March 31, 2010

NEWS FOR YOU…. from the Iowa Department of Transportation

Changes in Policy for Issuing Driver’s Licenses

By Debra Carney
Driver’s License Supervisor, Driver’s License Services office
Davenport, IA

The Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) and 81 county treasurer offices that issue driver’s licenses (DLs) are changing from an “over-the-counter” issuance system for DL and identification (ID) cards to a “central issuance” system.

The primary purpose of this change is to prevent persons from obtaining DLs or IDs fraudulently, meaning either in the identity of another person or under a fictitious identity. People may attempt to do this for a number of reasons – to cash forged checks, to have a license to drive when their own license is revoked, to appear to be “legal age” to drink, or to secure employment when they are an undocumented immigrant, to name a few. Central issuance protects against this by allowing for security checks before the final DL or ID card is issued, and by protecting the means and materials by which DL and ID cards are made from being stolen or otherwise accessed by persons not authorized to produce a DL or ID card.

Under the new system:

Iowans will continue to go to the DL station or participating treasurer’s office most convenient to them to receive services. A customer will leave the station with his or her existing DL or ID card and a paper temporary permit or ID card good for 30 days. If an individual does not have an existing DL or ID card, he or she will leave with only the paper
temporary permit or ID card.

The new, actual DL or ID card will be issued at a central issuance
facility and will be mailed to the applicant. The new DL or ID card will arrive, before the temporary permit or ID card expires, typically within two weeks. Delivery by mail is consistent with other important documents Iowans receive, such as credit cards, car titles, birth certificates, and passports and will be undertaken with unmarked envelopes that do not suggest or reveal the contents.

Central issuance only affects the way DL and ID cards are issued. It does not affect the application process or any requirements for obtaining a DL or ID card, such as proof of age and identity or required testing. A great advantage of central issuance is that it allows for a security check, known as image verification, to be undertaken and completed before the actual DL or ID card is issued and delivered to the applicant. Image verification compares the digital photo of the applicant with other digital photos to determine whether it matches other photos in the database. A match may suggest that the person is attempting to establish another identity that is a false identity or is trying to use another person’s identity.

If a match is found, delivery of the actual DL or ID card will be diverted to the Iowa DOT. A fraud investigator will then review the application and DL or ID card to determine whether it may be delivered to the applicant or withheld as a product of fraud. This process prevents the actual DL or ID card from reaching the hands of someone attempting to achieve a DL or ID card by fraud or deception. This process cannot be completed in the amount of time that a customer would reasonably be expected to wait to receive the DL or ID “over-the-counter,” and accordingly requires the DL or ID card to be mailed to the applicant once clear of the security checks.

Central issuance also allows physical security precautions for the means and materials by which cards are produced to be applied to one physical location rather than the 100 issuance locations that currently exist in Iowa (19 Iowa DOT DL stations and 81 county-issuance sites). The move to central issuance helps protect against theft and misuse of those items. Central issuance also helps Iowa maintain compliance with federal U.S. Department of Homeland Security rules that address protection of items used to produce DL and ID cards that may be
accepted to enter federally controlled facilities and to board federally regulated aircraft.

Central issuance is a system used successfully in 22 other states. Minnesota has used central issuance for more than 35 years. Nebraska moved to this system in July 2009. Other states are expected to do so in the near future for reasons similar to Iowa’s.