The Trifecta of Identification – Navigating the Bureaucratic Maze

by on March 11, 2011 · 0 comments

in Civil Rights

When a homeless person has a certified copy of his/her birth certificate, a state-issued photo identification card (or driver’s license) and an original social security card, he/she possesses “The Trifecta of Identification.”  Having possession of these three forms of ID is often the threshold issue for a homeless person to access many services.  In order to receive needed identification documentation, a homeless person may have to overcome numerous hurdles.

Throughout the United States, government entities often provide direct services and/or fund services for unhoused people.  However, access to these services generally requires the production of one or more personal identification documents on the part of the homeless person.   For example, the County of San Diego, CA, provides County Medical Services (CMS) for uninsured, low-income individuals who have immediate or long-term medical needs.

In order to qualify for CMS, an individual must have identification documents:  a certified copy of his/her birth certificate, a California photo identification card (or driver’s license) and a social security card.  In addition, a divorce decree or death certificate of a spouse is required, if applicable.

Unfortunately, many homeless people do not have any form of identification. Why?  Some of a homeless person’s ID may be lost in the disruptive process of losing his/her home and many of his/her possessions.  Further, without shelter, a homeless person may lose his/her ID because he/she does not have a consistently secure place to keep their identification documentation.  Finally, without shelter, a person is often exposed to inclement weather and may be vulnerable to acts of theft and violence through which his/her ID is lost.

While state requirements may differ, the steps in the State of California for getting identification documentation can present a host of hurdles for a homeless person, as can be seen as follows.

A.  Certified Copy of a California Birth Certificate

To get a certified copy of a California birth certificate, a person needs to

  1. Download from a computer, or get, the California Department of Public Health Pamphlet, How To Obtain Certified Copies Of Birth And Death Records
  2. Determine whether he/she is authorized to obtain a certified copy or only an informational copy. For a full listing of authorized individuals see page 7 of the above mentioned PDF file
  3. Download, or get, the Application for  Certified  Copy of Birth Record (page 7 of the above mentioned PDF file)
  4. Sign and have notarized the Sworn Statement, attached to the application (page 9 of the above mentioned PDF file), which contains the declaration that the registrant is entitled by law to receive an authorized copy of the birth certificate
  5. Pay $16 for the certified California birth certificate
  6. Mail the completed application form, notarized sworn statement and check or money order to CDPH Vital Records. See Obtaining Certified Copies of Birth & Death Records for addresses.

B.  California Photo Identification Card

To get an original photo identification card from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), a person needs to

  1. Visit a DMV office
  2. Complete application form DL 44
  3. Give a thumb print
  4. Have his/her picture taken
  5. Provide his/her social security number
  6. Verify his/her birth date and legal presence through a certified copy of his/her birth certificate or other acceptable documents
  7. Pay the application fee.  A reduced fee based on income may be available through a public assistance program.

See Driver License and Identification (ID) Card Information

C.  California Driver’s License

To get an original driver’s license from the DMV, a person over 18 years of age needs to

  1. Visit a DMV office
  2. Complete application form DL 44
  3. Give a thumb print
  4. Have his/her picture taken
  5. Provide his/her social security number
  6. Verify his/her birth date and legal presence through a certified copy of his/her birth certificate or other acceptable document
  7. Provide his/her true full name
  8. Pay the application fee
  9. Pass a vision exam
  10. Pass a traffic laws and sign test.

See Driver License and Identification (ID) Card Information

In order drive a car in the State of California, a person under 18 years of age must qualify for a provisional permit and supply the signatures of his/her parents, legal guardian or person(s) having actual full and complete custody. For further details, see How to apply for a provisional permit if you are under 18.

D.  Duplicate California Photo ID or Driver’s License

To  a apply for a duplicate (lost or stolen) photo identification card or driver’s license from the DMV, a person needs to

  1. Visit a DMV office
  2. Complete application form DL 44
  3. Give a thumb print
  4. Have his/her picture taken
  5. Pay the application fee  A reduced fee based on income may be available through a public assistance program. No fee for a senior citizen (62 years of age).

See Driver License and Identification (ID) Card Information

E.  Social Security Card

To apply for a new Social Security number, a U.S. born citizen age 12 or older needs to

  1. Complete an Application For A Social Security Card (Form SS-5)
  2. Produce two original or certified copies of documents proving
    • U.S. Citizenship through such documents as a U.S. birth certificate or U.S. consular report of birth or U.S. passport or Certificate of Naturalization or Certificate of Citizenship
    • Age through such documents as a U.S. birth certificate or passport
    • Identity through such documents as a U.S. driver’s license, or state-issued non-driver identification card or U.S. passport or Employee ID card or school ID card, or health insurance card (not a Medicare card) or U.S. military ID card3) Take the completed application and original documents to a Social Security office and be interviewed

See Documents You Need for a Social Security Card

To get an original social security card for a U.S. born citizen under 12 years of age, a parent or legal guardian needs to

  1. Complete an Application For A Social Security Card (Form SS-5); and Show documents proving the child’s:
    • U.S. citizenship;
    • Age
    • Identity
  2. Show proof of the parent’s or legal guardian’s identity.
  3. Take the completed application and original documents to a Social Security office.

See Documents You Need for a Social Security Card

For further details about applying for a social security card for foreign-born citizens or noncitizens, see the form at Documents You Need for a Social Security Card

F.  Replacement Social Security Card

To get a replacement social security card, a person needs to

  1. Complete an Application For A Social Security Card (Form SS-5)
  2. Show original or certified copies of documents proving Identity and U.S. citizenship or immigration status, if not a U.S. citizen.
  3. Take or mail the completed application and documents to a Social Security office.  Any documents mailed will be returned.

See Replace a lost Social Security card

To get a replacement social security card for a child, a parent or legal guardian needs to

  1. Complete an Application For A Social Security Card (Form SS-5).
  2. Show original or certified copies of documents proving the child’s identity and U.S. citizenship, current, lawful, work-authorized status if the child is not a U.S. citizen
  3. Show a document proving the parent’s or legal guardian’s identity.
  4. Take (or mail) the completed application and documents to a Social Security office

For further details about replacing a social security card for foreign-born citizens or noncitizens, see the form at Documents You Need for a Social Security Card

G.  Mailing Address

In addition to meeting the requirements to obtaining a certified birth certificate, personal identification card (or driver’s license) and social security card, a homeless person must also overcome the hurdle of having no home address so that he/she can receive the mailed documents.  To overcome this hurdle, a homeless person needs to find an alternative acceptable mailing address.  Sometimes, nonprofit organizations offer to serve as a mailing address for a homeless person.

H.  The Time Factor

Having patience may or may not be considered a hurdle to getting identification documents.  However, patience is a necessary attribute for any applicant for identification documents, including a homeless person, because each identification documents can take anywhere from weeks to months to be received through the mail.

Certainly, the time and effort needed to overcome the hurdles to securing the required identification documentation may delay the receipt of said documents and as a result delay the services needed by a homeless person.  Sometimes, these hurdles prove insurmountable for a homeless person and vital services  are not received.

Occasionally,  the certified birth certificate, a state-issued photo-identification card (or driver’s license) and an original social security card are collectively referred to as, “The Holy Trinity of Identification,” a reference to religious belief in The Holy Trinity:  God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

However, I prefer to refer to these three documents as  “The Trifecta of Identification.”  A trifecta is a type of bet in a horse race in which the gambler must select the first three finishers in exact order.  Like the gambler winning a trifecta bet, getting “The Trifecta of Identification” is far from being a “sure thing” for a homeless person.

I look forward to your comments.  Thank you.

Christine

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