Real ID Act
In 2005 Congress passed the Real ID Act. This law created federal standards that state-issued IDs must meet in order to be used for federal purposes, such as boarding a plane or entering federal buildings. States then had to consider whether they would change their policies and procedures to meet the new heightened federal standards, and if so, how. Colorado’s version of the Real ID Act requires applicants for driver’s licenses and IDs to verify their full legal name, date of birth, identity, and lawful presence in the United States. Applicants must also provide proof of their Social Security number, which will then be verified with the Social Security Administration’s records. More information about the Real ID Act and Colorado’s subsequent legislation and administrative policy changes can be found here.
What documents do I need to get a Colorado ID?
To be issued a Colorado ID or driver’s license, you must prove the following four elements: full legal name, date of birth, identity, and lawful presence in the US. In some cases, a single “standalone” document may prove all four elements. If you do not have one of the acceptable standalone documents, you will have to provide a combination of other documents that satisfy all the required elements. All documents presented to the DMV must be certified originals, certified amended originals or true copies certified by the issuing agency. The DMV will not accept copies, photos of documents, faxes, or digital versions of any documentation.
What are some examples of “standalone” documents?
Do I have to prove anything else besides name, date of birth, identity, and lawful presence?
Yes. You will also need to provide proof of your Social Security number and your Colorado residency. To verify your Social Security number, you will need to provide one of the following:
- Social Security card (not laminated)
- W-2 Form
- SSA-1099 Form
- Non-SSA-1099 Form
- Pay stub with your name and full Social Security number
See Step 2 here. A few other items may be accepted, with manager discretion, to prove your social security number.
To prove your residency, you need to provide two of the following that include your name, address, and are dated within the last year:
- Colorado driver’s license, permit, or ID card with current address
- Note: Leases with handwritten addresses or tenants’ names will not be accepted.
- Utility bill, phone bill, lease agreement, or rental receipt in your name
- First class mail with postmark
- Note: Mail addressed with a label or not postmarked first class mail by USPS will not be accepted.
- Credit card, bank, or mortgage statement
- Transcript/report card
- Insurance policy
- Tax document
- Pay stub
- Vehicle registration or title
DMV may also accept other proof, with manager discretion. For more information see here.
Which out-of-state IDs will be accepted as full proof of identity?
Each state is permitted to craft its own version of the Real ID Act, so there is some variety across states. Not every state is currently offering a Real ID-compliant ID. Some states offer two tiers of ID: one that has verified lawful presence, name, date of birth, identity, and Social Security number; and one that has not verified one or more of those elements. The non-compliant IDs are usually marked with an explicit disclaimer, such as “NOT FOR FEDERAL USE” or “NOT FOR FEDERAL IDENTIFICATION” on the face of the card. Language and requirements vary by state, so you should check with the Colorado DMV to see if your out-of-state ID will work as full proof of identity. The most important thing to note is that if you have an out of state ID or driver’s license that says “NOT FOR FEDERAL USE” or “NOT FOR FEDERAL IDENTIFICATION,” you will have to submit additional documentation besides your out-of-state ID, birth certificate, and Social Security card.
Can I still get an ID or driver’s license if I lack lawful presence or only have temporary legal status?
The Colorado Road and Community Safety Act (CO-RCSA SB251 C.R.S. 42-2-500) authorized the DMV to issue IDs and driver’s licenses to individuals who are unable to demonstrate lawful presence, or only have temporary lawful presence. Once issued, CO-RCSA SB251 (“251 cards”) are valid for three years. These IDs are marked with “NOT VALID FOR FEDERAL IDENTIFICATION, VOTING, OR PUBLIC BENEFIT PURPOSES” on the face of the document. As indicated by the marker, 251 cards are not valid for federal identification, proof of immigration status, or documentation of eligibility for voting rights or public benefits. The DMV has very specific requirements for issuance of these IDs. The document matrix is here, more information about the process is here (page 2), and general eligibility information is available here.
Please note that Colorado Legal Services, as a recipient of funding from the Legal Services Corporation, may not provide legal assistance for or on behalf of an ineligible alien. There are a few very narrow exceptions, such as for victims of domestic violence. For more information about who is an eligible alien, please see 45 CFR § 1626.1 et seq.
What if I don’t have a “standalone” document?
