News - October 2011

New Rules for Driver’s Licenses

Foreign citizens who currently hold a Connecticut driver’s license or identification card have an important choice to make when renewing these documents.

The Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles will switch to a new system in October, 2011, requiring new applicants for Connecticut drivers’ licenses and identification cards to have their identity documents verified through the Department of Homeland Security’s SAVE (System Alien Verification for Entitlements) system. This system queries various databases to confirm the validity of the documents before issuing a new “Connecticut SelectID” document. This change is Connecticut’s method of complying with the federal “REAL ID ACT”. This law requires such verified documents for persons boarding domestic flights and entering restricted federal facilities beginning in 2017. Connecticut is phasing in the SAVE verification process at this time because DMV issues licenses valid for six years.

Someone who holds an existing Connecticut license or ID card may choose to apply for the new SelectID document, or just renew the old one. If you apply for the new SelectID document and are rejected, the existing document will be revoked and the standard document will not be renewed.

The Connecticut DMV is using SAVE to confirm a person’s identity and legal presence in the United States. If a person who applies for a verified Select ID driver’s license or ID card cannot prove legal presence, then DMV will not issue the document. Connecticut applicants who are verified by SAVE, unless their legal presence expires in less than six years, will be eligible for the Connecticut SelectID license or ID card, bearing a gold star. Those applicants who are verified by SAVE but whose legal presence expires in less than six years will be issued a standard license bearing the annotation, “not valid for federal identification.” It is likely that almost all foreign citizens legally present in the United States with work authorization will receive this standard license, which is very similar, except for the new annotation, to licenses DMV has been issuing for several years. These new standard driver’s licenses will continue to be valid for driving.

Bearers of new standard driver’s licenses annotated with “not for federal identification” will still be able to board domestic flights or enter a restricted federal facility, but they will need to use a passport or other identity document to do so. It appears that identification documents issued by local governments, such as New Haven’s Elm City Resident Card, may be used for this purpose. Federal facilities must self-identify themselves as restricted, and to date only known restricted federal facilities are nuclear plants. Federal courts are not thus far restricted and other federal agencies have not self-identified.

The Connecticut DMV expects that 80% of applicants for the SelectID documents will be verified by SAVE at the time of application. Additional queries at two additional levels may be made by the DMV in the event of nonverification. Presenting a naturalization certificate rather than a U.S. passport triggers additional queries and delays. About 20% of applicants for Select ID documents will have a delay of several weeks to be verified or rejected. A rejected applicant will not have the option of receiving a standard driver’s license or ID card bearing the words “not valid for federal ID”.

Applicants should be aware that renewing an existing Connecticut license or ID card does not require SAVE verification. They need only provide the old license or card and have a new photo taken, a process which can be done either at a DMV office or at an American Automobile Club office. They thus avoid the SAVE verification process. Persons other than U.S. lawful permanent residents and U.S. citizens will probably find it easier to apply for the new standard license in this manner. It will, however, bear the words “not for federal Identification”.

Most foreign citizens who are lawful permanent residents should be able to receive the SelectID documents; it is too early to tell, however, whether they will be cleared by SAVE if removal proceedings have been commenced.


(c) 2011 Leete, Kosto & Wizner, LLP   See related Disclaimer at