Agenda for Identity Document Security

Overview

All adults residing legally in the United States (or residing under color of law) would have some form of secure identification that would be verifiable through biometric identifiers recorded in one of several databases. All identity databases, for both the native-born and the foreign-born, described below would be linked with one another, so that a verification request to one would be a request to all.

All identity documents would be tamper-resistant, counterfeit-resistant, machine readable, and contain at least one biometric identifier (two thumb prints would be preferable). The identity documents would be the ones in current use: driver’s license, green card, Social Security card, etc..., and would only be presented on demand and verified only in limited circumstances.

It should be noted that verifying the biometric data is key to making any card or identification system secure. For the purposes of preventing terrorism, illegal immigration, fraud, and identity theft, biometric information would be verified for the following purposes for all individuals:

  • Applying for a new or supplementary identity document (such as a state driver’s license/ID card) or a replacement for any such document;
  • Applying for government welfare or benefits;
  • Getting a new job;
  • Boarding an airplane;
  • For due cause by a law enforcement officer.

Documentary Requirements and Procedures

The identification documents for citizens and aliens will vary depending on the person’s nationality and (if non-U.S. citizen) entry category as outlined below.

Native-Born U.S. Citizens

At birth, each citizen will acquire:

  • A tamper-proof, counterfeit-resistant birth certificate recorded in the state database (most states currently have one), and
  • A tamper-proof, counterfeit-resistant Social Security card, commonly used by private and state entities as a unique identifier. The card number would be recorded in both the SSA database and the state database.

At an appropriate age, all citizens will acquire at least one form of secure ID, either a driver’s license or non-driver’s state identity card. Secure ID is defined as a tamper-resistant, counterfeit-resistant, machine-readable card containing at least one biometric identifier. The ID will connect to that person’s single, individual record in one state database.

When an individual gets a state-issued driver’s license or identification card, that card will contain a biometric identifier and be linked to the individual’s pre-existing record in the identity database of his state of birth. The driver’s license/ID card would be issued only after the individual presents his Social Security card and birth certificate to the Department of Motor Vehicles and his identity has been confirmed against his pre-existing record in the nationally linked state identity databases and the SSA database. At this time the biometric identifier will be added to the database. Since all the state identity databases will be linked nationally, a search of one would be a search of all. Such a national search and confirmation will help prevent credential fraud and identity theft. A national confirmation system will help prevent a person from stealing someone’s identity and trying to get a license in another state or using fake documents to obtain a license.

For U.S. citizens, this ID will require no new information to be collected and stored, other than a biometric identifier. Both the ID and the record in the database will contain the same essential information about the individual, including biometric information. The matching of this information will serve to verify the true identity of the individual.

Swiping the card or using the unique alphanumeric identifier in reference to an accessible database would confirm all uses of such a card to establish identity. The individual’s identity would then be confirmed through scans that would check that the biometric of the applicant matches the biometric on the record to which his card is linked.

Native-born U.S. citizens would be verified through databases maintained by their state of birth. The database for native-born U.S. citizens born outside of the United States will be maintained and verified by the Department of State. For them, the initial identity document/record would be the birth certificate (although it will not be considered secure since it would not contain a biometric identifier). Once issued, a secure driver’s license or state identification card would become that individual’s main identification document.

Note that births and deaths in the United States are already registered centrally by each state according to the Model Vital Statistics Act. At present, however, they are not all stored electronically in a common format, and where there are existing databases, they are not linked.

Under the new system, every state would have such a database, they would all have a common format, and they would all be linked. That way, when a person’s identity needs to be confirmed, the query would go to all the databases at once, and the appropriate record from one of the databases would turn up.

Upon the issuance of a death certificate for a U.S. citizen (or any other individual in any other identity database), his record would be amended to reflect his death and also be ‘frozen’; any attempt by someone to be identified as that person would be rejected and flagged for investigation.

Transition to the new system would be carried out over five years. Within five years, each state database would be uniformly revised and linked, each person’s biometric information would be registered and attached to his record, and a scanning system for biometrics would be set up so that employers and government officials could confirm the identity of applicants for work, welfare, benefits, or other registration.

Naturalized Citizens

Legal permanent residents who apply for and receive U.S. citizenship will have the same identity documents as U.S. citizens except for their certificate of naturalization.

Upon issuance of the naturalization certificate, the individual’s vital statistics record in the INS’s database of legal permanent residents would be amended with his new citizenship status. Issuance of a tamper-resistant, counterfeit-resistant naturalization certificate would be contingent upon confirming the applicant’s identity through his green card and corresponding record in the appropriate identity database. If the alien had a U.S. state-issued driver’s license/ID card issued to non-U.S. citizens, it could be exchanged for a regular license/ID card after an identity verification check.

Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) Aliens

Aliens who are granted permanent residence in the United States will have as their secure identity document an INS-issued Alien Registration card (or ‘green card). In addition, they may have a state-issued driver’s license/ID card.

The I-551 ‘green card’ would be issued as a secure document, linked to a record in a foreign-born vital statistics database for LPRs and naturalized citizens, created upon issuance of the green card. Records for legal permanent resident aliens would include information on country of birth, country of previous residence, country of last transit, country/countries of citizenship, previous immigrant status, and immigration category under which he gained permanent residency.

