Despite new upgrades in July, Illinois state IDs will not be federally compliant

Robin Opsahl, City Editor

Illinois IDs will be upgraded with anti-counterfeiting and identity theft features starting in July, but the cards will still not be compliant with federal standards. The issue has prevented Illinois residents from using their IDs to enter federal buildings and military bases since January.

On Tuesday, the Illinois Secretary of State announced that state identification cards and driver’s licenses would be upgraded to improve security features, including the use of facial recognition technology. The new system will cost the state $6 million in implementation and between $6 million and $10 million a year in expenses, David Druker, spokesman for the Illinois Secretary of State said. However, bringing the state into full compliance with the REAL ID act, which was implemented in 2005 would cost up to $60 million over two or three years, he said.

“In retrospect, this estimate may be high, but we’re further down the road,” he said.

Starting in July, residents applying and renewing their licenses and IDs at Driver Services facilities will leave with a temporary paper replacement instead of a new ID, which will be sent by mail within 15 days. The delay is time for state officials to send in the information to an off-site facility, which will run fraud checks and make the cards with new anti-counterfeit security measures which officials said “over-the-counter technology simply cannot produce.”

The new process is an effort for the state to fulfill mandates outlined in the REAL ID act, which Illinois was supposed to be in compliance with by 2009. The state was denied an extension on meeting the standards of the law in January, when Illinois licenses and state IDs could no longer be used to enter federal buildings, such as military bases.

Although the changes being implemented over the next summer will bring Illinois closer to federal standards, it is still only 84 percent compliant with the federal mandate, Secretary of State Jesse White said in a statement. In addition to meeting federal standards, the new system also works towards better preventing fraud and identity theft for state residents.

“Becoming REAL ID compliant is a step-by-step process,” White said in the statement. “The upgraded driver’s license and ID card contain a variety of enhanced security features that take advantage of new developments in technology.”

Druker said further costs of meeting the REAL ID standards include verifying citizens’ birth certificates, and checking immigration and social security records. However, both current and upgraded IDs can continue to be accepted as primary forms of identification to board commercial airplanes for domestic travel until Jan. 22, 2018, he said.

To meet all the REAL ID requirements, some changes will have to originate in the state legislature, such as a law prohibiting people to have both a license and a state ID as well as limiting the maximum duration of a license to eight years.

Even without meeting the federal standards, having Driver’s License and State ID production in one location instead of on-site at Driver Services facilities brings Illinois closer to the security levels of other states. According to a news release, 39 other states — including larger states like California and Texas — have already moved to the centralized ID production system that Illinois plans to implement.

Illinois is one of four states — as well as the American Samoa territory — still not compliant with the REAL ID act, according to a Department of Homeland Security news release. The other states in violation of the law are Minnesota, Missouri and Washington. Additionally, New Hampshire and two territories were given extensions until 2016 to meet the act’s standards.

In an interview with The Daily in January, the DHS officials said it was unlikely the state would receive an extension unless new information was provided explaining its inability to comply. Druker said the state will be working with the DHS to consider getting an extension in light of the new efforts.

“There are other things we’re doing that will be perceived positively by homeland security,” Druker said. “We’re optimistic that we’re going to be able to make things work. It’s a positive step.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @robinlopsahl