FAS citizens can now get REAL ID-compliant licenses

Real ID compliant states (From DHS)

Citizens from the Freely Associated States who are residing in a U.S. state or territory can now get a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license thanks to a notice by the Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans-Department of Homeland Security that introduced changes to the regulations.

The changes allow citizens from Republic of Palau, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia to use an unexpired passport and an I-94 form (arrival-departure records) as acceptable identity document for obtaining a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identity card.

The changes also strike out a provision requiring FAS citizens to get an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) in order to establish identity for the purposes of obtaining a REAL ID compliant driver’s license.

The notice took effect on September 4, 2019, according to the Federal Register.

During the past months, media reports have surfaced that FAS citizens living in certain U.S. jurisdictions have experienced challenges in getting REAL ID-compliant licenses and state IDs.

To address the issue, FAS ambassadors wrote a joint letter to DHS raising concerns over the requirements. In the letter, it mentioned the Compact of Free Association, which permits FAS citizens to enter, reside, work and study in the U.S. without a visa.

During a recent meeting with the U.S. Government Accountability Office for Compact migration study, members of the FSM community said they experienced certain employment-related challenges for not having a REAL ID.

Close the matter

After hearing the updates, FSM President David W. Panuelo thanked the U.S. Government and the various U.S. agencies that have helped resolve the issue.

“I am especially grateful for the FSM citizens in the United States who have advocated for fairness and equality, knowing very well that their lives became affected by this situation.  With this DHS directive, we can close this matter and continue to focus on strengthening the special and enduring relationship between the FSM and the United States, particularly as our nations begin the dialogue for negotiating our Compact post-2023.”

According to the FSM government’s public information office, Panuelo also directed Akillino H. Susaia, FSM Ambassador to the U.S., to work with his FAS colleagues to request “DHS to inform all Department of Motor Vehicles (DMVs) throughout the United States about the updated regulation, so that citizens of the FAS countries are able to receive their driver’s licenses without additional delay or hindrance.”

REAL ID ACT Modification

President Donald Trump signed the REAL ID Act Modification for FAS, on Dec. 17, 2018. The 2018 legislation amended the REAL ID Act first signed in 2005 and incorporated a provision allowing states to issue driver’s licenses and identification cards to FAS citizens.

However, the 2018 legislation did not address the regulatory requirements regarding acceptable documentation to establish identity for purposes of obtaining a REAL ID-compliant license or identification card, according to the Federal Register.