Driver’s licenses/ID cards would be issued by the state of residence, but only after a verification of the identity documents with the INS. The license would be anotated “not U.S. citizen.” Like citizen’s licenses, these driver’s licenses would be tamper-resistant, machine-readable, contain a biometric identifier and tied to the individual’s record in the appropriate foreign-born vital statistics database.

Long-Term Foreign Visitors (such as F, J, M, and H visa holders)

Foreign visitors will use their U.S. visa as their primary identity document in the United States, although visitors in long-term categories may also be issued an employment authorization and state-issued driver’s license/ID card.

All long-term foreign visitors would be required to have a secure visa with biometric information, tied to a record in a foreign-born vital statistics database for long-term visitors.

For holders of F visas (students), J visas (exchange visitors), and M visas (trainees), these records would include:

  • The approved visa petition (category, name and address of petitioner, dates of application and approval),
  • Issuance of the visa by the consulate or change from some other status by the INS,
  • Arrival in the U.S., with record of INS notification to petitioner,
  • Notice by the petitioner of alien’s arrival at the school or training site,
  • Quarterly status reports from the school (including current residence),
  • Event-triggered reports from the petitioner on change of the alien’s status,
  • Notice of permanent departure from the school,
  • Departure from the U.S., as confirmed by the INS.

For H visa holders (temporary workers) entries into foreign-born vital statistics database for temporary workers would be conducted by the Department of Labor, with the same set of information gathered as for students except from the employer rather than a school. In addition to their visas, H visa holders would carry a secure Employment Authorization Document, tied to the same record.

Driver’s licenses for long-term foreign visitors would be issued by their state of temporary residence anotated “not U.S. citizen,” but only after a verification of the identity documents with the INS. The license would expire no later than the end of their authorized stay. Like citizen’s licenses, these driver’s licenses would be tamper-resistant, machine-readable, contain a biometric identifier and be tied to the individual’s record in the appropriate foreign-born vital statistics database.

Short-Term Foreign Visitors

Visitors for business or pleasure or for other purposes would be required to have a secure visa with biometric information, tied to a record in a foreign-born vital statistics database for short-term visitors. They may also obtain a state-issued driver’s license/ID card.

Short-term foreign visitors (such as tourists) would be issued a secure visa with encoded biometric identifiers. Use of the visa for exit and entry would be recorded in a database for short-term foreign visitors. Records of visitors who have not departed before the end of their authorized visit would be flagged for investigation.

Border-crossing cards (BCC) would be issued to visitors from contiguous countries for limited duration, limited distance visits accross the border; BCCs would be secure and contain biometric information. Exit and entry for BCC visitors would be recorded in a database maintained at the port of entry for BCC-holders. For longer duration and/or longer distance visits into the United States, the traveller would need a visa.

Driver’s licenses for long-term foreign visitors, where appropriate, would be issued by their state of temporary residence anotated “not U.S. citizen,” but only after a verification of the identity documents with the INS. The license would expire no later than the end of their permitted stay. Like the driver’s licenses of U.S. citizens, these driver’s licenses would be tamper-resistant, machine-readable, contain a biometric identifier and tied to the individual’s record in the appropriate foreign-born vital statistics database.

Citizens from visa-waiver countries would be required to have secure passports with biometric identifiers.

Asylum Applicants and Others

The primary identity document for asylum applicants and persons seeking temporary protection in the United States will be the U.S. work permit. They may also aquire a state-issued driver’s license/ID card.

Asylum applicants should be carefully screened to establish their identity including, whenever possible, verification by the U.S. consular officials in their country of origin. Their identity document would be a secure Employment Authorization Document (EAD) tied to a record in an INS database for asylum applicants. This EAD would serve as their U.S. identity document until such time as their status changed (e.g. to LPR status).

Aliens under Temorary Protected Status (TPS) and Persons Residing Under the Color of Law (PRUCOL) would also be issued EADs tied to records in the INS database for visitors.

Driver’s licenses for aliens holding EADs, where appropriate, would be issued by the state of their residence anotated “not U.S. citizen,” but only after a verification of the identity documents with the INS. The license would expire no later than the end of their permitted entry. Like citizen’s licenses, these driver’s licenses would be tamper-resistant, machine-readable, contain a biometric identifier and tied to the individual’s record in the appropriate foreign-born vital statistics database.

Primary Secure Document Database

Person receiving doucment Type of Document Who would issue it?
Native-Born Citizens State ID/Driver’s License State of Issuance
U.S. Passport U.S. Dept. of State  
Naturalized Citizens Naturalization Certificate; INS
State ID/Driver’s License State of Issuance  
U.S. Passport U.S. Dept. of State  
LPR’s I-551 ‘Green Card’ INS
State ID/Driver’s License State of Issuance  
Long-Term Foreign Visitors Temporary Visa U.S. Dept. of State
Employment Authorization U.S. Dept. of Labor  
State ID/Driver’s License State of Issuance  
Short-Term Foreign Visitors Temporary Visa INS
State ID/Driver’s License State of Issuance  
Asylees, TPS, PRUCOL Employment Authorization U.S. Dept. of Labor
State ID/Driver’s License State of Issuance  



Updated January 2002