If you do not have a standalone document, then you can use a combination of other documents to prove full legal name, age, identity, and lawful presence in the United States in accordance with the DMV Identification Requirements matrix.
What are some examples of documents that prove full legal name, age, and identity?
Note: these documents do not show lawful presence so they are not standalone documents.
- Colorado ID or driver’s license expired less than 10 years
- Out-of-state ID or driver’s license that is Real ID-compliant
- Note: An ID marked with “NOT FOR FEDERAL USE” or “NOT FOR FEDERAL IDENTIFICATION” will require additional identity documents
- US passport expired less than 10 years
- Bureau of Indian Affairs ID with a photo less than 20 years old
- Military ID or Common Access Card (CAC) with a photo and not expired or expired less than 10 years
- Veterans Administration card with photo less than 20 years old
- Department of Corrections ID or Federal Bureau of Prisons ID
- Affidavit signed by parent or legal guardian if applicant is under 21 years old (affiant must provide identification and proof of relationship)
- See DMV Identification Requirements
What if my name is different from what is on my birth certificate?
Your full legal name is the name on your birth certificate, unless it has been changed by court order, marriage, divorce, or adoption. To get a name in any name besides the one on your birth certificate, you must present the original name change document. A certified copy of a marriage license or certificate, divorce decree, adoption order, or name change order issued by a court of competent jurisdiction may be used to prove a name change. If you never obtained a legal name change and your names on your supporting documents don’t match, you may need to consider a legal name change. More information on acceptable name change documentation is available here.
What are some examples of documents that prove lawful presence in the US?
Note: these are not standalone documents because they do not verify identity.
- Certified original or certified amended birth certificate issued by state, county, the District of Columbia, the Department of State, or the territory of Puerto Rico
- Certificate of Naturalization or Certificate of Citizenship with photo, 20 years old or more
- Note: A Certificate of Naturalization less than 20 years old will work as a standalone document. See here.
- Certified order of adoption with birth information
- I-94 with refugee or asylee status that does not contain a photo and verified by SAVE
- Note: If your I-94 contains a photo and the USCIS seal, then it likely works as a standalone document.
If you cannot provide the documents discussed above, you may need to go through Exceptions Processing to get an ID.
What is Exception Processing (“EP”)?
Individuals who cannot provide adequate documentation (as outlined above) may request Exception Processing administered by the Motor Vehicles Investigations Unit. Additional documents may be considered in the Exceptions Process that would not be acceptable through the standard DMV process. A more detailed list of acceptable EP documents is available here. There is no fee for Exceptions Processing beyond the regular fee for an ID. More information about Exceptions Processing is available here.
Four DMV locations handle Exceptions Processing at the locations where you can apply. If the location closest to you does not handle Exceptions Processing cases on site, then they may have to send your documents to another office for review.
If I don’t have my out of state driver’s license, do I have to take the exam to get a driver’s license in Colorado?
If you are eligible for driving privileges in another state, the easiest way to prove that is by surrendering your out-of-state license. If you no longer have your physical license, you can obtain a certified copy of your driver history to show your active driving privileges out of state. DMV will accept driver histories dated within the past 30 days. DMV cannot check to see if you have driving privileges out of state, you must obtain that documentation on your own. You should check with the licensing entity from your former state to see how you can get a certified copy of your driver history. Some can be ordered online and some must be ordered by mail. If you have a hold on your out of state driving privileges, that hold must be resolved in your previous state before Colorado will grant driving privileges. More information on transferring your out-of-state driving privileges to Colorado is available here.
Replacing a lost or stolen Colorado ID
If you have been issued a Colorado ID, it is much easier to replace than to obtain a Colorado ID for the first time. If your residency information has changed, you will need to bring in two proofs of residency for your new address. If everything else is the same, you will need to scan your fingerprint and the DMV will examine the photo image they have on file to verify your identity. In some cases, DMV may require that you provide your birth certificate or Social Security card to replace your ID.
How much does a Colorado ID cost?
IDs are $11.50 and driver licenses are $28. If you are a senior over 60, the fee for an ID is waived. For more information about vouchers to help with the cost of your ID, see here.
Other Miscellaneous Information
This communication is made available by Colorado Legal Services (CLS) as a public service and is issued to inform, not to advise. No person should attempt to interpret or apply any law without the assistance of an attorney. The opinions expressed in this communication are those of the authors and not those of CLS or its funding sources.