Government-issued ID

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Government-issued IDs are documents that serve as forms of identification and are issued by U.S. federal, state, or local government entities. U.S. citizens can use these ID documents to prove their identity and/or citizenship.

Individual states issue the majority of government-issued IDs. However, an ID issued in one state is valid in every other state. These documents usually feature the bearer’s photograph, full name, and date of birth, as well as an issuance and expiration date. Some may contain other biometric information, including fingerprints.

While you can use a government-issued ID to prove your identity and citizenship, most of these documents are issued for a particular use. Driver’s licenses allow you to operate a motor vehicle legally, and passports let you travel internationally, etc.

Types of government-issued IDs

There is currently no federally issued photo identity that is mandatory for citizens to have. The only essential form of identification federally issued is a Social Security card containing an individual’s Social Security number. However, it does not include a photo of the holder. Passport books and passport cards are also federally issued, but they are not mandatory.

Other types of government-issued IDs include:

  • State-issued driver’s licenses
  • State-issued photo ID cards
  • Military ID cards
  • Citizenship and legal residency cards

U.S. birth certificates are also considered mandatory government-issued IDs. However, like Social Security cards, they do not include photos. After a child is born, their parents have one year to register their birth and apply for a birth certificate, using a Certificate of Live Birth form. They can also request a Social Security Number at the same time. A certified copy of a birth certificate is a helpful document to have when applying for other IDs, as it can be used to prove identity, age, and citizenship.

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