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States Take Lead in "Defining Down" REAL ID

According to DHS is nearing release of the long-delayed REAL ID regulations. Apparently, the guidelines are complete. Now, all that remains is for DHS to calculate the savings for the states and to send the guidelines up to OMB for final sign-off. This could take another two or three months.

However, I've also noticed that several states, including North Carolina, Utah, and (most recently) New York, have taken the lead in redefining how states might comply with REAL ID. (Even some localities are getting in on the act.) The primary trick here is for the jurisdiction to issue two or more types of drivers licenses. Some licenses will serve as identity credentials, including verification of citizenship, with the applicant providing all of the relevant documentation as defined by the state. A "lower" tier of license will serve only as a verification of the holder's permission to drive.

GovWin's Take

Recent actions by the states demonstrate the governors' commitment to upgrading the licensing process to better meet the needs of national security and immigration policy independent of specific guidance (or even funding) from Washington. The governors are certainly working "define down" the stringent DHS-imposed requirements for identity and citizenship verification to a minimum-acceptable level. They never felt that state drivers licensing processes should be more stringent that the process for acquiring a federally-issued passport. Laborious, front-end identity/citizenship verification processes were always at the heart of steep REAL ID-compliance cost estimates. Government IT vendors can rest assured that the basic technology upgrade and integration costs (estimates ranging between $1.5B and $3.0B) will hold relatively steady under any new REAL ID regime.

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