the individual compliance date that applies to me?

Yes. The individual compliance dates are just the dates federal officials may begin checking for compliant cards, they are not deadlines for obtaining a compliant card.

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How do I obtain a REAL ID-marked driver’s license or ID card?

New applicants

New applicants that successfully complete the requirements for an Iowa driver’s license or ID card will be issued a REAL ID-marked card. These applicants are already appearing and bringing the required documents and have no choice to make.

Current driver’s license or ID card holders

Obtaining a REAL ID-marked card is your choice. To obtain one, go to any and present the same documents a new applicant would present. This can be done when you renew your existing card; or you may surrender your current card and request a duplicate that is REAL ID marked. Duplicates require a $10 replacement fee.

There is no need to rush out and get a REAL ID-marked card. See above for information about individual compliance dates.

All applicants must provide proof of identity; date of birth; Social Security number; Iowa residence; and lawful status or presence in the United States.

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Will a REAL ID-marked card cost more than one that is not marked?

No. There is no change in the fees for new, duplicate, or renewed driver's licenses or ID cards.

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Will a REAL ID-marked card be valid for a different length of time than one that is not marked?

No. However, federal regulations require that a driver's license or ID card issued to a person who is a temporary foreign national be valid for no more than one year when the person’s authorized stay has no expiration date. A temporary foreign national issued a one-year driver's license or ID may renew the driver's license or ID card at the end of the one-year period, upon proof of continued lawful status.

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Where can I get a REAL ID-marked driver's license or ID card?

You may apply at any
Iowa driver’s license issuance site beginning Jan. 15, 2013.

Upon approval, you will be issued a temporary paper driver's license or ID card. The permanent driver's license or ID card will be mailed to you from a secure facility, typically within 10 days.

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Are there any new knowledge and drive test requirements to a get a REAL ID-marked driver’s license?

No.

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If I have a driver’s license that is not marked REAL ID compliant, but I want one, will I have to take a knowledge or drive test?

Not unless you are required to complete a test for another reason. It is not necessary to take a test to simply get a REAL ID-marked card.

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Does the REAL ID Act apply to all types of driver's licenses and ID cards?

Yes. The Iowa DOT will be producing REAL ID-marked versions of all cards.

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What documents do I need to obtain a REAL ID-marked driver's license or ID card?

Regardless of whether you are a new applicant or current card holder, you must bring the same types of documents to get a REAL ID-marked card.

To help applicants identify and gather the required documents, use the Iowa DOT's Web application – "Prepare for Success." Simply answer a few questions and the system will create a customized list of documents you need to bring with you.

New applicants and current driver's license and ID card holders who want a REAL ID-marked card must present the required documents from each of these four categories.

  • Identity and date of birth. You must present one of the documents listed below.)
  • Lawful status in the United States. By providing one of the documents required for proof of identity and date of birth, you will also establish lawful status in the United States, provided the Iowa DOT is able to authenticate and verify the documents under existing and available verification systems.
  • Social Security number. Present your Social Security card; or one of the following documents listed below.
  • Iowa residency and current residential address. You must present two documents that include your name and current Iowa residential address that demonstrate residency in the state of Iowa. See examples of acceptable documents below.

Identity and date of birth: To document identity and date of birth, you must submit one of the following documents.
  • Valid, unexpired U.S. passport or U.S. passport card
  • Certified copy of a birth certificate issued by a state of the United States. (“State” includes the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, or the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.) It must be a certified copy and have the stamp or raised seal of the issuing authority. A hospital-issued certificate is not acceptable. A certified birth certificate issued by Puerto Rico must be certified as being issued on or after July 1, 2010.
  • Consular Report of Birth Abroad issued by the U.S. Department of State (Form FS-240, DS-1350 or FS-545)
  • Certificate of Naturalization (Form N-550, N-570 or N-578)
  • Certificate of Citizenship (Form N-560, N-561 or N-645)
  • Unexpired Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551)
  • Unexpired Employment Authorization Document (Form I-766)
  • Record of Arrival and Departure (I-94) with attached photo and stamped “Temporary Proof of Lawful Permanent Resident”
  • Record of Arrival and Departure (I-94) stamped “Refugee,” “Parolee” or “Asylee”
  • Unexpired foreign passport accompanied by the approved I-94 documenting the applicant's most recent admittance into the United States
  • Valid foreign passport stamped “Processed for I-551”
  • Permit to Reenter the United States (I-327)
  • Refugee Travel Document (I-571)
Driver’s license personnel will determine if documents provided from this list are authentic, valid, and acceptable. Photocopies and faxes of documents will NOT be accepted.

Lawful status in the United States: The documents required for proof of identity and date of birth will also establish lawful status in the United States, provided the Iowa DOT is able to authenticate and verify the documents under existing and available verification systems.

The Iowa DOT uses a U.S. Department of Homeland Security program known as SAVE – Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements – to electronically verify immigration documents issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The Iowa DOT uses a U.S. Department of Homeland Security program known as U.S. Passport Verification Service to verify passports. In some instances a secondary inquiry will be necessary to verify the document presented.

