Foreign Born Citizens Resources
We recognize that obtaining identity (identification card or driver’s license) and making a plan to be mobile is critical for your life in your new community. We’re here to help provide information and resources to make this process less confusing and stressful. The following sections address information, resources, and services specific to New Iowans ((immigrant, refugee, and COFA community members).
COFA Migrant Resources
The following resource was created to assist individuals from the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Palau, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
Relocating to a new area, state, or country (whether by choice or not) can be an intimidating process. Getting where you need to go, when you need to go is a critical factor in your life.
We’re here to help you understand the differences between the card types, and the associated driving privileges with each type. Driving without the correct card type may lead to receiving citations (tickets/fines) from law enforcement, an expensive process we want to help you avoid.
Have questions specific to your record and eligibility? We’re here to help. Contact us in a way convenient for you.
Due to COVID-19, the deadline to get your REAL ID (gold star) has been extended to May 7, 2025. If you fly commercially you’ll either need a REAL ID license or ID in addition to your USCIS issued document, or you’re going to be subject to additional screening and potential delay.
Don’t panic! We’re here to help you determine if you already have a REAL ID license or ID or decide if a REAL ID license or ID is right for you. More about Real ID.
GETTING AN IDENTIFICATION CARD OR A DRIVER’S LICENSE FOR THE FIRST TIME
When you apply for an identification card (ID) or driver’s license (DL) for the first time, you will need to provide certain documentation to prove your identity and residential address.
The following information explains what documentation to bring when you visit one of our service centers, and why we require certain documents before issuing your ID or DL.
Apply for an Iowa Real ID-Compliant card
Customer visits a driver's license service center (be sure to schedule an appointment) to apply for an Iowa Real ID-Compliant card (driver's license or identification card)
Customer must provide:
- Proof of identity document (USCIS);
- Social Security Number (if applicable);
- Two items that show Iowa physical residency (address)
Verifies lawful status
Iowa DOT consultant verifies customer's lawful status via DHS/USCIS.
Do I Need To Provide Proof of Legal Status?+
Federal Real ID regulations, 6 C.F.R. §37.11, requires that all foreign national customers provide proof of their legal status documents issued by USCIS to be considered for issuance of an Iowa credential. We (Iowa DOT) send the customer’s USCIS documentation information to USCIS through an electronic system called VLS (verification of lawful status). If USCIS can automatically approve the customer’s lawful status, we are able to issue accordingly the same day.
May need additional verification
Sometimes, additional verification (manual review of documents by DHS/USCIS) is necessary. Generally it takes 45 business days to receive a response back.
What's Next in the Verification Process?+
Sometimes, we receive a response from USCIS that states, ‘additional verification is required.’ This can happen for a variety of reasons (customer is newly arrived in the United States, pending renewal or extension of their USCIS document, or customer is eligible under a Federal Register Notice, like a Temporary Protected Status (TPS)) but shouldn’t alarm you that there is an issue. Rather, it means that a USCIS employee has to manually review your document information and then manually send us back a response. This extra step requires us to send information through a different system that is commonly called SAVE.
When this happens, we will print what is called a SAVE Case CheckLetter
. This lets you know that we submitted your information to USCIS and that they are working diligently to verify the information and respond, so that you can continue with your issuance process. It generally takes 3-7 business days before we receive a response. In the meantime, you can check your case using your case letter
. You can also contact us at the service center phone number that we will write and provide to you on your SAVE Case letter.
We’ve also created a printable resource
with USCIS document images to help you determine which documents to bring when you visit us.
Iowa DOT receives response from USCIS:
- Issue ID or driver's license accordingly; or
- advise customer of verification response & next steps