Barriers to IDs

The Colorado ID Project has been assisting more than 5,000 people a year for the past decade in obtaining Colorado IDs. Many people simply cannot afford the cost ($11.50 state ID, $28 state driver’s license, $20 state birth certificate), and others face more difficult obstacles to obtaining an ID. The simplest cases are those in which one has lost a current or recently expired Colorado ID, or has a valid US passport with a current name. However, there are significant barriers for populations whose cases can be rather complex. The barriers faced by people experiencing homelessness become even more overwhelming when they lack identification.


Cost of Supporting Documents

Getting a birth certificate or proof of birth abroad can cost anywhere from around $10 to $100, depending on where you were born and how quickly you need your certificate. If you have no documents at all and need to provide the DMV with supplemental identity records in addition to the birth certificate, you can spend a significant amount of extra time and money.


Ability to Obtain Documents

If you have no government-issued identification document at all, you will need to show the DMV three certified identity records in addition to your birth certificate. These records must contain your identifying information: full name, date of birth, and/or Social Security number and must be certified by the issuing agency. If you have changed your name (including by marriage), the legal name change document is required. Often victims of domestic violence are forced to flee dangerous situations and cannot safely retrieve their personal records so they must replace all of their records and their children’s records. Aside from the cost, this replacement process is a monumental task for those who lack access to the internet or internet research skills. For those with no fixed address to which to send the records, it is impossible. Most Vital Records offices require a valid ID to ensure they are releasing the record to an authorized party, so it can be a vicious cycle of needing an ID to get identity documents in order to get an ID. This is especially difficult if you have no authorized immediate family member with an ID to request it on your behalf. Many of these records may be ordered online, but if you do not have a credit card or a bank account, you will have great difficulty ordering these essential records.


Mismatched Documentation

When the DMV reviews your documents, they must be consistent and they must match your information in Social Security’s database. Marriage, divorce, and adoption can leave people with differing last names on their documents. This problem also happens with people who have been adopted, decided informally to use a different name, or where parents informally assigned their own last name to a foster or step child. Transgender people often start using their chosen name before going through the lengthy, costly process of a legal name or gender change so their documentation will be under different names and genders. This discrepancy makes it difficult to show the records belong to one individual. In some cases, individuals will need a legal name change, a months-long process that costs at least $200.


No Birth Certificate Exists

Some people who were born at home never had their births registered with the state, so they lack a birth certificate. Without a birth certificate on file there is no easy means of proving citizenship. Some nursing homes that accept Medicaid demand a birth certificate to show lawful presence and Medicaid eligibility, so a person could be denied essential housing and medical care without a birth certificate. It takes a convincing series of alternative documents to persuade the state in which the person was born to issue a delayed registration of birth and/or to persuade the DMV to issue an ID. Likewise, some birth certificates include spelling errors, incorrect dates of birth, or are incomplete (“baby boy” rather than baby’s name) and must be amended before an ID can be issued.


The populations most affected by these barriers are those experiencing poverty or homelessness, the elderly on fixed incomes, victims of domestic violence, people with disabilities, individuals with mental health struggles, young people just out of foster care, transgender people, and those who are distanced from their families and support systems. People in these circumstances cannot find stable housing, employment, medical care, schooling, or public benefits without an ID.