How to Get a Valid Photo ID

Driver license plastic card template
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If there is one universal truth in the United States, it might be that every adult needs a valid photo ID. It is hard to do much of anything without a valid photo identification card. Banking, making investments, renting a car, renting an apartment, buying liquor, even using a credit card may be conditioned on possession of a government-issued card with a photo on it. So anyone who doesn't have a valid photo identification should make getting one a top priority.

Getting a State Driver's License

Many people when asked for a valid photo ID card, pull out a driver's license. It's not legal to drive without a current driver's license and this is a driving nation, so most people, from teenagers to seniors, have one of these in their wallets.

To obtain a driver's license, however, you need to learn how to drive. Most people get a driving permit when they start driving. The permit allows someone to operate a vehicle with a licensed driver sitting beside her.

To get the permit, an individual must pass a multiple-choice test about driving laws and practice as well as a vision test. She must also provide her Social Security Number (SSN), prove her identity, such as with a birth certificate, and present residency documents such as:

  • Tax returns. 
  • Apartment rental agreements. 
  • Utility bills.
  • A school document, medical document or employment document with her name and address. 

After the new driver is ready, she takes the road test. If her driving skills are sufficient to pass the test, she gets a photo and fingerprints taken, pays her fees and gets her driver's license in the mail.

Getting a State Identification Card

Obtaining a state identification card is much easier than getting a driver's license. The applicant must do everything he would have to do to get the license, but he can skip the multiple-choice test and the driving test.

If a person wishes to get a federally compliant "REAL ID" driver's license or identity card, he must select documents to prove his identification, SSN and residency from the federal list of acceptable document options.

Getting a Passport

A person who seeks a valid photo ID could decide to get a passport, which has an additional advantage. A passport is the document that will enable her to travel outside the country. A first time passport applicant must apply in person, making an appointment at a passport office near her.

The procedure is not difficult as long as the applicant brings all of the required documentation with her as well as appropriate copies. She will need to get and fill in form DS-11, but wait to sign the form until she is at the passport office. She'll also need her SSN and documents proving citizenship like a United States birth certificate. To qualify, the certificate must:

  • Be issued by the city, county or state where she was born.
  • List her full name and date and place of birth.
  • List her parents' full names.
  • Be date stamped as filed with the registrar's office within a year of her birth.
  • Contain the registrar's signature.
  • Carry the seal of the issuing authority.

A consular report of birth abroad, certification of birth, or certificate of naturalization or citizenship also work. The applicant also needs a passport photo that meets the requirements and a means of paying the fee.

Other Photo Identification Documents

While a driver's license, state-issued photo ID and passport are among the photo IDs most commonly used by Americans, there are other options. These include a government employee ID from a city, state or the federal government and a U.S. military or military dependent ID.

Read More: Legal Forms of Identification

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