Do you plan to get a job, rent an apartment, open a bank account, apply for college or travel on an airplane? Then you might need a government-issued, photo identification card. Most people do one or more of these core activities every year or so, and it pays to be prepared. If you don't have a driver's license, a state ID card will substitute nicely. It does everything a driver's license does, other than giving you the right to drive. And you don't even have to pass a multiple-choice test to get one.
Reasons to Get a State ID
State identification cards provide an easy-carry, wallet-size photo ID, issued by the government. They are easier to get than a driver's license and cheaper by far than a passport.
You'll need to show that type of identification when you apply for a job, a library card or a passport. It's required when you are notarizing a signature, applying for college or getting an apartment. Many money-related tasks require a photo ID, like opening a bank account or an IRA, cashing a check or receiving public benefits, including health insurance. If you are hopping on a plane or entering government buildings, you'll need one, too.
Procedures and requirements vary between the states, but it's almost always quite easy to obtain a state ID. You don't have to pass any tests, written or oral, and you won't have to pass an eye test.
Documents Required to Apply for ID
Each state sets up its own system for issuing identification cards, but most ask the Department of Motor Vehicles to do the honors. You'll need to fill in the application form to start the ball rolling. It will also contain a list of the documents you must bring with you. Since not every state has the same requirements, it's important to check that list twice.
Name, Identity and Residency
All states require documentation proving your name, identity and your residency in order to get a state identification card. Some states, like Alaska, also require proof of U.S. citizenship.
In California, you can prove both name and identity with a driver's license, a passport or a certified birth certificate. New York has developed a list of documents you can use to prove identity and points for each. You'll need a Social Security card and other documents totaling four points, i.e. New York's system of proving your identity. If you don't have a SSN, you'll need documents that total of six points. In states like Alaska and Minnesota, you must bring both a primary document and a secondary document from the list the states provide online.
Prove state residency in California with utility bills, a house title to your home or rental agreement, or a pay stub from your employer. In Alaska, you can also use a voter registration card, a paycheck, a public assistance card, a canceled check or bank or a letter from your employer verifying your residence address.
Social Security Number
You also have to provide your SSN or proof that you are not eligible for one. In some states, like California, the number you give will be verified during the appointment. In Michigan, you can prove your SSN with either your Social Security card, a W-2 or 1099 form, a pay stub containing your name and Social Security number, or a valid U.S. military ID card with photo.
To get a state ID card, you'll need the filled-in application specific to your state, proof of your name, identification, residency, Social Security number and birth date. Some states require proof that you are a U.S. citizen. You'll also have to pay a fee.
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an MA and an MFA in English/writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.