How the Real ID affects undocumented immigrants

How the Real ID affects undocumented immigrants

Being an undocumented immigrant poses several unique challenges, one of which is the inability to travel freely within and outside the United States. With the enactment of the new REAL ID, slated to go into effect in May 2023, travel will be even more challenging for undocumented immigrants.

In 2005, U.S. Congress introduced the REAL ID Act, upon recommendation of the 9/11 Commission to set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver licenses. This law provided minimum security standards for state-issued driver licenses and identification cards. Federal agencies are prohibited from accepting the non-compliant licenses and identification cards for official purposes including in air travel, access to military bases, most federal facilities and nuclear power plants.

The purpose of the REAL ID Act is to prevent the fraudulent issuance and use of driver licenses and identification cards. Although it was enacted in 2005, its full implementation will not take effect until May 2023. Before that date all individuals must register to obtain a new driver’s license that is REAL ID compliant.

In order to be REAL ID-compliant, the state must incorporate anti-counterfeit technology into the card, verify the applicant’s identity and conduct background checks for employees involved in issuing driver licenses.

In verifying for a REAL ID-compliant ID or license, the applicant must fall under the following 9 categories:

  1. U.S. citizen or national;
  2. U.S. lawful permanent resident or lawful temporary resident;
  3. conditional permanent resident status in the U.S.;
  4. has an approved asylum application or entered in refugee status;
  5. has a valid, unexpired nonimmigrant visa;
  6. has a pending application for asylum;
  7. has pending or approved temporary protected status;
  8. has approved deferred action status or
  9. has a pending application for adjustment of status to that of lawful permanent or conditional resident.

It is apparent from the list that only applicants who have valid and lawful presence in the United States or who are not in violation of immigration laws are permitted to apply for state licenses that are REAL ID Act compliant. Those who are unauthorized immigrants or who have fallen out of status may not be eligible to apply for the REAL ID compliant licenses.

This, of course, poses a significant obstacle for undocumented immigrants who may have used valid passports or other identification in the past. With the imposition of the Real ID, these immigrants may face even greater challenges in air travel.

What is the solution to this problem? Well, the most obvious solution is for the more than 11.96 million undocumented immigrants here undocumented immigrants to take the time, this year, to consult with a lawyer and to see if they qualify for any solution to gaining legal status. The immigration world is not what it once was; laws have changed significantly and new pathways to gaining residency have opened up. If you have previously consulted with a lawyer and were told there is no way to fix your papers, 2022 may be your year to hear a resounding yes to your questions instead. This is because so many new solutions have become possible for undocumented immigrants.

Remember, that if you qualify for an immigration solution, every application can also include a petition for your work and travel permits. This means that you can work and travel legally while your case is processed with Immigration Services. This is life-altering and quite literally, can open doors and previously closed pathways to you and your family.

Second, before May 2023, you should renew any valid visas that you currently hold, as well as renew your deferred status, if you have an approved one.  Third, this is your time to submit a FOIA request to every government agency and to conduct a thorough background check to determine if you are in violation of any immigration or criminal laws and if you have any immigration case in process.

I can’t tell you how many people forget or do not realize that they had an old immigration application circulating that they may never have received notice about. There have been many happy moments in my office when we conduct a FOIA request only to discover that a client’s previous application had been approved or in some cases, that they were actually residents without even knowing!

While the enactment of the Real ID may pose challenges, it also means that procrastinating further on your immigration journey is NOT an option. Take the time today to protect your future. Exhaust all opportunities and solutions in order to gain residency. You deserve your legal papers. You belong here. 

The world should be yours to explore.

Get the chance to access the life you truly deserve. Let me help you. Call us today to know your options at 630 504 0648.