Social Security number (SSN): The Iowa DOT must verify your SSN. Your name and date of birth will be verified with the Social Security Administration at the time of your application, through Social Security Online Verification (SSOLV). To document your SSN, present one of the following documents that contain your current name.
  1. Your Social Security card
  2. W-2 form
  3. Social Security Administration 1099 form
  4. Non-Social Security Administration 1099 form
  5. Pay stub with your name and Social Security number on it

Again, photocopies and faxes of these documents will NOT be accepted.

If you are a temporary foreign national not authorized for employment, you do not have to document a SSN, but the Iowa DOT will verify your USCIS number. Make sure you are not authorized for employment. If you are eligible for employment but do not have a SSN, you are required to obtain and present one. The Iowa DOT will not issue a driver's license or ID if the remaining status time is less than 30 days. The Iowa DOT will electronically verify your name, date of birth and SSN with the Social Security Administration. Make sure your document is up to date and accurate to avoid delay.

If you need to correct or update information at the SSA, do so several days before you apply for a driver's license or ID card. For information on how to do this, visit www.ssa.gov. Your SSN will not be listed on your driver's license or ID. The Iowa DOT will assign you a unique driver's license or ID number.

Iowa residency and current residential address: You must present two documents that include your current name and Iowa residential address. Examples of acceptable documents are listed below.

  • An Iowa voter registration card.
  • A valid Iowa vehicle registration certificate.
  • Valid insurance card or certificate of coverage (life, health, auto, homeowner’s or renter’s)
  • Second valid insurance card or certificate of coverage (different than first)
  • Utility hook up or bill (water, gas, electric, or garbage removal)
  • Second utility hookup or bill (different than the first)
  • Telephone hookup, service agreement or bill (landline or mobile)
  • Statement from a financial institution (bank, credit union or other financial institution)
  • Second statement from a financial institution (different from the first)
  • Personal check or deposit slip issued by a financial institution (you may mark this “VOID”)
  • Credit, debit or charge card statement
  • Iowa residential mortgage, lease or rental agreement (lease and rental agreements must include the landlord’s name and contact information)
  • Application for homestead tax credit for Iowa residential property
  • Application for military tax credit for Iowa residential property
  • Valid real estate tax statement or receipt for Iowa residential property
  • Pay stub or statement from your employer
  • Your current school enrollment papers for an Iowa public or private school
  • Current school enrollment papers for a dependent child in an Iowa public or private school
  • A federal, State of Iowa or local government document (such as a receipt, license, permit, assessment, professional or trade license, or other document)
  • Second federal, State of Iowa or local government document (different than the first)
  • An envelope, box, postcard or magazine that includes a postmark or stamped date
  • Iowa driver's license or ID card that has not been expired for more than one year
Other items may be accepted subject to review and approval by Iowa licensing personnel.

The residential address you supply must be a street or highway address. It may not be a post office box. In areas where a number and street name have not been assigned, an address convention used by the U.S. Postal Service is acceptable. (You may use a post office box as your mailing address.)

If you are a minor (see below), the consent form signed by your parent, guardian or custodian will establish your residence and residential address without additional documentation.

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Can I use my out-of-state driver's license or ID card or Iowa driver's license or ID as proof of identity?

No. The Iowa DOT does not accept an out-of-state license as primary proof of identity, even if marked as REAL ID compliant, and the federal REAL ID requirements require a person applying for his or her first REAL ID-marked driver's license or ID to submit one of the identity documents listed above. However, you should still bring your out-of-state or Iowa driver's license or ID card to the driver’s license issuance site when you appear for issuance, as you are required to surrender all other driver's licenses or IDs when you obtain an Iowa driver's license or ID. Additionally, an out-of-state license may help avoid knowledge and drive testing when applying for a new Iowa driver's license of the same class and endorsements.

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What if my name has changed?

If your name is different than the one shown on your birth certificate or other document used to establish identity and date of birth, you must complete an affidavit of name change, which is an electronic form completed while you are at any Iowa driver’s license issuance site. There is no printed form.

You must also provide certified copies of the legal documents that connect the name on the document used to establish identity and date of birth to your current name. The following documents are acceptable.

  • Court-ordered name change. This includes:
    • Orders under petition for name change.
    • Orders for name change in a divorce decree or decree of annulment.
    • Orders for name change in a decree of adoption.
The court order must contain your prior full legal name, your court-ordered full legal name and your date of birth. It must be a certified copy and have the stamp or raised seal of the issuing court.

  • Marriage certificate. The marriage certificate must be issued by a state office of vital statistics or equivalent agency in the state or country where you were married, and must be a certified copy with a stamp or raised seal of the issuing authority. A church, chapel or similarly issued certificate is not acceptable.

In all cases, the documents must connect the name shown on your birth certificate or other document used to establish identity and date of birth to your current name. You do not have to document a complete listing of all the names you may have previously used, as long as the documents you provide clearly connect the two.

