The following questions were submitted to John Roska, an attorney/writer whose weekly newspaper column, "The Law Q&A," ran in the Champaign News Gazette.
I’ve been told that the law requires everyone to carry some kind of legal ID. Is that true? If so, what kind of ID satisfies that requirement?
No, it’s not true. Neither Illinois nor U.S. law requires anyone to have an ID card, let alone carry one at all times.
An Illinois Driver’s license is required if you want to drive legally. You’re therefore required to carry it when you’re driving. But even if you drive without it, you can avoid a fine as long as you can show you had a valid license when you were ticketed.
The Illinois Identification Card Act created an all-purpose ID card. But nobody’s required to get one. The Act simply says the card “may be used for identification purposes in any lawful situation.” If you do get one, nothing in the law requires you to carry it with you. It’s perfectly legal to have both an Illinois ID card, and an Illinois driver’s license. As a government-issued ID card, the state card is useful back-up if you lose your license.
Similarly, you are not required to have a Social Security card, although an employer or a tax preparer may need to see one. If you have a Social Security card, you’re not supposed to carry it. Social Security’s web site warns: “Do not carry it with you.” Carrying it with you can make identity theft too easy.
A US Passport can be used as an ID for many purposes, but it is only required for travel outside the United States.
Federal law does require legal permanent residents to carry their permanent residence card. Most people refer to this as a “green card.”
The federal “Real ID Act of 2005” set forth minimum requirements that all states must require for licenses and ID cards. Compliance with this Act recently caused Illinois to change the way that it issues IDs. In the Spring of 2016, the Secretary of State instituted a new policy where ID cards will no longer be issued the same day, but will be mailed within 15 days of application. People can now obtain a temporary ID at the facility. The temporary ID is valid for 45 days and can be used for many purposes, including air travel.