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What if I am a minor?

Minors (persons under 18 years old) are eligible to obtain REAL ID-marked driver's licenses and IDs, and like all new applicants, minors that are successful new applicants will be issued a driver's license or ID card with the REAL ID marking. (This includes a learner’s permit, minor‘s school license, intermediate license, full license, and minor’s restricted license.) Minors that are current driver's license or ID card holders have the same choice as existing card holders and can obtain a compliant card by following the same process.

Minors that are new applicants or that are upgrading an existing permit or license to a minor’s school license, intermediate license, full license, or minor’s restricted license must also present a consent form (see below) completed by their parent, guardian or custodian. The consent form shows the parent’s, guardian’s or custodian’s permission to obtain a driver's license or ID card and, if applicable, to drive at the level or for the purpose requested. Minors presenting a consent form do not have to provide additional documents showing residency and residential address.

Minors applying for a new or duplicate ID card must present a completed a Parent's/Guardian's Written Consent form. Minors applying for a new or duplicate learner’s permit, intermediate license, minor’s restricted license, or full license must present a completed a Parent's/Guardian's Written Consent form. Minors applying for a minor’s school license must present a completed Affidavit for School License form. All of these forms can be downloaded or obtained from any Iowa driver’s license issuance site and completed ahead of time; and if that is done, the parent, guardian or custodian does not have to accompany the minor to the Iowa driver’s license issuance site. All of the forms except for the Affidavit for School License also can be completed by the parent, guardian or custodian electronically at any Iowa driver’s license issuance site; the Affidavit for School License must also be signed by the minor’s school and therefore can’t be completed electronically at the station.

Emancipated minors (minors that are married) do not have to provide a consent form but must provide their marriage certificate to show emancipation.

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I do not have a Social Security card, W-2 or tax document to demonstrate a valid Social Security number. What should I do?

Visit a federal Social Security Administration office to obtain a card. More information is available on the SSA’s website: www.ssa.gov.

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I no longer have my birth certificate with an official seal. What should I do?

If you were born in Iowa, contact the Iowa Department of Public Health, Bureau of Vital Records, Lucas Office Building, 321 E. 12th St., Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0075. Information on how to obtain certified copies is available via the Iowa Department of Public Health’s website, or by calling 515-281-4944. Requests can be made by phone, online, mail, and in person. You may also consult with your county recorder as your record of birth may be on file in that office.

If you were born outside of Iowa, contact your birth state’s vital statistics office or utilize one of several for-profit companies to purchase it. For information on where to write for vital records in other states, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website: www.cdc.gov/nchs/w2w.htm.

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Once I obtain a REAL ID-marked card, do I have to submit these documents again when it is time for renewal?

No. However, a person that is a foreign national with temporary lawful status has to establish lawful status at each renewal.

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If I have temporary lawful status in the United States, will the driver's license or ID card issued to me be different?

Your card will read “limited term” and be valid for the period of your lawful stay in the United States, not to exceed two years.

If your lawful stay has no defined end or expiration date, it will be valid for no longer than one year.

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Does a driver's license or ID card marked “limited term” have different or lesser privileges?

No. The driver's license or ID card remains fully valid for all purposes normally associated with a driver's license or ID card in the form issued.

A driver's license or ID card marked “limited term” merely signifies that it is issued to a person who is a foreign national with temporary lawful status in the United States and has a shorter term than a regular driver's license or ID card.

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I have had a driver's license or ID card in Iowa for many years. Why do I have to show documentation to obtain a REAL ID-marked card?

Federal regulations require all persons that want a REAL ID-marked card to have their identity, date of birth, Social Security number, residential address, and lawful status reverified before being issued the card.

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What is document verification; and what verification systems is Iowa using?

Verification is a guard against document and identity fraud. It means the Iowa DOT must check with the agency or authority that issued the document to make sure it is valid.

Iowa uses Social Security Online Verification (SSOLV) to verify Social Security information; Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) to verify immigration documents and status; and U.S. Passport Verification Service to verify passport information. Systems to verify birth record information and state driver's license information are expected to become available in the future.

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I have heard the REAL ID Act is creating a national database of driver and identification information. Is this true?

No. The information you give to the Iowa DOT held securely by the Iowa DOT. It is not entered into a national database.

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I have heard that REAL ID-marked driver's license and ID cards have an electronic chip in them that allows my movements to be tracked. Is this true?

No. There is no electronic chip or other electronic device in Iowa’s driver's license or ID cards, whether marked as REAL ID compliant or not.

Some U.S. border states offer an enhanced driver's license that includes passive vicinity radio frequency identification embedded in the card that meets federal requirements and facilitates rapid identification checks at the border. However, that technology is not required by the REAL ID and is not used in cards issued by Iowa.

Iowa’s driver's licenses and ID cards do have the required bar code printed on the back; that code requires manual scanning and only conveys the information appearing on the face of the driver's license or ID card, without the photo.